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LENT 3

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Contents: Volume 2 - The Third Sunday of Lent

03-24-2019  Years A and C


 

The 3rd

SUNDAY

of LENT

2019

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Lent 3 A 2019

Our readings this day give us a glimpse into God's divine nature and our unfiltered human nature. The grumbling of the Israelites to Moses at Massah and Meribah is typical of how some people still grumble today, never satisfied with what they have. Even a tired Jesus is a bit sharp with the woman at the well who is also none too happy to extend hospitality and draw water for a male Jew at the hottest part of the day.

For me, however, the message of the stories focus not on our fallen nature but on God's never ending graces. God never stops sending opportunities our way. Sometimes we recognize such a moment and sometimes we don't.

As Jesus and the woman from Samaria converse, a softening comes. There is no defensiveness when the woman responds that she has no husband and no judgment by Jesus. From this graced opportunity comes an openness to listen and then an amazing announcement of the Truth.

Curiously, the woman does not respond directly to Jesus when he says "I am he". Perhaps the arrival of the band of disciples caught her off guard. Perhaps, she knew not what to say to the Savior of the world!

She did find her voice, however, and spread this Good News to the townspeople. Many of them, because of her witness, went to hear from Jesus themselves. Jesus stayed with them two days, two unexpected days of overflowing graces!

The lesson for us in this story has several parts. Being alert and open to unexpected graced moments is at the top of the list. The description"unexpected" probably appears in many other things on such a list: unexpected acceptance, unexpected messengers, the unexpected in the ordinary.... you get the idea.

God's love is abundant and unconditional. God hasn't moved away from us; it is we who have wandered or even gone astray. God's graces should be expected once we look for him.

Lord, help us to seek you once again with all our heart. Lord, find us even as we wander. Lord, help us accept the graces you pour out upon us!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Lent March 24 2019

Exodus 3:1-8 & 13-15; Responsorial Psalm 130; 1st Corinthians 10:1-6 & 10-12; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:1-9

In mid-summer 2015 a white supremacist accepted hospitality at Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. While in the company of a group studying scriptures, this young man shot and killed nine persons, wounding a number of others. This act of terrorism shocked the nation – perhaps the world. At the gathering of diverse persons of gender, color, nationality, language, and faiths, the first black president of the United States serving as mourner-in-chief broke into song that was soon joined by accompanists and all in the hall. It was a well-known hymn, one that is often heard at funerals. When we lay to rest a first responder whose life was given up for the safety and/or health of the community he/she served, we are often moved by the stirring tune played on bag-pipes. That hymn was first heard in 1773 in a homily by John Newton. It was later published for the first time in 1779. That long-enduring hymn is Amazing Grace.

Its author was John Newton. His youth was troubled, his first work on British ships marked by disobedience and disrespect for naval convention and superior officers. He became captain of a slaving ship that sailed into the rivers of Africa, loading up black men and women, put them in chains, and transported them to North America to work the fields and factories of the United States. Before he became a captain, in March of 1748, Newton was a crewman on the British ship Greyhound. In a severe winter storm in the North Atlantic the ship became distressed and it appeared that the ship and all hands would soon meet their maker. Newton was at the helm of the ship for the next eleven hours. During that time he reflected on his life and its meaning and purpose. This was not an instantaneous repentance of his past. He captained in the slave trade for six more years. This hymn of Amazing Grace is often thought of as a prayer of repentance and gratitude for the continual calling of God for change of heart, change of mind. It seems often in the lives of those we consider examples of holiness that it is following some catastrophe that conversion, repentance occurs. It takes time for us to become conscious of the bad things we think and do.

Does this lead us to think that God visits us with bad things to get our attention? Does this mean that the 9-11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. is God’s doing? It has been said by persons who think of God as an avenging God, a God of wrath and getting-even, that 9-11 is God’s punishment of these United States for allowing homosexuality. Balderdash! Anyone who believes such a thing paints God as an evil ogre, intend on whipping humanity into compliance with his rules. The Scriptures – Hebrew and Christian—insist that God’s commitment to humanity and creation entirely is characterized by the term "loving kindness." God conquers not by terror but by unconditional love. Doubting that means a person had not considered the meaning of the cross.

