3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

For the Third Sunday of Lent we pause briefly on our pilgrimage toward Jerusalem in order to contemplate Our Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan Woman. It’s a good opportunity to recall our own encounters with the Lord. Ultimately we are thirsting for God and his love, and Lent is a time to return to the well in order to satisfy that thirst again, accepting no substitutes.

In today’s First Reading the Israelites are thirsty and fed up. They rebel against Moses, who is afraid they’ll kill him, and almost rebel against the Lord. They question whether God is even there. That shows the thirst they really have: for God. His presence, his attention, his aid. They don’t perceive his presence, just their need, and their hearts have become hardened by their experiences and frustration. Sometimes we thirst for something more, but we seek to slake our thirst in the wrong way. That is a recipe for dissatisfaction and a hardened heart.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that our true thirst goes beyond just seeking the fulfillment of material needs. The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts. It is God’s love that satisfies our true thirst. When we’re filled with his love and his grace we’re at peace. No grumbling. Everyone thirsts for love, but not everyone realizes that the love for which they thirst is the love of God. Yet, if there is an issue the problem is us, not him: Our Lord offered his love for us even when he had no idea or desire for his love, while we were still “enemies” due to sin.

In today’s Gospel the Samaritan woman epitomizes someone who was looking for love in all the wrong places. Yet love came to meet her unexpectedly. The Samaritan woman knew the religious traditions of her people, so she had an idea of the importance of God in her life, yet something had not clicked. She knew her religion, but she also experienced rebellion in her heart against God’s will regarding marriage, which is why she starts to give Our Lord some attitude. Where does this Jew, and a Jewish man no less, get off talking to her and asking for a drink? Today’s Psalm reminds us that if today we hear the voice of the Lord we must not harden our hearts like the Israelites did. The Samaritan woman’s experiences have hardened her. In today’s Gospel we see two thirsts seeking each other out. Each one seeks the other in order to satisfy its thirst. The Lord has a great thirst for our faith and our love. The Samaritan woman has a thirst for real love.

Our Lord today knows he is dealing with a hardened heart frustrated after a long time looking for love in all the wrong places. Therefore he knows when to be tactful, addressing her true thirst, but also blunt, telling her the mistaken ways she tried to slake her thirst. He comes to meet her at her level. The Lord often avoids the Messianic titles of his time because his contemporaries see the Messiah as someone simply social and political, but when the Samaritan woman asks him if he is the Messiah, he responds without hesitation: “I am he, the one speaking with you.” The Samaritan woman has found that for which she was truly thirsting, and has to share the news.

Through meditating on this passage you can open your heart so that the Holy Spirit can refill it with God’s love: “like the Samaritan woman, let us also open our hearts to listen trustingly to God’s Word in order to encounter Jesus who reveals his love to us and tells us: ‘I who speak to you am he’ (Jn 4: 26), the Messiah, your Savior” (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 2/24/2008). Wells are not meant to be used just once. Like the kitchen faucet we go to them over and over, because our thirst for God is continuous in this life. Let’s seek the waters of life that flow today and forever from Our Lord.

Readings: Exodus 17:3–7; Psalm 95:1–2, 6–9; Romans 5:1–2, 5–8; John 4:5–42.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews recalls the faith of Abraham. When Abraham was already advanced in years and a nomad with nowhere to call home the Lord promised him that if he set out he would be blessed with a land to call his own and progeny. We know how the story ends: he enters the Promised Land and through his son Isaac becomes the patriarch of a great nation. Abraham’s faith was put to the test, and he thrived.

Abraham’s story teaches us too that in this world we too are waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promise and lead us to the Promised Land. It’s not a condominium on a beach, but Heaven, our true home. No matter how long or how hard it seems, in faith we continue traveling in this world in order to get home. Our faith helps us to not get too comfortable and settle for squatter’s rights.

Abraham’s old age made his faith remarkable, and, spiritually, we can sometimes feel worn and tired in living our faith. Let’s follow Abraham’s example today and press one, confident that the Lord delivers on his promises.

