Third Sunday of Lent – A

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to the Guardian Angel

St. Peter the Studite

O Guardian Angel, protector of my soul and body, to your

care I have been entrusted by Christ. Obtain for me the

forgiveness of the sins I have committed today. Protect

me from the snares of my enemy, that I may never again

offend God by sin. Pray for me, your sinful and

unworthy servant that, through your help, I may become

worthy of the grace and mercy of the most Holy Trinity

and of the immaculate Mother of our Lord God, Jesus

Christ. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ex 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,

the people grumbled against Moses,

saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?

Was it just to have us die here of thirst

with our children and our livestock?”

So Moses cried out to the LORD,

What shall I do with this people?

a little more and they will stone me!”

The LORD answered Moses,

Go over there in front of the people,

along with some of the elders of Israel,

holding in your hand, as you go,

the staff with which you struck the river.

I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.

Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it

for the people to drink.”

This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.

The place was called Massah and Meribah,

because the Israelites quarreled there

and tested the LORD, saying,

Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”1 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified2 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.3

CCC 2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.4 Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”5 The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.6

1 1 Cor 12:13.

2 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

3 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

4 Cf. Lk 4:9.

5 Deut 6:16.

6 Cf. 1 Cor 10:9; Ex 17:2-7; Ps 95:9.

APPLICATION

This incident, which happened over 3,000 years ago and which brings out the ingratitude and the inborn mistrust of the Israelites, is put before us today, not that we should criticize them, but rather that we should look into our own consciences and see how solid and how true is our own trust in God, and how sincere our gratitude to him is for all his past favors.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that many among us are fair-weather Christians. While their ship of life is sailing peacefully on smooth seas they respect God and trust him, because this puts no great strain on their energies. In times like these, to be a good Christian seems very easy, they don’t have to give it much thought. But when storms blow up, and the winds and the waves of life are tossing and throwing them about and threatening to engulf them, it is then that their true faith and sincerity is put to the test.

Like the thirsty Israelites in the desert, they then begin to doubt if God is really there, if he has any interest in them or is not rather a cruel, merciless, far-away being who delights in their misfortunes. All the past favors, all the days of good health and prosperity, are immediately forgotten, because these past benefits were rarely or never attributed to God with any real sincerity.

Such Christians, and there are more of them today perhaps than ever before, have forgotten that their earthly life is but a journey, not from the cradle to the grave, but from baptism to the beatific vision in heaven. Anyone, who realizes that he is on a journey, will expect inconveniences and difficulties and will accept them as such, knowing that they are of the essence of a journey. But the man who foolishly, against all the proofs and evidence of human history, thinks he can build an abode of permanent happiness for himself on this earth, is preparing himself for a rude and shocking awakening.

Yet, millions of our fellowman are today feverishly building an earthly Utopia, and are enticing others to join them and help find once more the earthly garden of Eden. Get rid of all governments, including the divine Ruler; get rid of all authority from above, including the ten commandments and the teaching Church; and then peace and brotherhood and plenty for all will flood the earth! These are the slogans of the new saviors of the human race.

The truth is very different: God created us and made us what we are. God gives each one of us a short period on this world during which, aided by the Incarnate Son of God, and by the means of grace and reconcilation he left us in his Church, we can wend our way to the true Utopia, eternal life with God. To reach this end that God has in store for us, the trials and tests of life are as important, and as useful, as the moments of quiet calm and earthly well-being. In many cases they may be far more useful, as they may be just what we need to reawaken in our drowsy minds the purpose for which we are on earth.

When next tempted to imitate the murmuring and ungrateful Israelites in the desert, think instead of the loving God who brought you out of the Egypt of nothingness and who is, through these very trials and sufferings, getting you ready to enter the promised land, not of Canaan, but of heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;

let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship;

let us kneel before the LORD who made us.

For he is our God,

and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,

as in the day of Massah in the desert,

Where your fathers tempted me;

they tested me though they had seen my works.”

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

READING II

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Rom 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:

Since we have been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have gained access by faith

to this grace in which we stand,

and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts

through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For Christ, while we were still helpless,

died at the appointed time for the ungodly.

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,

though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.

But God proves his love for us

in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.1

CCC 733 “God is Love”2 and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”3

CCC 1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.”4 Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. .. that enters. .. where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”5 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us. .. put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”6 It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.”7 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

CCC 2658 “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”8 Prayer, formed by the liturgical life, draws everything into the love by which we are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he has loved us. Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. In the words of the Cure of Ars:

l love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally. .. My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.9

CCC 2734 Filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation.10 The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard. Here two questions should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, how is it “efficacious”?

CCC 2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man,11 and temptation, which leads to sin and death.12 We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable,13 when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. .. There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.14

1 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.

2 1 Jn 4:8,1.

3 Rom 5:5.

4 Rom 5:5.

5 Heb 6:19-20.

6 1 Thess 5:8.