The gospel this Sunday is difficult to understand. The crowd asks Jesus if he has heard about the Galileans who were slaughtered by command of Pontius Pilate while they were at worship. What had these Galileans, those persons who shared the region of Jesus’ homeland, done to deserve such punishment from God? Jesus expands their question to include those eighteen who lost their lives when the watch tower that guarded the aqueduct feeding the pool of Siloam collapsed. Jesus’ answer is strange. If the common thought is that bad things happen because people are bad, what about all those persons who survive and live a long life? Are these persons without sin? Why has God selected only the Galileans whose blood mingled with the blood of their sin offerings? Why had God thrown down that tower on just those eighteen and not on all who sinned? Jesus’ response tells us that bad things happen not because of God’s will. God does not will that we live in pain, that we die difficult deaths that we suffer from disease or catastrophe or acts of violence. God’s will for us is that we have life and have it abundantly.

Does this mean that God leaves us alone to suffer through the moments and years of misery and pain? The answer to that is in the last part of this Sunday’s gospel. When a fig tree doesn’t produce bloom and fruit, does it deserve only to be cut down and burnt? When a person sins, often repeatedly, does it mean the person should be condemned to everlasting fire? Jesus’ answer is to cast himself as a gardener who begs for time to cultivate the barren tree. He loosens its soil to provide air to the roots: he manures it to encourage the earth to give up its minerals and moisture to enliven this tree. Perhaps

So it is with us. Do we bear good fruit? Do we flower and bring forth good works? The message this Sunday is that God is always present with us. Think of the words in our first reading. God approaches Moses in the form of a burning bush – well not really burning as it is not consumed with the fire that is present in it. That fire burns, enlivens, sheds light. Moses is given a mission. He objects to that task, but repents of his lack of confidence and courage. "But who shall I tell the people sent me?" What a strange answer from the God present in a burning bush! "I am who am." For centuries we’ve looked at that translation as a sort of metaphysical statement heavily dependent on Greek Philosophical tradition. It is much more than a mental construct. That statement is a statement of God’s abiding presence among us. Times of trouble are times when our ship is about to capsize and sink into raging seas. It is a time for us to consider our living and what it means. It is a time when the work of the Lord struggles to lift us up and encourage us to blossom and bear fruit.

Just as John Newton struggled for eleven hours to steer the ship Greyhound into safe waters so also the storms in our living are opportunities for access allowing the "I am who am" to enter in and lead us to repentance. We use the Greek term metanoia to describe that repentance. That word is translated as a "transformation of the mind." The moments and years of our living can and must lead us to consciousness of the great wonder that we are and our failure to live our lives in truth and love. When we find gratitude for the life we have been given, then we begin our journey to blossoming and bearing fruit.

Theologians in our time have worked long and hard to understand how the hypothesis of evolution is part of God’s plan for his creation. There is no one who can deny that living is about constant change. That is the most visible effect of living in time. Today is not yesterday: tomorrow is not yet. And history, present moments, and future plans and dreams are parts of human consciousness. Science continually explores, looking for answers to how reality is and works. Faith continually searches for meaning and purpose to the discoveries of science and the value and wonder of lived life.

If we fail to enter into a "transformation of the mind" as suggested by our Lenten observance of prayer, study, fasting, and almsgiving, then we’ve wasted these forty days. If we fail to transform our minds and hearts, then we will need more loosening of our soil and manuring by the Advocate sent to live among us. In the first Sunday of Lent we discovered Jesus is truly a man, subject to the temptations we all experience. In the Second Sunday of Lent we discovered that this man Jesus is also Divine and the very Son of the Most High. This Sunday we learn that our living is enriched and brought to blossom and fruition by sharing in the work and message of this God/Man. He is the beloved Son: let’s listen to the events and moments of our inner life. Let’s consider the happenings and events in the world according to the ministry, preaching, and events in the life of Jesus. Let us look on the events of Holy Week as the difficulty we will encounter as we live a life of love of others. It leads to a cross that is not the final act in the drama of our life. It is the Resurrection and the full flowering and bearing of fruit that is the final purpose and meaning of human life. It is the future of all creation! That is the Amazing Grace we are called to sing through-out our living.

