"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Third Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Mar 22, 2019 10:36:04 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 3:1-8a, 13-15)
This is the famous story of God speaking to Moses from a burning bush. God says to Moses, “‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the Lord said, ‘I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
Moses does not know what to make of this and especially he does not know who is this God, so he asks what he should say if the people ask who this God is. God’s answer is both enigmatic and revealing. “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM WHO AM. This is my name forever.”
Over the centuries people have speculated about what this means. Is God saying that he is all that is or all the people can know? In any case, the God who called himself I AM was powerful enough to lead the people out of slavery into freedom.
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11)
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Have you ever hardened your heart toward anyone or anything? It could be an understandable reaction to an injustice or hurt you have received, but if it remains it could do you and perhaps others harm. That is the time to “hear his voice,” a voice of forgiveness, mercy, and a new understanding. It is a very different voice than the one you might have in you that has not done you any good. It is time to listen to this voice, his voice.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:1-2, 5-8)
“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.”
That’s right, even though many Christians do not realize it, the Holy Spirit lives within each one of us and fills us with grace, the very life of God. Imagine that! No matter how bad or disappointed we may feel with our lives, if we look more deeply we will find the presence of God. It may reveal itself in prayer but also from another person or in the deepest moments of our hopelessness and pain.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 4:5-42)
This is one of the most powerful and unexpected stories in the gospels. “A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ The Samaritan woman said to him ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ 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.’ 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.’”
There are several things that we need to know in order to understand this text. Jews considered Samaritans to be heretics. A good Jewish man would never have talked to any Samaritan, much less a woman. And this is taking place at a well which was a familiar place to meet prostitutes, and this woman has a checkered past. Jesus is risking scandal speaking to a woman, who is a heretic, at a place of sin. But he is talking about something so important that he takes the risk and talks about truly living water, the water of eternal life.
You and I were given that living water when we were baptized, and the very Spirit of God lives in us. God is present in us always even if we do not think of it often. We all know that water is essential for life, and this living water is essential for eternal life that has already begun in each of us. Let us rejoice in the Spirit who has given us this eternal life.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

Bill Ayres

Written by Bill Ayres

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