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Mar 18, 2017 Written by  Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

Third Sunday of Lent Year A Be the first to comment!

Lady woman

Theme: Come to Jesus the living water

As early as the 4th century, the period of preparation for the Holy Triduum and for the immediate baptismal preparation of catechumen was dominated by three important biblical texts. In Year A of the liturgical cycle, these texts constitute the gospels for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent. Each of these gospels has been coupled with a reading from the Holy Bible designed to place the gospel proclamation in the framework of salvation history. Because each of the persons featured in the gospels, e.g. the woman of Samaria, the man born blind and Lazarus is a paradigm of conversion; their stories offer excellent catechesis. Each gospel also features the transforming love of Christ for those whom he calls to salvation; he is living water, light and sight for the blind and the source of life for all who believe. Fresh, potable water is a necessity of life which most of us here in Church today can probably take for granted.

As near as the kitchen sink, in a cooler; water is also available in different flavors and at various prices for more sophisticated and/or jaded palates. For many people of our generation, water has become desacralized. Although the need for water has not changed, it is a natural element over which we have gained control. Is it possible, under such conditions, for water to retain its salvific significance? The symbolism we use in catechumenal and baptismal liturgy is it not perhaps irrelevant for some of you?

However, not all of this world’s people enjoy the same advantages. The Arabian Desert, for example, is one of the hottest regions on earth. Located near the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia’s comparatively numerous population has no fresh water supply. Survival is possible only because of copious springs at the bottom of the sea. Each day, divers with large goatskin bags wound around their left arms, take heavy stones in their right hands and plunge deep into the sea. When they reach the undersea springs, they release the stone which has helped them to descend, open their bags over the strong jet of water and close them quickly; then, buoyed up by the ascending current from the springs, the rise to the surface where they are given a fresh bag and stone in order to dive, again and again, until sufficient water has been collected for the day. Because of the arduousness of this process, water is a valued and precious commodity in Saudi Arabia and its people are appropriately sensitive and respectful of its significance for their lives. Today, the Church, in an effort to renew a similar sensitivity and respect among us, puts before us for our reflection, the scriptural image of water.

First reading: Exodus 17:3-7

Because of its elemental importance for human existence, water is an apt symbol which has been readily incorporated into every aspect of the story of salvation. At creation, God’s spirit hovered over the primordial waters which began to teem with life. The flood which covered the earth was understood as God’s purification of sinful humankind. Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the pivotal event which marked its origins as a free people covenanted with God, was portrayed as a watery passage through the Red Sea. In fact Israel’s history and its prophets interpreted an abundance of water such as rain, spring and fountains as a sign of God’s favor. Instead the lack of water in drought or an unwanted abundance of water during floods was a message of his displeasure and judgment upon his people. Recognizing the over divine mastery the waters which sustain physical life, Israel was also appreciative of its spiritual need for the life-sustaining water of God’s word and presence. Both of these needs are illustrated in Exodus. Israelites grumbled for water to slake their physical thirst, while their spiritual hungers for him caused them to cry out, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” Exodus 17:7.

Variations of this incident occur elsewhere in Exodus 15:22-27, Numbers 20:2-13 and underscore the constancy of God’s care and concern despite the continuing ingratitude and contentiousness of Israel. Israel’s attitude of discontent and its posture of rebellion against God and his representative, Moses, are further attested in the names given to the location of the incident, Massah, from the Hebrew verb nissa, means to challenge, and Meribah, from the verb rib, means to quarrel. In later Hebrew literature, the rabbis taught that the rock, which God commanded Moses to strike, traveled with the Israelites and provided a steady supply of water in the wilderness. Some traditions identified the rock with Yahweh himself cf. Psalm 18:2, and Paul, who attributed the qualities of Yahweh to Jesus, identified Christ as the rock who offers spiritual food and drink to all who are baptized in his name cf. 1Corinthians 10:4.

Second reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

Israel’s grumbling against God and Moses in the wilderness is starkly put beside to Paul’s exuberant celebration of the joys of the redeemed. According to Paul, redemption is the gratuitous gift of God manifested in Jesus’ saving death on the cross. By virtue of his death, Jesus has made just and put in right relationship with God every sinner who will appropriate his saving gifts by faith. Justice is first an attribute of God. Not merited or achieved by any human accomplishment, justice is a grace, a gift which enunciates the wondrous extent of God’s mercy. Earlier, in what has been called his gospel to the Romans, Paul had detailed the situation of humankind before Christ. Indicting both gentiles and Jews, Paul explained that because of its universal sinfulness, the whole world stood liable to divine judgment. But, with Christ, and because of God’s merciful love, a new era of salvation has begun. But now history has taken a new and radical turn because of an action of God; and we as believers are now in that point of time.