Carol & Dennis Keller & Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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DECIDING FOR LIFE: 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT A

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Life is full of them. Many are not particularly important. Many are routine. But sometimes we sense a need deep inside us to make a decision that is different. One that is going to change our lives so much that life will never be the same again! We decide, e.g. to take our problem to a counselor. We join a support group for help with an addiction. We accept an offer of friendship. We join a club. We meet someone special and fall in love. We answer an advertisement for a job that will take us interstate or overseas. We leave a higher paying job for one with more meaning or one in which we can be more helpful to others. We quit hanging out with friends whose standards and values are dragging us down. We sense a call from God to work for others as a church worker or a social worker.

The change we need or want requires us to leave a lot behind, leave our comfort zones and alter our lifestyles. But the promise of better days ahead impels us to take this brand new direction in our journey of life.

We see this happening today with ‘the woman at the well’ who seemingly by chance, comes across Jesus resting at Jacob’s well in Samaria. It happens like this: - It is mid-day. Jesus is thirsty. He is thirsting for water, but even more he is thirsty for a meaningful connection with this woman, generally considered by Jews an alien and outsider. The story-teller does not give her a name because she represents every one of us. Her conversation with Jesus includes symbols and word-plays. Eventually he breaks through her sarcasm and her other defences and touches the guilty secrets of her life. After five husbands already, her current live-in lover is not her husband at all!

His focus on her past life is not to hurt her but to expand her vision and offer her hope. She grasps that in the unexpected friendship this stranger is now offering her, something new and wonderful is happening. She understands that even in her messed-up life, God is getting involved and reaching out to her. So much so, that she cannot but ask herself: ‘Who is this man who is so different from all the others I’ve known? Why is he so different? Why is he so respectful? Why is he so attentive? Why is he so kind and caring? Is he perhaps greater than our father, Jacob? Could he possibly be a prophet with a message from God? Could he even be the Messiah, the Saviour, God has promised us?’

She is now the one who is thirsty. She is thirsting, she is longing, she is craving, to get to know him better. As they continue their conversation she finds that Jesus is satisfying not only her thirst to know him better, but also her longing and determination to get a life, a brand new life, a better life than ever before.

It’s his interest in her, his words, his gestures, his whole attitude, together with the time and space he is giving her that’s making all the difference. He is as purifying, refreshing and invigorating to her as a stream of running water. She is sensing something of the truth spoken by St Paul in our Second Reading today: '.. the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit ... given to us'. She is sensing that Jesus loves her, and that God in Jesus loves her. At long last she has come to realize one thing for sure. Life will never be the same again because she will never be the same again.

This is all so true that she decides that she cannot keep Jesus to herself. She feels compelled to bring others to him too. So we find her running home to her village and shouting at the top of her voice to anyone and everyone who will listen, the good news about him. She blurts out: 'He just told me everything I’ve ever done.' Touched by her excitement and enthusiasm, the villagers beg Jesus to stay with them. He ends up staying two whole days. His words and presence make such a deep impression that they end up saying to the woman: 'Now we no longer believe because of what you have told us; we have heard him for ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.'

Our story of ‘the woman at the well’ asks us to remember today all the ways we have experienced the presence of Jesus to us, and all the ways we have experienced his love for us. It asks us to consider how humble, kind, sensitive, understanding and forgiving he has been with us. It asks us in return to extend the firm hand of friendship and the over-flowing waters of mercy, compassion, acceptance, kindness and forgiveness, to all the people who come into our lives day after day. Family, friends, workmates, strangers, customers, clients, patients, students, anybody and everybody!