7 Rom 12:12.

8 Rom 5:5.

9 St. John Vianney, Prayer.

10 Cf. Rom 5:3-5.

11 Cf. Lk. 8:13-15; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Tim 3:12.

12 Cf. Jas 1:14-15.

13 Cf. Gen 3:6.

14 Origen, De orat. 29 PG 11, 544CD.

APPLICATION

The uppermost thought in any mind today must be gratitude, a heartfelt thankfulness, to the all-good, all-merciful God, who deigned to send his Son down to earth in order to raise us up and make us heirs to heaven. This seems almost too good to be true, because our finite minds are incapable of grasping what infinite love is. We all have a bit of true love for our neighbor in us, but how limited, how fickle it is! If we honestly try to help a neighbor, who is in great spiritual or temporal need, but find he is abusing our generosity and lapsing back into the same spiritual or worldly faults, how quickly we can grow tired of him! How easily we can persuade ourselves that we are wasting our efforts, that he has really proved himself unworthy of any claim on our charity!

Yet, God conferred the greatest benefit that even he could confer on a creature, when he adopted us as his sons, even though the whole human race almost had abused the gifts he had already given them, and even though he foresaw that many who would at first appreciate this, his greatest gift, would forget and abuse it later.

Many of us are among the latter; we have often sinned and strayed from the high road to heaven, marked out for us by him. It’s a cause for shame and confusion, and indeed a cause for the deepest despair, were it not that we know his mercy and love in our regard are infinite. He is like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, ever waiting for the return of the sinner. But, much as he would love to, he cannot welcome us back unless we return. He gave us our free-will and he will not force us to any unwilling act. Who is there among us who would say the Prodigal Son was foolish to return home to such love and luxury? Yet, all those among us who prefer to continue in their sinful ways are saying just that about themselves. They say that they prefer the swineherd’s job, and the husks fed to the swine, to being a respected and beloved son in their father’s home.

We would all deny that we are making any such foolish choice. But unless we abandon sin, and return to God with a sincere heart, we are excluding ourselves from the eternal home Christ won for us, and becoming instead eternal prodigals. Granted God’s mercy to be infinite, our human life is not. And the man who tries to convince himself that he will put all things right with God when his end is nearer, is only adding the sin of presumption to his other actual and habitual sins.

Eternity is too long to take any foolish chances with it. Human life on earth is too short and too uncertain to count on even an extra day, one extra hour. Let us use this holy season of Lent to put ourselves right with God. Nobody else can do this for us, not even the all-merciful God unless we cooperate with him.

GOSPEL

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Jn 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,

near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

Jacob’s well was there.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.

It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

Jesus said to her,

Give me a drink.”

His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him,

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”

For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—

Jesus answered and said to her,

If you knew the gift of God

and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘

you would have asked him

and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him,

Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;

where then can you get this living water?

Are you greater than our father Jacob,

who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself

with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her,

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;

but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;

the water I shall give will become in him

a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him,

Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty

or have to keep coming here to draw water.

I can see that you are a prophet.

Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;

but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her,

Believe me, woman, the hour is coming

when you will worship the Father

neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

You people worship what you do not understand;

we worship what we understand,

because salvation is from the Jews.

But the hour is coming, and is now here,

when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;

and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

God is Spirit, and those who worship him

must worship in Spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him,

I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;

when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus said to her,

I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.

When the Samaritans came to him,

they invited him to stay with them;

and he stayed there two days.

Many more began to believe in him because of his word,

and they said to the woman,

We no longer believe because of your word;

for we have heard for ourselves,

and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031917.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.1 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.2

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”3 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.4

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.5 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.6 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.7 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas8 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;9 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”10 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.11 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.12 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.13

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.14 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.15 Therefore his being put to bodily death16 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”17

CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,18 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”19 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”20 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”21 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”22

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”23 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified24 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.25

CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.26 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,27 to the Samaritan woman,28 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.29 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer30 and with the witness they will have to bear.31

CCC 1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”32 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”33 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life. .. flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.34

CCC 1179 The worship “in Spirit and in truth”35 of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.”36 For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”37

CCC 1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:38

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.39

CCC 2560 “If you knew the gift of God!”40 The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.41

CCC 2561 “You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”42 Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!”43 Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.44

CCC 2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying “Lord, Lord,” but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.45 Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.46

CCC 2652 The Holy Spirit is the living water “welling up to eternal life”47 in the heart that prays. It is he who teaches us to accept it at its source: Christ. Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit.

CCC 2824 In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”48 Only Jesus can say: “I always do what is pleasing to him.”49 In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: “not my will, but yours be done.”50 For this reason Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”51 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”52

1 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15.

2 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.

3 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

4 Jn 4:9.

5 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.

6 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.

7 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.

8 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.

9 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.

10 Mt 5:3.

11 Cf. Mt 11:25.

12 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6 1; 19:28; Lk 9:58.

13 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

14 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.

15 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.

16 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

17 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.

18 Jn 6:38.

19 Heb 10:5-10.

20 Jn 4:34.

21 1 Jn 2:2.

22 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

23 1 Cor 12:13.

24 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

25 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

26 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.

27 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

28 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.

