"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (A) March 24, 2019

Exodus 17: 3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5: 1-2,5-8; John 4: 5-42

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

"Is the Lord in our midst or not?" Questions of faith don’t get any more basic than that, do they? It is the question the disgruntled Israelites asked in the desert. At times it is our question too. Let’s start with the Israelites’ question and God’s response, hoping to also gain insight for our faith journey – especially if we are in the midst of our own desert.

God had worked powerfully on Israel’s behalf, starting with their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Once freed they had no sooner set out across the desert when they "… grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt….But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine" (16:2-3). Even though God had performed a great act of liberation now, in the fearsome desert, the people did not trust that God would continue to care for them.

It seems grumbling was the Israelites’ way of life. They turn on Moses, their mediator with God. He gets the brunt of their wrath, but they are really murmuring against God. Previously they grumbled for food, now they need water. Of course they need water. They are in one of the driest spots in the world. They complained to Moses and, as he usually does, he turned to God for help. Once again God comes through for the Israelites. Despite their lack of trust, and through Moses’ mediation, God brings forth water from the rock.

So far God has freed the Israelites from slavery, fed them in the desert, given them water from a rock and will now continue to give them care and guidance during their 40-year journey. What must Israel do in return? She must draw on these experiences and learn to trust God. But as the desert narrative proceeds the people will continue to grumble and distrust God.

In the desert Israel and we learn to trust God. That’s not something we learn all at once. Instead, as God provides for us each day, we are reminded again and again of our dependence on God and God’s gracious generosity towards us. "Give us this day our daily bread." It’s a prayer often said and learned through experience, one day at a time.

Today’s Exodus passage is one of a series of "murmuring stories." They not only emphasize the distrust of the people, they also stress God’s prevailing care for them. The place in the desert where the grumbling took place was "Massah" – which means "testing" and Meribah – which means "dissatisfaction." At one time or another we find ourselves in our own "Massah" or Meribah." It’s when life presses down on us from many sides, too much to handle this day. We learn from Exodus how patient God is with us. We may have forgotten God’s goodness to us in the past and so we find our faith trembles with fear and doubt. Our prayers are strengthened as we are reminded by Leviticus and Jesus of God’s boundless compassion and love for sinners.

God’s providing water in the wilderness continues as we hear Jesus’ dialogue with the woman at the well. In the culture of the time a devout Jewish man would not be allowed to talk to or be alone with a woman. Jesus was considered a holy man. Talking with the Samaritan woman would have risked his reputation and resulted in the loss of his followers. Hence the reaction of his disciples when they returned: they were "amazed that he was talking to a woman." Still, Jesus talked with the woman and made her a promise: he offered her "living water."

He doesn’t offer a stagnant, lifeless water, but moving water from a stream or river. There are moments in our faith life that seem stagnant, "same old, same old." Or, times when we face new challenges and we try to draw on our faith to help us, but come up dry. Old water can not refresh a struggling faith. God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water flowed forth. Jesus is the new Moses, providing living water for us when we ask – again and again.

The water Jesus gives bubbles up within us just when we need it. He invites us to leave behind the parts of our lives that are like stagnant, un-refreshing and lifeless waters and accept God’s offer of a new kind of human life, constantly refreshed by living water.

The Samaritan woman did not sit idly by when she heard what Jesus had to say. She challenged him and named the societal boundaries that kept her in her place. "How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" But Jesus puts these obstacles aside. He is giving her living water as he refreshes her spirit. As a result she rushes to her own people to announce Jesus’ presence with them. She has received living waters and, in the same words Jesus used to call his disciples, she calls her townspeople, "Come and see."

She is an example to each of us who have washed in the living waters of baptism. She shares her experience with others and invites them to meet the one who gives "living waters." As a result of her testimony and invitation many come to believe in Jesus (v. 39).

We certainly know people who are wandering through their own personal deserts. Why not share with them, as the woman did, the difference the "living waters" have made in our lives? You say, "I’m not an evangelist." Neither was the Samaritan woman, until Jesus put aside her past and renewed her life with life-giving waters – just as he has done for us. She spoke out of the gift she had received. Which is what we are asked to do as well.

Note: we want to avoid assuming that the Samaritan woman was a sinner. The text doesn’t say this, nor does Jesus tell her not to sin anymore – as he says to others in the gospel. What about her five "husbands?" In John’s highly symbolic language this could be a reference to her and all Samaritans who accepted the five false gods of the Assyrians. (See Barbara Reid’s, "Wisdom’s Feast: An Invitation to Feminist Interpretation of the Scriptures," p 100)

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031917.cfm

 

QUOTABLE


Almighty God, restore the dignity of our human condition,

long disfigured by excess but now restored by the

discipline of self denial.

—Missal of Pius V

 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.

1 Corinthians 10: 12

O-oh! No doubt about it, this passage is a rebuke against overconfidence and feeling completely secure in your faith. The warning is immediately balanced in the next sentence by a reassurance that God will provide a way to correct.

In this season of self-examination, we should go beyond personal sin and think about our part in corporate sin or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) refers to it, "social sin." The catechetical tradition recalls that there are "sins that cry to heaven" including the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan. . .(1867). The Catechism gets very specific how this occurs when it states that "we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: by participating directly and voluntarily in them; by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; by protecting evil-doers (1868). Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to divine goodness. "Structures of sin" are the expression and effect of personal sins. . .they constitute a "social sin" (1869). Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI reminds us: "The Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice." The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has many committees working on, advocating for or against, and issuing documents on areas of injustice.

However, the work of justice must begin at the personal level. "Widespread poverty, discrimination, denial of basic rights, and violence result from many peoples’ actions (or failures to act) because of greed, racism, selfishness, or indifference (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, nos. 2, 16). We are all called to consider how we contribute to structures of sin in our personal, economic, and public choices. For example, do we take into account the treatment of workers when we make purchases? How do our consumption choices contribute to environmental degradation? Are we aware and informed? Do we take the time to educate ourselves about issues that affect the community and advocate on behalf of those who are poor and vulnerable?" (USCCB reflection on the social dimensions of the Sacrament of Penance: http://www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/upload/Penance-handout.pdf )

As you seek God’s forgiveness in your daily prayer, ask to be strengthened to work toward justice, peace, and reconciliation in situations of conflict and oppression in your own lives and in the larger community

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (A) March 24, 2019

Exodus 17: 3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5: 1-2,5-8; John 4: 5-42

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

[God instructed Moses]

"Strike the rock and the water will flow from it

for the people to drink."

Reflection:

In the desert Israel and we learn to trust God. That’s not something we learn all at once. Instead, as God provides for us each day, we are reminded again and again of our dependence on God and God’s gracious generosity towards us. "Give us this day our daily bread." It’s a prayer often said and learned through experience, one day at a time.

So we ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

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3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

 

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626