We are now deep into our Lenten season reflection, and from now through to the Triduum our readings not only continue our journey through Salvation History, they begin a cycle of readings that are some of the most powerful in all of scripture. In fact, the Church finds these readings of such importance that she has chosen them to be used specifically for the RCIA in the Scrutiny Rites. It is fortunate for all of us that these readings fall within our regular cycle of readings this year so we can all give them due contemplation during this Lenten season.
The Word for the 3rd Sunday of Lent
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
We open a reading from the book of Exodus. At this point the Israelites have escaped Pharaoh and his army having crossed the Red Sea. They are now free, but have yet to reach Mount Sinai. They are traveling through the “wilderness,” A barren stretch of land between the sea and the Sinai. Food was running out so the Lord gave them manna. Now the water is running out and there is none to be found, so the refugees are crying out to the Lord and to Moses for water. After all they’ve been through, they are now beginning to think that leaving Egypt, where they were slaves, was a bad idea. Even with their grumbling, however, the Lord, through Moses, provides them with water. This story is ripe for a variety of discussion topics, from the symbolism of the water, to the short memories of Israelites, to the ever-caring nature of God. These lessons are also summed up in our Psalm, which reminds us that we should not harden our hearts to the Lord.
Our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter is one of the most important of all the Epistles in the New Testament, as noted by it’s placement in most Bibles after the book of Acts of the Apostles. Unlike Paul’s other letters, this letter so much addressing specific problems within the community as it is presenting the overall aspects of the faith line a general catechism. It is helpful also to remember that Rome is one of the largest cities in the world at this time, the seat of the Empire, and while surrounded by a great many Gentiles, there is also a small Jewish population. Paul addressed both these communities as we read this week about how we have been “justified by faith.” We now have peace with God through Jesus.
Our Gospel for this Sunday (and for the next two Sundays) steps away from Matthew so we can focus on three very important stories from John’s Gospel. This week, the story of the Woman at the Well. Compared to most of our readings, these Gospel passages are quite long passage, but this length is necessary to give us the gradual revelation of their truth. In this week’s story, Jesus is traveling though Samaria (the region of the former Northern Kingdom) when he meets a Samaritan woman drawing water from the town well. Through their conversation we not only learn the woman’s story, but she and her community learn that Jesus is no ordinary man. Like the RCIA itself, this is a story of discovery, with everyone experiencing something new and wonderful in the journey.
Lenten Customs: Baptism is the Key