Third Sunday – Year A – Lent

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Third Sunday – Year A – Lent

 

Readings: Exo 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42 (4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42).

1/ Reading I: RSV Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the LORD to the proof by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. 6 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. 8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

3/ Gospel: RSV John 4:5 So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, `I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city and were coming to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, `There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 


I. THEME: God patiently brings people to Him.

 

            In the journey of faith, many people think the reason that causes them to believe in God is their will and effort. They don’t know that God always takes initiative in converting their mind. He gives them opportunities to encounter His words and bestows grace in their heart so that they could recognize His love for them and believe in Him. If God doesn’t take initiative, no one could believe in Him and enjoy salvation.

            In the next three consecutive weeks—the third, fourth and fifth Sunday of Lent of Year A, the Church uses three chapters of John’s Gospel, chapters 4, 9 and 11, to educate faith for catechumen. Her purpose is to help them to recognize the three important facts: First, God patiently looks for and helps them to become His children by the water of baptism through the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in chapter 4. Secondly, after they become Christians, she continues to educate them to recognize God’s other truths in their life through the story of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind in chapter nine. Finally, the Church teaches them about the eternal life through Jesus’ raising of Lazarus, who has been buried in the tomb for four days.

            Today readings want to emphasize God’s patience and loving forgiveness in the conversion of human beings. In the first reading, when the Israelites had no water to drink in the deserts, they blamed on Moses and threatened to return to the slavery land of Egypt. God commanded Moses to strike the Horeb’s rock so that the water shall gush forth from it for people to drink. In the second reading, St. Paul confirms God loves people when they are still sinners. He gave His only son for people to die and to forgive their sins; to open up the treasure of grace for them, and to show them the way to God’s eternal place. In the Gospel, Jesus patiently guided the Samaritan woman to believe he is the one sent by the Father. After enlightened by him, she became the first missionary woman for her people; she led her country men to Jesus to be guided by him.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “Is the Lord among us or not?”

1.1/ The Israelites murmured against God and Moses when they suffered: The journey of the Israelites for forty years in the deserts can be compared with our journey on the way to heaven. God bestowed so many graces on them, but they never satisfied. When the Israelites had no water to drink in the desert, they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.””

1.2/ God patiently corrected people: He has done so many miracles before their eyes to set them free from the Egyptian slavery land but they already forgot. They need to understand that if God had power to set them free from Egypt, he also has power to provide them with all necessary goods on their way. He gave them food, manna, and now He is going to give them water to drink.

            Manna and water are needed for people’s physical life; but according to the Church’s fathers, they are only the types of the spiritual food which God shall give to people in the future. Manna represents for Christ’s flesh and the water for his blood. The Horeb’s rock represents for Christ’s body; and when the soldier pierced through his body when he was dying on the cross, his blood and water came out.

            Christ’s flesh and blood is the spiritual food he gives to people through the sacrament of the Eucharist to nourish and to provide strength for people on their journey to heaven. This is explained in details in chapter six of John’s gospel. Jesus also explained this for the Samaritan woman in today gospel, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We can understand the water is the blood which Christ gives to people through the sacrament of the Eucharist.

2/ Reading II: “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

2.1/ People receive many things from Christ: According to St. Paul, people are saved completely by God’s love, not by any good deed that people do. In today passage, he listed out five blessings which people receive from Christ.

            (1) To become righteous: People become righteous by putting their faith in Christ. The law has no power to help people to become righteous.

            (2) To have peace with God through reconciliation: Sins cause a disorder in the relationship between God and people. Christ died to wipe out people’s sins and to reconcile people to God.

            (3) To inherit countless of God’s blessings: Christ’s death brings many God’s blessings for people through the sacraments which Christ established, beginning with the event in which the soldier pierced through Christ’s side with a spear (Jn 19:34).

            (4) To hope for God’s glory: Once people are purified from their sins and sanctified by graces, they become holy people, deserved to share the glory with God in His kingdom.

            (5) To possess the Holy Spirit: In order to help people to recognize God’s love and truth, God gives to us another Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, after Christ ascended to heaven.

