Living Water: The Third Sunday of Lent

Central idea: Living water. Doctrine: Free acceptance of the Gospel. Practical application: Conforming our hearts to God’s will.

To view the Lectionary 28 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Living water

Reading 1 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?”

  • One of the ways we Catholics read the Old Testament is typologically or allegorically. An event, a person, or statement in the Old Testament can be seen in a new way in light of the New Testament. This event, person, or statement in the Old Testament is a “type” or symbol of an event, person, or statement in the New Testament. Thus, in reading the Bible, the Catechism says,

Christians … read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament …. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. (CCC 129)

  • In the desert, Moses struck a rock with his staff and so provided water so the Chosen People could live and reach the Promised Land.
  • In his Passion, Jesus Christ himself is “struck” and so provided the waters of Baptism so everyone could live forever in heaven.

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

R. 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.

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.

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.”

  • God’s will for his Chosen People was for them to leave their familiar and even somewhat comfortable slavery in Egypt to live in freedom in the Promised Land, passing through hardship in the desert first. Many of them lost heart, forgetting that if the LORD could safely lead them out of Egypt, he could also protect them from thirst and hunger in the desert.
  • One meaning of “harden your heart” is to refuse to think about, let alone to do, what God wants. A person can think that God wants to take away from him some great good or even everything He then rebels against God’s will.
  • Some important questions each of us can ask ourselves are these: Is this true for me? Do I think God wants me to give up some “good” that in some way will harm or even ruin me? What is that “good”? Is it really “good”? Will giving it up really harm me? Does God really want me to give it up?
  • A similar set of questions can be asked about something we think God wants us to do.

Reading 2 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.

  • The Psalmist’s plea is, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
  • We followers of Christ have no reason to harden our hearts against the voice or will of God. The reason is that we know God is good because his love is poured into our hearts. He has proven his love for us by dying for us “while we were still sinners.”
  • Christ has justified us, that is, restored us to original justice or friendship with God. Some of the tangible signs are our inner experience of peace, grace, hope, and love.

Gospel Jn 4:5-42

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.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, 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 speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “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,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
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.”

  • As embodied spirits or enfleshed souls, we need and long for both physical and spiritual goods. Jesus was tired and thirsty and hungry. Yet he moderated, that is, he controlled or ruled over, his physical needs to feed his spiritual need of evangelization. He was fed with joy by converting the Samaritan woman: “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.”
  • The woman came to the well because she needed water. Her five husbands and the current man in her life perhaps speak of her unfulfilled spiritual hunger for love. Christ fulfilled this need she had and she became a kind of evangelist to her own Samaritan townsfolk, bringing them to Jesus so that many of them could soon say, “we know that this is truly the savior,” not only of the Jews but of them, too.
  • Objectively, the Samaritan religion was imperfect, but there was also something missing in the Jewish religion, even though “Salvation is from the Jews.”
  • What was missing, and what Christ provides, is the ability to worship the Father in Spirit and truth. We can do this because of the Sacrament of Baptism, which makes us children of God. The grace of Baptism is the living water that Christ speaks of to the Samaritan woman. This grace is foreshadowed by the rock Moses struck in the desert to give drink to the Chosen People.

Doctrine: Free acceptance of the Gospel

  • We have the power to harden our hearts as well as the power, with God’s help, to freely follow his will.
  • According to the Catechism,

“[M]an’s response to God by faith must be free, and . . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.” “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced . . .. This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom . . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.” (CCC 160)

  • These readings, then, all invite us to conform our lives to God freely, without coercion, so we can worship the Father “in Spirit and in truth.”
  • How is this done on our part? The answer is very practical: “We have to guide, to moderate, our heart and feelings, by means of reason enlightened by faith.”
  • Our passions and emotions can lead us to desire all kinds of things, things contrary to what ought to be their true guide: “reason enlightened by faith.”
  • To moderate our heart and feelings does not mean to feel less, to desire less, to enjoy less. It means that “reason enlightened by faith” tells the heart and feelings when to say yes and when to say no to those desires.

Practical Application: Conforming our hearts to God’s will

  • Ignatius of Loyola has given us a prayer which can help us have an inner experience of peace, grace, hope, and love, even when our hearts and emotions rebel against “reason enlightened by faith.” It has inspired heroic deeds in so many of his Jesuit sons.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

The Homiletic Directory suggests the following Catechism points and themes for the Third Sunday of Lent:

  • CCC 1214-1216, 1226-1228: baptism, rebirth of water and Spirit
  • CCC 727-729: Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit
  • CCC 694, 733-736, 1215, 1999, 2652: the Holy Spirit, the living water, a gift of God
  • CCC 604, 733, 1820, 1825, 1992, 2658: God takes the initiative; hope from the Spirit
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