Saturday, March 26, 2011

OPTIONAL MASS OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT


OPTIONAL MASS OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT
This Mass may be used on any day of this week, especially in Years B and C when the Gospel of the Samaritan woman is not read on the Third Sunday of Lent.
Readings for Optional Mass in the Third Week of Lent[1]

Readings and Commentary:
[2]

FIRST READING
Exodus 17:1-7

From the desert of Sin the whole congregation of the children of Israel
journeyed by stages, as the LORD directed,
and encamped at Rephidim.

There was no water for the people to drink.
They quarreled, therefore, with Moses and said,
"Give us water to drink."
Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me?
Why do you put the LORD to a test?"
Then, 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 children of Israel quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
"Is the LORD in our midst or not?"
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Commentary on
Ex 17:1-7

This passage continues the journey of the Hebrews in the desert following their departure from Egypt. The reference to “the desert of Sin” is a proper place name as opposed to a metaphysical status of the people. Here they complain bitterly against Moses for having taken them to a land with no water and the hardship causes them to doubt that God is with them. In response to this challenge, God provides yet another miracle as he commands Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb reveling a spring of water. The place was later named Massah . . . Meribah: Hebrew words meaning respectively, "the (place of the) test," and, "the (place of the) quarreling."

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RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7ab, 7c-9

R. (8) 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.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
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.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
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."
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 95:1-2, 6-7ab, 7c-9

This part of Psalm 95, commonly used as the invitatory psalm for the Liturgy of the Hours, is a song of thanks giving. In these strophes the incident at Meribah is remembered (
Exodus 17:3-7) and God’s underserved mercy proclaimed. The community is rejoicing that the Lord is God and that he has brought us salvation in spite of our forbearer’s obstinacy. We are encouraged to listen to the Lord, even if what we are asked to do is difficult.

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GOSPEL
John 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.”
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Commentary on
Jn 4:5-42

The story of the Samaritan Woman, told in its entirety, provides several theological points. First, the fact that Jesus came this way implies his broader mission, not just to the Jews but to the whole world. The fact that upon meeting the Samaritan woman he asked for a drink is significant in that, Jews would have never have considered drinking from the same vessel as a Samaritan woman who would have been considered ritually unclean.
 
Often what we hear in Sacred Scripture seems to have only one purpose when in fact there is more. We note that the location of this event is set at “Jacob’s Well”. It is a clear reference to Genesis 33:19-20, a place where Jacob “… set up an altar there and invoked “El, the God of Israel.
 
The discourse with the woman is instructive, providing rich imagery of water and spirit recalling the gifts given in Baptism. At the same time we see the recognition that Jesus is the Messiah (although the Samaritans would have had a different expectation of the Messiah, thinking more in the lines of a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15).
 
There is further symbolism, culturally focused, in Jesus revelation to the woman. When he tells here she has been married 5 times it is a likely reference to the 5 images of Baal worshiped by the Samaritans. Women who practiced that religion were ritually married to the 5 idols.
 
The conclusion of the story demonstrates the clear perception by those who encounter Christ that he is the Messiah. This revelatory presence is noted in the concluding verses of the story as the Samarians exclaim “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."
 
CCC: Jn 4:6-7 544; Jn 4:10-14 694, 1137; Jn 4:10 728, 2560, 2561; Jn 4:14 728, 1999, 2557, 2652; Jn 4:21 586; Jn 4:22 528, 586; Jn 4:23-24 586, 728; Jn 4:24 1179; Jn 4:25-26 439; Jn 4:34 606, 2611, 2824
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Reflection:
We look first at the story of the Hebrews sojourning in the desert [of Sin – how ironic]. As they have before, they become angry at having left the comparative comfort of slavery in Egypt for the physical harshness of the desert. Complaining to Moses about God, we see their doubts.

Doubt in itself is not a bad thing. Even the most deeply spiritual people have doubt. But there is a danger associated with it. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness
.” (
CCC 2088)

We contrast this “Voluntary doubt” (we call it so because these same people recently feasted on Manna and quail provided to assuage their complaints) with the “Involuntary doubt” of the woman at the well. Her doubt was followed by her faith as she recognized the Messiah. We see in those following Moses the rejection of God’s covenant that would later surface in Jerusalem’s crowd calling out “Crucify Him!”

When these two stories are juxtaposed as they are it is easy to see where our own attitudes lay on the spectrum of Voluntary and Involuntary doubt. We must be constantly vigilant to insure our attitudes cultivate faith. While faith is a gift from God, we may purposely reject that gift, choosing instead to follow a path that is more akin to the Hebrews lost in the Desert of Sin.

As we make our own way through the desert of Lent, we pray to God for continued strength and growth in faith. May our Easter joy find us ready to receive the risen Lord completely.

Pax

[1] The Picture is “The Samaritan Woman at the Well” by Agostino Carracci, 1595[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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