St. Paul describes the effects of justification in terms of peace, access, hope, love and life. Peace results when the alienation due to sin yields to the joy of reconciliation. Access/prosagoge in Greek is a vivid term which means being introduced and ushered into the presence of royalty. By his cross, Jesus had made possible our entrance into the presence of the Father.  When that door is opened what we find is grace; not condemnation, judgment, or vengeance, but the sheer, undeserved, incredible kindness of God. Access/prosagoge is also described a safe harbor/haven where ships can find safe mooring during storms. Humankind, when left to fend for itself is susceptible to the effects of sin which can be overwhelming. But because of the access to grace afforded by Christ, there is safe haven for the faithful. Hope is not simply a desire for an illusory future but the solid assurance that God, who is true to his Word will never disappoint those he has justified. Christ’s death for sinners and the gift of the Holy Spirit attest to the magnanimous love of God.

As a result of his loving gifts, the status of sinners is changed. Not only our status, but our state must also be changed. The justified sinner cannot continue sinning; he/she must begin to live in goodness. Christ’s death changed our status; his risen life within us changes our state. Jesus begins by putting sinners in right relationship with God; this change in status is called justification and that is where the whole saving process begins. Christ continues, by daily gifts of grace, to help us to change our state; this change of state is sanctification and that is where the saving process continues until the glory for which we hope to realize.

Gospel John 4:5-42

Venerated as a saint among the Greek and Russian Orthodox and given the name Photeine in Greek or Svetlana in Russian which means radiant or shining, the woman at the well has been variously praised by Origen, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine and St. Teresa of Avila as: 1- an apostle, 2- one who left her water pot at the well in order to go off and preach the gospel, 3- the first apostle to the gentiles who invited her neighbors to ‘come and see’. Legend has it that when the woman left Samaria to preach the good news, she eventually made her way to Carthage in Africa where she was imprisoned for the faith and died a martyr.

Another legend, preserved in Spain, says that Photeine/Photina converted and baptized Nero’s daughter and 100 of her servants. Fascinating legends and traditions notwithstanding, the woman of Shechem offers veteran believers and catechumens a living example of the dynamics and ramifications of Christian baptism including: 1- The proposal of God to the sinner: Notice that Jesus initiated the conversation with the woman; notice also Pauline soteriology at work in this event. . .” it is precisely in this that God proves his love. . . that, “while we were still sinners” Romans 5:8. Aware of the woman’s less than pristine life-style, Jesus nevertheless extended to her the good news of salvation. 2- The sinner’s growing response in faith and consequent conversion. Open to the truth of Jesus’ words, the woman asked him for the water he had offered her. She also acknowledged him as a prophet and professed her faith in the coming messiah.

3. The mission of the disciple is to proclaim the good news to others. At the woman’s invitation, her neighbors came out to see Jesus; and having heard him, came to believe. Also evident in this narrative is John’s unique literary techniques and theological insights. By introducing various levels of understanding/misunderstanding into the interaction, John was able to guide his audience to a fuller, deeper appreciation of Jesus’ purpose. For example, the woman misunderstood what Jesus meant by living water; this led to his explanation of Jesus’ gift of water as a fountain within, leaping up to provide eternal life. So also, the disciples, concerned that Jesus should eat something, misunderstood his claim ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know’. Their confusion led to an explanation that Jesus’ food and sustenance was to do the will of the Father.

It is in our confusion that God works best to put us right. At work also in this gospel is John’s replacement theology. In the literature of Qumran, the writings of the rabbis and scripture cf. Sirach 24:23-29, the Torah was described as water which both cleanses and sustains life. Those who wished to walk in God’s ways were called to drink deep and daily from its font. But Jesus’ gift of water was a superior source of life and nourishment which replaced the Torah and its significance for believers. What did Jesus mean when he referred to living water, there are two possibilities: living water means the revelation/teaching which Jesus came to give and it also means the Spirit which Jesus bestows. Today, the invitation of the Samaritan women to “come and see the man who has told me everything I have ever done” John 4:29 reminds all thirsty sinners that we are daily called to be cleansed, taught, renewed and satisfied by Jesus’ great gift.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, with wisdom typical of saints, explained why like the woman of Samaria we should give ourselves to God: Why should we give ourselves completely to God? Because God has given Himself completely to us. If God who owes us nothing is ready to give us nothing less than Himself, can we respond with only a small part of ourselves? Giving ourselves totally to God is a way of receiving God. I am for God and God is for me. I live for God and renounce myself, in this way I allow God to live for me. To possess God we must allow Him to possess our souls.

Application

From today’s readings therefore, we are reminded that as children of God, as members of the Body of Christ, we too have been called to do the Divine Will of He who has called us to share in the life-giving Spirit through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism. As Jesus was called to complete His work, we too are called to complete our calling through our perseverance in the living faith. To persevere necessitates our ongoing reception of the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist as the means of maintaining our righteousness before the Lord God. With the approach of Easter that commemorates the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we know, more than ever that we have an obligation to reinstate our holiness. Today, we are gathered together by a shared need for the water of salvation. Washed in it at baptism, renewed by its abundance at each Eucharist, alerted to it in every proclamation of the Word, and daily empowered by the Spirit, we are challenged to remain thirsty for the living water which only God can give.

 

334 Last modified on Saturday, 18 March 2017 10:01

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Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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