29 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

30 Cf. Lk 11:13.

31 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

32 Rev 4:2, 8; Isa 6:1; cf. Ezek 1:26-28.

33 Rev 5:6; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora; cf. Jn 1:29; Heb 4:14-15; 10:19-2.

34 Rev 22:1; cf. 21:6; Jn 4:10-14.

35 Jn 4:24.

36 1 Pet 2:4-5.

37 2 Cor 6:16.

38 Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39.

39 2 Cor 5:17-18.

40 Jn 4:10.

41 Cf. St. Augustine De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: PL 40, 56.

42 Jn 4:10.

43 Jer 2:13.

44 Cf. Jn 7:37-39; 19:28; Isa 12:3; 51:1; Zech 12:10; 13:1.

45 Cf. Mt 7:21.

46 Cf. Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2; Jn 4:34.

47 Jn 4:14

48 Heb 10:7; Ps 40:7.

49 Jn 8:29.

50 Lk 22:42; cf. Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38.

51 Gal 1:4.

52 Heb 10:10.

APPLICATION

In the first reading today, we saw the Israelites rebelling against God and calling him a murderer, because they thought they were in danger of dying of bodily thirst in the desert. He mercifully forgave their blasphemies and gave them an abundance of water. In the gospel just read, Christ tells the Samaritan woman, and through her all mankind, that the “spiritual drink” he has come to give men is not primarily given to preserve bodily life, but rather to give eternal life to those who will drink of it. Not only will they know and serve the true God in this life, but they will be given a right to an everlasting life with God if they serve him “in spirit and in truth” during their earthly life.

This is the kernel, the essence of our Christian religion. In baptism we have been made sons of God, heirs of heaven, and directed towards our eternal destination. Christ, in his divine mercy, has given to his Church all the means and all the helps we need on that journey. We have the road-maps clearly drawn for us in the infallible, dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. We have the first-aid stations along the route, where those who injure themselves by sin, can be medicated and made sound once more. We have, above all, the miraculous nourishment of the Eucharist–the manna of the New Testament–Christ himself, who so lovingly and condescendingly arranged to be our spiritual food and sustenance during life’s journey.

Could even God have done any more for us in order to bring us to heaven? Can there exist a thinking Christian who would be so neglectful of his own true and lasting welfare–not to mention the ingratitude to the one who has done so much for him–that he would ignore the divine guidance and graces given him, and be content to sit by the wayside in spiritual rags and misery? It is almost unthinkable that such a man could exist.

There is another secondary lesson–but a very practical and urgent one, especially in our day–to be learned from this incident at Jacob’s well. It is the lesson that condemns racialism. St. Paul (and the other Apostles), insisted that the gospel of Christ and the brotherhood of Christ were for all men. There was neither “Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor barbarian,” Paul said, as far as Christianity was concerned. No less an authority than Christ himself had first taught that truth, and he taught it at Jacob’s well as told in today’s gospel.

For centuries, Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies. Even individuals were not on speaking terms. That day at Jacob’s well Christ broke down this separating wall. While admitting that their knowledge, up to now, of the true God was faulty, they too were acceptable to God, as his adopted children. They too could and would become members of his earthly and eternal kingdom.

Have we not all a lesson to learn from our Lord’s mercy and kindness, which broke through racial and national barriers on that day in Samaria? Has not something very basic gone wrong with our Christianity, or rather with our application of it to our own daily lives, when our world is torn to pieces by fraternal strife? Not only is one nation against or threatening another, but groups and factions, classes, creeds and colors are fighting one another within the one nation. We may well be surprised when we learn that the family next door is at loggerheads. Why, we say, aren’t they one family? Why can’t they live in love and harmony as a family should? But what is our country–what is this planet on which we live, but the home of one family–the family of God, the human race? Why are we quarreling, why do we hate one another, why cannot we live in peace?

We can, and we will, if and when each one of us recognizes his fellowman as his brothers. It is the charity of Christ, practiced as Christ practiced it towards us, and not demonstrations, or protests, or force of arms, that will make this earth once more the true (if temporal) home of the whole human family.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Richness of Giving

A fantasy of people with property takes no account of the fact that, for the great majority of mankind, life is a struggle. On those grounds I would see this idea of choosing one’s own path in life as a selfish attitude and as a wast of one’s vocation. Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so that he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him. We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following ones inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who “risks the fire,” who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. It is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer Commending Ourselves to God

O Lord, into your most merciful hands I commend my

body and soul, thoughts and acts, desires and intentions.

I commend the needs of my body and soul, future and

past, my faith and hope, the end of my life, the day and

hour of my death, the burial and resurrection of my body.

O most merciful God, whose clemency the sins of the world

can never transcend, take me, a sinner, under the wings

of our protection and deliver me from every evil.

cleanse my iniquities, grant me a reformation of my

life, and protect me against future transgressions,

that I may in no manner ever anger You. Shelter my

weakness from passions and evil persons, guard me

against my visible and invisible enemies, lead me on

the road of salvation and to Yourself, the safe harbor

and haven of my desires. Grant me a happy, peaceful,

Christian death, and protect me from evil spirits. Be

merciful to me, your servant, at the great judgment,

and number me among the blessed flock who stand

on your right, that, together with them, I may forever

glorify You, my Creator. Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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