Readings: Hebrews 11:1–2, 8–19; Luke 1:69–75; Mark 4:35–41. See also 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, and 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that as Christians we have not only had moments of mistreatment due to our faith, but have witnessed the mistreatment of our brothers and sisters in the faith as well. Even today we witness countries where Christians are persecuted and deprived of their “property,” and suffer imprisonment due to the faith. We have to have spiritual solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters, even if that involves us being subjected to ridicule.

The unasked question behind these reflections is also, why is all this suffering necessary? Why should we have to suffer for being Christians? The answer is that if we suffer materially, we must not and should not suffer spiritually, because the spiritual benefits of our suffering will be a “better and lasting possession” if we persevere in hope. If, materially speaking, we’re comfortable, maybe, spiritually speaking, we should be concerned. Are we flying below the radar when it comes to giving witness to our faith and supporting our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution?

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us stand with our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for the faith so that we can all give witness to the priority of a “better and lasting possession” in our lives.

Readings: Hebrews 10:32–39; Psalm 37:3–6, 23–24, 39–40; Mark 4:26–34. See also 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday and 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us that a shadow of food would not satisfy us, nor a shadow of money pay our debts. The real “currency” we have to atone for our sins is the currency provided to us by Our Lord. Even if we had real food or real money they’d pale in comparison with what the Lord expects of us: to do his will. Doing his will can imply sacrifice, but, as Our Lord teaches us, doing his will when it is costly pleases him even more.

Mankind since the Fall has known some sort of reparation was needed, and that something was missing in its relationship with God. Religious expression followed suit, offering things that would satisfy God, yet Christ reveals to us that it is not just what we offer, but with what heart we offer it. In himself he offered the best of both worlds: a perfect offering (himself) offered perfectly (out of love for the Father and for us), which is why his sacrifice was accepted and continue to be a source of blessings for us. Thanks to Our Lord we now know what to offer (him) and how to offer it (out of love for God and for others).

If we’re faced with sacrifice today, try making it a little more “real”: strive to embrace it for love of God and for others, in imitation of Our Lord.

Readings: Hebrews 10:1–10; Psalm 40:2, 4ab, 7–8a, 10–11; Mark 3:31–35. See also 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.


3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings teach us that Our Lord has come to bring us light, liberty, and unity.

In today’s First Reading Isaiah speaks of the moment when Israel will be delivered from the prolonged darkness and oppression it has suffered as a result of its infidelity to God. The darkness of Israel was giving way to a great light, symbolizing the passage from sorrow and oppression to freedom and joy. That moment is described as being like the joy of the harvest: a harvest is the end of a great deal of work, patience, and anxiety. You never know how the weather will fare, whether locusts are on the horizon, and so on. You work hard, but in the end you need the Lord to bring the harvest to completion. Isaiah also makes it clear that the great light is also a liberation from oppression and slavery, evoking indirectly the joy the Israelites felt when they were led out of Egypt by Moses at the Lord’s command. In describing Midian Isaiah is referring to the story of Gideon in the Book of Judges (see Judges 8-9). Gideon defeated the Midianites with a small, select force, and credited the Lord with the victory. Isaiah uses this story to show that it is the Lord who’ll deliver Israel from oppression, not their own strength or prowess.

In today’s Second Reading Paul shows that the Lord does not just liberate us. He also wants us united around him and working with him. Paul is chiding the Corinthians because they are claiming some special provenance based on whoever baptized them or whoever was the most eloquent preacher. Their evangelizers want them united in mind and purpose around Christ and his Gospel as Christians. They were baptized in Christ, not in Paul, Cephas, or Apollos. In doing that they are giving credit where credit is due: Paul rightly reminds them that it was Christ who was crucified for their sins, not him. If they don’t give credit where credit is due, people will not be led to Christ.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord is revealed by Matthew to be that light of liberation and joy spoken of by Isaiah. The fulfillment of a prophecy is not always textbook; it doesn’t happen to the letter. Everything Our Lord said, did, and lived during his earthly mission has something to say, and, in this case, settling in Capernaum shows that light of liberation arriving to a people with a pagan past, an allusion to the darkness and oppression caused by their past infidelities. Our Lord also calls his first disciples today. His light draws others to him not only so that they can see the way, but so that they can someday light the way to Christ as well.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us light the path to him so that others may follow him.

Readings: Isaiah 8:23–9:3; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13–14; 1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17; Matthew 4:12–23.