THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (A)
March 19, 2017

First Reading (Exodus 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?”

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-9)

Refrain: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

1) 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. (Refrain:)

2) 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. (Refrain:)

3) 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." (Refrain:)

Second Reading (Romans 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.

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 Samariacame 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.”

(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.

The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)

Homily
Agents of Transformation

This verse which the decorator mistakenly put on this wedding cake plays an important role in our gospel passage. You can well imagine that a woman who had been married five times would not have been held in high esteem by the other women in her small village. Who knows, perhaps she seduced one or two of her husbands away from other women in the village. Even if this is not so, the fact that she is shunned by society is evident for a couple of reasons. First of all, John tells us that the hour was about noon. It was considered a woman's task to draw the water for the household and most women would do so at dawn or soon thereafter before the heat of the day set in. Obviously, this Samaritan woman did not feel comfortable mingling with the other women of the village around the well, so she went at a time when almost assuredly no one else would be there. Even more revealing is the fact that Jacob's well is more than a half a mile from the village of Shechem where this woman was from and there almost certainly must have been a well closer to the village. So this woman avoided contact with other women not only by going to the well at a different time of the day from the others, but even to a more remote well to draw her water. Thus, the depth of her ostracism from her society becomes all the more evident.

What also makes this conversation between a Samaritan woman and Jesus all the more amazing is just that: the fact that Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman. The animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans went back over 400 years from the time of our Lord - for reasons which are too extensive to get into here - and it had not diminished one bit over the years, as John notes so well for his Greek audience ("recall that Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans"). And even more revealing is the fact that a Jewish rabbi would never talk to any woman, let alone to a Samaritan one. So here is this conversation between Jesus and a woman who had the proverbial three strikes against her: she was a Samaritan, a woman, and not just any woman, but a woman with a bad reputation.

But there is another indication of our Lord's caring for this anonymous woman. When she asks him about Jerusalem being the only place where Jews worship God, Jesus replies, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." The word "woman" is significant here. John uses the Greek word "gunai" which is a term of great endearment. One commentator says it is the equivalent of saying "special lady". Think of it: this woman is a village outcast who cannot associate with the other women, has been divorced several times, and is now living with a man who is not her husband. Yet Jesus, seeing the possibilities in her, calls her "special lady"! He used the same word for this woman that he used to address his mother at the wedding in Cana and on the cross. (2) Amazing. A woman, a Samaritan, a sinner, and yet Jesus calls her a special lady and offers her the water of life.(3)

But there is one final indication of our Lord's love for this woman: she is the first person in the New Testament to whom he reveals his true identity as the Messiah when he tells her "I am he, the one who is speaking to you". We need to note here the use in Greek of "ego eimi" which has the same connotation as "Yahweh", the Hebrew word for God in the Hebrew Scriptures, which means "I am who am".

So here was a Samaritan woman, an outcast not only of the Jews but even of her own community, in whom our Lord confides his innermost secret. This encounter with Jesus changed her life, for immediately she went and, overcoming her own fear and lack of standing in the community brought many in her village to believe in him. Legend has it that she became a convert to the Christian faith and took the name "Photini", which means "enlightened one" at her baptism. She became a significant figure in the Johannine community and contributed to the spread of Christianity. (Read more about her at http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/photini.htm )

It was our Lord's belief in her innate goodness that changed her life. And such transformations continue to occur, as evidenced by the following story. The author writes:

It was the love of Christ which changed a Samaritan woman with a checkered past into a future saint of the church, just as it was the encouragement of one couple which changed a shy and reticent woman into a veritable dynamo of enthusiasm and confidence. My question to you today is this: are you an agent of transformation in the lives of others, or do you go around undermining, backbiting, gossiping and otherwise putting other people down. We are challenged on a daily basis in our homes, in our work places and in our encounters with others throughout our daily lives to see them as Christ sees them: as men and women who are not perfect but in whom God has limitless love. Sometimes, we even need to see that in ourselves.

References

1. From Drinking the Water of Life, from Dynamic Preaching, copyright 1999 by Seven Worlds Corporation, Knoxville, TN. Used with permission.

2. From The Presence, copyright 1993 by Arnold Prater. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. 3. From Drinking the Water of Life.

4. Unexpected Praise, adapted from Over the Top, copyright 1994 by Zig Ziglar, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Cited in God's Unexpected Blessings, pp. 209-211, edited by Kathy Collard Miller, copyright 1998 by Starburst Publishers, Lancaster, PA.

(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net.)

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (A)
March 19, 2017

Penitential Rite

Lord Jesus, you are the life-giving water for which we thirst. Lord, have mercy.

Christ Jesus, you are the one and only source of true happiness and consolation. Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you are the Anointed of God who teaches us how to live. Lord, have mercy.

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (A)
March 19, 2017

Prayers of the Faithful

Celebrant: In the desert, Moses pleaded to God on behalf of his people and God listened to him. Therefore, confident that God will hear our prayers, we place our needs before him.

Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".

That the leaders of the church will always be sources of living water to their flocks, we pray to the Lord.

That the leaders of the nations of the world will overcome their prejudices and seek peace through reconciliation, we pray to the Lord.

That the sick, the handicapped and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one may find consolation in their faith, we pray to the Lord.

That all those preparing for the Easter sacraments, as well as their families and sponsors will come to a deeper appreciation of the meaning of the Gospel in their lives, we pray to the Lord.

That the members of our parish community will use this Lenten season to bring about reconciliation and the healing of family divisions, we pray to the Lord.

That all those affected by natural disasters throughout the world will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives, we pray to the Lord.

For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Merciful Father, as you cared for the needs of the Israelites in the desert by giving them water, quench our thirst for the living water promised by your Son through the outpouring of your Spirit. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.