March 19, 2017 — Third Sunday of Lent
EX 17: 3-7; PS 95: 1-2, 6-9; ROM 5: 1-2, 5-8; JN 4: 5-42
Today’s Gospel Reading from the Book of John recounts the story of the confrontation of a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well with Jesus. This only appears in the Book of John, but it is significant in many ways, particularly to us on this Third Sunday of Lent, as we continue our own Lenten voyages and efforts. A question we might ask ourselves throughout Lent, and for that matter always, is “Are we prepared to confront the Lord and are we willing to listen to Him and meet Him on His level?”
Sometimes it is difficult for us to fully realize that Lent, a time of fasting and abstinence and prayer and charity, is also a time for us to seek happiness. On this Third Sunday of Lent we may have already made commitments to do things that on the surface may not make us happy. However, now is the perfect time for us to examine what may stand between us and the happiness that a good relationship with the Lord can bring.
The First Reading is from the Book of Exodus. This well known Book of the Old Testament relates how the Israelites leave slavery in Egypt. Although led by the prophet Moses, the people really escape through the power of God. It is the same strength and power on which we need to rely during Lent and throughout our lives. As the Israelites wander and travel through the desert in their escape, they become discouraged and unfocused in some ways. Again that is something we are likely to do in our Lenten promises and commitments. Like the Israelites when we have a problem, instead of thinking that this is normal and strengthening our thoughts with a commitment that we need to look to God to meet our needs, we may look for someone to blame. Nevertheless, that solves nothing for us, nor did it for the people led by Moses.
The people turn against Moses, but he does the right thing. He turns to God in his need and appeals for the Lord’s help. Moses places his total trust in God, and the Lord provides. We need to do the same thing. Trusting God is at the heart of a successful Lent and a successful life. If we trust in God implicitly we are well on the way to happiness.
In his letter to the Romans, from which comes our Second Reading, St. Paul repeats this same importance of trust. In this case Paul speaks to why we need to believe. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Paul. Note that this is not the peace of God to which reference is made many times in Holy Scripture. This is peace with God. This kind of peace, as Paul points out, can only come through Jesus. He is the entire base for our trust and our belief and our peace. Happiness is found most often at a time of peace in our hearts. This, too, is something we seek during Lent.
Paul also refers to the “grace in which we stand.” We may use the word grace often, but it should have particular meaning to us during Lent. Grace, quite simply, is “God’s undeserved favor toward us.” It is the same love and favor found in Exodus. We do not have to prove to God that we are worthy of grace and His love. If we spent more time in our lives praising God, we would most likely spend less time disliking ourselves. That, too, is a key to peace and happiness.
Finally in today’s Holy Scripture we have the story from St. John of the Samaritan woman at the well. She comes to the same realization that Moses is trying to convey to the Israelites, and that St. Paul is explaining to the Romans — that is, God loves us where we are and with all of our faults. The woman is amazed as she says, “He told me everything I have done.” What shocks her is that Jesus loves her in spite of being aware of all her faults. That is the conclusion to which we are called as well. If we approach Lent with this attitude, following what the Church tells us to try to do, including confession and reconciliation, we might truly find the peace and grace about which all of our readings speak.
Confession may be one of the least understood sacraments of the Catholic Church. However, in reconciling us to God, it is a great source of grace. This is the grace we seek. It brings us peace and it brings us happiness. We just need to trust and persevere and believe and we can attain the happiness and hope promised to us.