This touching story of the goodness and kindness of Jesus goes with the words of our psalm today, 'if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts'. So much so that we too will want to go to Jesus our Saviour in our Holy Communion with him today, and beg him to stay with us. To stay with us and be for ourselves and others that very same living, refreshing, life-giving water that he was to one truly blessed woman, known for evermore as ‘the woman at the well’!


OUR SPIRITUALITY: 3rd SUNDAY OF LENT C

If we browse through the magazines in our doctor's or dentist's waiting-rooms, we will probably come across an article on spirituality. Lately too, the lists of best-sellers often include works related to the human spirit or soul. People are no longer satisfied with material things only. So, in their search for satisfaction and self-fulfillment today, people have been looking for meaning and value beyond the material and the physical.

So far, so good! But not all agree on what is meaningful and valuable in life. For some, being 'spiritual' is focused on a sense of harmony with all living things, and openness to the great power upholding our intricate universe. For others it includes meditation and relaxation exercises for the sake of inner peace and calmness and for the sake of greater physical and mental energy. For some it’s mixed up with trances or alleged messages from outer space or from dead friends and relatives. In so-called ‘New Age Spirituality’ it often involves tarot cards and crystals.

In some searches for the spiritual there is a concentration on the 'self ' rather than on the 'Other' or 'the others'. There is little or no awareness at all of such people in need as the poor and the suffering. In other searches for the spiritual there is little sense of the reality of evil. Everything in the garden is rosy. Everything is viewed through rose-coloured glasses. Such spiritualities seem rather selfish and inward-looking, or an escape from reality and a flight into fantasy.

But there’s another kind of spirituality - Christian spirituality - which you and I have been sincerely trying to live. It’s based on the conviction that a meaningful life is all about good relationships. In relation to ourselves we know that 'God doesn’t make junk'. So we value ourselves and respect our own dignity, and we work on becoming better persons, knowing that God is patient with us, and hasn't finished with us yet. In relation to other people, we look for the good in them, and deal with them with acceptance, trust, affection and care. In relation to God we treat God as our origin, the ultimate source of our existence. We treat God too as the one who sustains us through all the ups and downs of life. And we treat God as our final destiny, the one who is waiting to take us into his embrace at the end of this life.

So for us life is both personal and interpersonal. God is much more than the great Architect, who designed this amazing universe, and much more than the great Clockmaker, who keeps it ticking over. No! God is Father, Mother, Friend, and Love Itself with a capital ‘L’. We hear God speaking to us, and we respond to God. With thoughts, words and actions of praise and thanksgiving! With thoughts, words and actions of love and self-offering! We converse with God as familiarly as friends talk with one another, as intimately as a wife speaks with her husband, or as children chat with their parents.

So, in today’s First Reading we hear God say (directly to Moses, and indirectly to us): ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of your fathers and mothers. 'I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. . . . I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them up out of that land to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow.' In response to this powerful assurance from God that God cares when people suffer, that God is a liberator who acts to deliver people from oppression of every kind, we have answered again and again: 'The Lord is kind and merciful; the Lord is kind and merciful'.

Our conversation with God continues in this Mass we are celebrating together. In a few moments we will be declaring in the Creed all that God has done for us and for our people down the ages. In our Prayer of the Faithful we will speak words of trust and petition. In our Eucharistic Prayer, we will start with words of joyful praise and thanksgiving, and go on to words of petition for a variety of people both living and dead.

In short, our spirituality as Christians is immensely and intensely personal and interpersonal. We sense that our God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. We cannot stop ourselves from reaching out to the love and goodness which is God. In fact we cannot even understand ourselves or describe ourselves, except in relation to God. So much so that we are convinced that God enters into the very definition of who we are as human beings. We find meaning and value in a personal and community relationship with a personal God, a God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the God whom we meet in our readings from scripture! This is our kind of spirituality!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


 

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