Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on the Readings

Third Sunday of Lent - March 27, 2011 - Year A

By Dennis S. Hankins

The Mystery of our Redemption (Part I)

“Sir, give me this water”

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

It was about 7 1/2 years ago. A time of intense prayer ensued. I was contemplating the growing conviction that I should come into the Catholic Church. Leaving the ordained ministry is not something I had ever seriously considered. I sought out counsel from a hermit; a retired Abbot of the Abbey of the Genesee. He graciously accepted my request to meet with him and to talk about things spiritual. He became an instant friend and remains a partner in prayer.

I called a dear friend, a moral theologian and professor at a Benedictine seminary to tell him my decision. Providentially, that conversation took place on the eve of his leading a group of seminary students on a pilgrimage to Rome. He offered to pray for me at the tomb of St. Peter.

At the Easter Vigil of 2006, I entered the Church. Now working with the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) group at my parish, I witness others doing what I did five years ago. Their eyes reflect the effort their decision is requiring. Their faces tell me their story. Their joy is contagious. They will come into the Church this Easter Vigil of 2011.

It is important for all of us to remember that Lent is a season with an intensely spiritual purpose. Not only are the elect preparing to be received into the Church but all of us are embracing this time of repentance for spiritual renewal.

Let’s look at three things from today’s gospel:

If you knew the gift of God

Sitting beside Jacob’s well, wearied with his journey, Jesus initiates a conversation with a Samaritan women. It was the sixth hour. It is the hour of darkness. Wait a minute! Isn’t the sixth hour noon? It is. But at the crucifixion of Jesus, darkness covered the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. In the darkest time of her life, the Samaritan women met Jesus. Initially she did not recognize him. In need of enlightenment, she did not know the gift of living water waiting to gush into the nightmare of her soul.

This woman had lived a loose life. One night stands, multiple husbands, and currently just living with someone, had filled her heart with emptiness. So parched, she couldn’t even extend a modicum of courtesy and give a weary traveler a cup of water.

The gift of God is Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Give Me a Drink

There are two times in scripture in which we know that the Master was thirsty. The next time we will hear him say from the cross, “I thirst.” Jesus, who is fully divine and is fully human, was thirsty, as he rested beside the well. He did not have anything to draw with, and the woman coming to the well did.

There are folks in this world who know what it means to be physically thirsty. I mean really thirsty. Some places on this planet just need someone to help them drill for a well. Just an accessible well of clean water for drinking and cooking would go a long way in helping a needy village. The woman at the well needs the water from Jacob’s well to cook and clean and drink. She soon will understand the purification she needs as she learns there is another kind of water.

I will Give You Living Water

There exists in each of us a need for a well of living water. The gift of God is life and that more abundantly. Each of us may ask for the life giving water of Christ.

At the Feast of Tabernacles there was great joy. It was not only a celebration of harvest and vintage, it also commemorated the time of Israel’s wilderness journey. During those 40 years, the Israelites lived in booths. The feast is also know as the Feast of Booths or Succoth.

Great libations of water were featured in this celebration at the Temple. This probably reflected the miraculous provision of water that flowed from the rock in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt as we hear in the first reading. Also it may have been a prayer for the reviving rains for future needs and harvest. At the climactic day of the festival, that last great day of the feast, Jesus stood up in the Temple area and exclaimed:

“If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7: 37-38) Jesus said this about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive. Jesus promises life giving water; an encounter with him in his Church that will not leave you as you came.

Let us reflect more deeply on the life giving water Jesus gives. For those who are preparing to come into the Church, let us join them on their journey. For all of us, this is a season to know Christ more deeply and more intimately in the mystery of our redemption. May we embrace this season of repentance. May the mystery of our faith and redemption be more fully revealed to us in power and salvation as we pray, "Sir, give me this water." Amen.

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