2.2/ God shows His love for people through Christ: To show that God is the One who takes initiative in people’s journey of faith, Paul gives two forceful proves:

            (1) Christ died for people when they don’t know him yet, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

            (2) Christ died for people when they are still sinners, “Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

 

3/ Gospel: “We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

3.1/ God always looks for man regardless of environment and time: The sixth hour of the Jew is our noon. At this time, most of people are in home for eating and rest. Jesus endured the heat to look for God’s lost sheep and to take them home. To conquer the Samaritan woman, Jesus, first of all must overcome the wall of discrimination because the Jews don’t want to have any relation with the Samaritans; they regard them as the Gentiles. A proof for the discrimination is found in Luke’s gospel; when the Samaritans didn’t welcome Jesus, two of his disciples, James and John asked Jesus to let them command fire from heaven to burn that city (Lk 9:53-54). Next, Jesus must overcome his disciples’ suspicion because he talked with the Samaritan woman. These obstacles were expressed in the Samaritan woman’s surprised question, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”

3.2/ Jesus revealed to her about the “living water”: Jesus asked for a drink to open up his conversation and to reveal for her about one of God’s mysteries. He said to 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.”

            The woman didn’t recognize Jesus’ intention when he talked about “living water.” Jesus didn’t use an article to determine the water which she is talking about. This is the first irony of the chapter; she thought Jesus wants to talk about water in the well with an article, so she said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?”

            Jesus wants to differentiate between “living water” and “this water,” so he explained, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” What did Jesus want her to understand about “living water?” There are many opinions:

            (1) Urban C. von Wahlde in his commentary of John’s Gospel believes it is the Holy Spirit. This is made explicit at Jn 7:37-39. The background for the association of water and the Spirit is evident in the OT (Cf. Eze 36:25-27; 39:29; Isa 32:15; 44:3; Psa 51:2, 9-14).

            (2) Some say it is the water of Baptism because it not only wipes out people’s sins but also bestows on them all the necessary graces for their life. In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).

            (3) Others say it is Christ’s blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist because it nourishes and sanctifies people to become deserved to receive the kingdom of heaven. Chapter 6 of John’s gospel talks about this blood.

            All three opinions are plausible because when an adult person receives the Baptism, he also receives the Holy Spirit and the sacrament of the Eucharist. All three elements are needed for him to enter God’s kingdom.

            The woman though didn’t understand what Jesus meant, but she might want to avoid to daily and tired drawing of water, so she asked Jesus, “Sir, give me this water so that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

3.3/ Jesus revealed him for the Samaritan woman: To help the woman to believe in him, Jesus displayed his power through letting the woman know he fathoms all about her life. He said to her, “”Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, `I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.””

            Perceiving the stranger knew all about her life, the woman professed, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

3.4/ Jesus talks about the true worship–it is in Sprit and truth: When the Israelites came back from their exile, they rebuilt the Jerusalem temple. At that time, the Samaritans wanted to contribute their money in rebuilding; but the Jews rejected their offer because they considered them as the unclean Gentiles. Because of the rejection, the Samaritans built their own temple at Shechem to worship. Jesus revealed to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks 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 Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

            The faith journey of the Samaritan woman started from seeing Jesus as a stranger to her claiming him as a prophet, and finally to believe him as the Messiah when she invited her country people to come to Jesus, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

3.5/ To believe in God is to do His will: Meanwhile, the disciples came back and besought Jesus, “”Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.””

            This is the second irony in the chapter, Jesus’ disciples worried and looked for food while Jesus worried and looked for the spiritual food. This food is nothing other than to seek and to do God’s will, that is: to bring salvation to all people.

            Jesus showed his disciples the result of his missionary by saying, “Do you not say, `There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” The white harvest is the Samaritans and the woman is regarded as the first missionary woman in the Fourth Gospel.

3.6/ Faith is God’s gift: People are only instruments God uses to invite others to begin their journey of faith. When the Samaritans heard the woman’s witness, there were many of them in that city believed in Jesus; they came out to meet him at the well.

            After met him, the Samaritans asked him to remain with them for two days so they could hear his preaching. There were many more people to believe in Jesus. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

            People can only use words or deeds to light up the faith. In order to have a firm faith and a close relationship with God, we ourselves need to come to God and cultivate a close relationship with him by our life of prayer.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                   

            – It isn’t us to look for God; but God always takes initiative to prepare all things for us. This shows God’s immense love for us.

            – God’s love is shown completely and perfectly through Christ. We should come to him and deepen our relationship with him through his living words and sacraments.

            – People have intellect and freedom. We should imitate Jesus to converse people by showing them God’s loving kindness and forgiveness, not by any kind of forces.

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