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A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 12:1-4a)
 
The Israelites have been wandering in the dessert for years since their escape from Egypt; they are hungry and, more importantly, thirsty. The complain to Moses:“Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” In Egypt, they led a horrible existence of slavery and violence; yet, that seems better compared to their present suffering. “So, Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people?’” The Lord instructs Moses to go to the rock of Horeb: “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”
 
So goes the continuing story of God’s relationship with the Israelites. With each crisis they face, their faith is tested and often beyond their ability to be faithful. No matter! God is always with them.
 
Thousands of years later, we continue face our own crises on personal and societal levels. A family member dies painfully, tragically, or unexpectedly. Sickness strikes. A relationship shatters. Addiction takes over a family. And then there are the crises of our society: hunger, poverty, injustice, racism, sexism, and now a creeping virus. Our relationship with God is tested in all these crises and many more.
 
The key to our relationship with God and our spiritual, emotional, and physical health is what God has said to us in the Hebrew Scriptures and what Jesus said in the Gospels: “I am with you always.”
 
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Do you know someone who has a hardened heart, someone who can no longer hear God’s voice? Maybe your prayer for that person will reach his or her. It may take a while, maybe a long while, but do not give up. “I am with you.”
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:1-2, 5-8)
 
Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Rome, “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 for 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.”
 
Let’s read that last line again: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is not as though the love of God is something outside of us. No, it is within us, because the very Spirit of God is in us. Do you believe that God’s Spirit is alive in you?
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 4:5-42)
 
This is the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, and it links with our first reading about water flowing from a rock through the power of God.
 
“Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well…. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her ‘Give me a drink.’” The Samaritan woman then asks, “‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink? For Jews have nothing to do 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 is skeptical and asks him, “Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I will give will never thirst; the water I will give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
This woman has had a hard life, with five different husbands, but Jesus does not condemn her. She believes in him and tells everyone in town about him. Jesus winds up staying there two days, and, “Many more began to believe in him because of his word.”
 
The fact that Jesus is speaking in public to a woman who was not his wife—and speaking to a Samaritan at that—shocked his disciples at first, but Jesus does not care. He wants to reach out to someone whose neighbors may see her as a great sinner, so he says, “the Father seeks such people to worship him.” She did, and so did the other Samaritans who were considered by Jewish people to be heretics. We can declare with them: “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
 
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 over 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Life in the 21st century is anything but slow-paced. With the high-speed internet, high-speed transportation, and high-speed food preparation—just to name a few fast things—humans are able to find time to accomplish many tasks and often simultaneously. Multitasking is faster, more popular, and easier than ever.
 
On the Church calendar for March 9 is the optional feast of St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440). Frances apparently was very adept at multitasking centuries ago. With a huge capacity for loving, she poured herself into a life of service to her husband and children and, at the same time, assisted a group of like-minded women in giving aid to the poor people of Rome. Prayer was a major component of her life, and I am sure that such a boundless resource is better than high-speed anything in sustaining a Christian wife, mother, and caregiver. Her example must have been such an inspiration to all those around her.
 
The optional first reading for today’s Mass (Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31) describes a “worthy wife.” That expression may sound patronizing in the 21st century, but the woman described in the reading is busy not only at home but also in the community where she “reaches out her hands to the poor” and “extends her arms to the needy.” St. Frances was like that. Chris Lowney, in his book What, Me Holy? from RENEW International, says sometimes a woman has to be both a Martha and a Mary (Luke 10:38-42), and clearly St. Frances worked tirelessly at being both. The rewards of living such a multitasking life—when the tasks include seeking the Lord, taking refuge in the Lord, and praising the Lord at all times—are recounted in the psalm for today, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9,10-11).
 
Lent is a special time of multitasking with love: a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Gospel passage for the memorial of St Frances (Matthew 22:34-40) tells of the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor as we love ourselves. Prayer intensifies and sustains our loving relationship with God. We pray for ourselves and others. Fasting helps us to keep in mind what is truly valuable and important in life and how to keep things in right proportion. Thus, fasting is loving ourselves, too. Almsgiving teaches us to be generous as our faithful God is generous. We love others selflessly.
 
Being good Christian multitaskers, we can pray, fast, and give alms all at once! Try it! Be creative! Here is an example: on a day when you are fasting from a certain food you enjoy, volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and pray a silent prayer for each person as you are serving them! How about fasting from electronic devices for a day, while bringing a person who needs transportation to church to make a visit and pray together in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
 
For worthy wives and their worthy husbands, how about being extra “worthy” for the day and refrain from complaining about that little habit your spouse has, while saying some extra prayers of gratitude for him or her and, perhaps, helping each other clearing closets of perfectly good garments, outgrown or no longer worn, and then delivering those clothes to the local clothing bank?
 
I am sure you can come up with your own multitasks of love. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” this Lent!
 
(Resource: franciscanmedia.org)
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Loving God,
open our eyes to our need to hear
that we are your beloved daughters and sons.
May we become conscious that you are the God who cares for us,
the God interested in our well-being,
and that you walk with us always
giving us the inspiration to make the right decisions in our lives.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 12:1-4a)
 
“The Lord said to Abram: ‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.’ Abram went as the Lord directed him.”
 
Abram’s conversation with God marks the beginning of the Jewish people. God tells Abram, whom he soon will call Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation.” These words often have often been a comfort and source of hope to the Jewish people during their historic suffering and their frequent dispersion.
 
The same is true for us today amid turmoil throughout the world and in our own country and perhaps a worldwide health crisis. Let us ask in hope for God’s blessing for our country and our world. And let us ask for that blessing in the name of our Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22)
 
“Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you…. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.” Let us remember that our hope, in God, is ever present and eternal. Do you believe that?
 
A reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 1:8b-10)
 
Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy at a time of persecution and death for the early Christians, and Paul wants to encourage them. “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” How does your strength come from God? Do you ask for strength? How do you respond when it seems that no strength comes?
 
Paul write that God “saved us and called us to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The word “gospel” means good news, and the good news, as we know it, is that Christ Jesus destroyed the finality of death “and brought life and immortality.”
 
Do you believe the amazing promise that death is not the end, that we will live another life, that we are immortal? That is the teaching of Jesus, and it has been the teaching of the Church for more than two thousand years. It is the gospel, the good news, of our salvation.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 17:1-9)
 
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.”
The Book of Genesis tells of God making himself known to Moses. Matthew, who is writing for a mostly Jewish audience, wants his readers to know that Jesus too had such an experience and that Moses himself and Elijah were there. If Matthew’s readers were good Jews, they believed in God’s manifestations to Moses. So, now too, they should believe in the apparition that Jesus and the three apostles experienced.
 
Of course, Peter is overwhelmed, especially when he hears a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Peter does not want to come down from the mountain. He is ready to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’’’
 
Have you ever had moments when you were, in a sense, “on the mountain with Jesus”? Maybe it was at Mass or in prayer or at a time of healing with someone you were present with in a deep way. Or perhaps it was simply being in nature or anywhere that you felt the presence of Jesus. Did you feel as Peter did and not want to “come down from the mountain”? These special moments with Jesus or with the Spirit or with our Father occur to help us deal with our everyday challenges, hurts, disappointments, failures. The key is being open to the mystery of God being with you.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org.
 
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.

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Lord, we see that your Son, Jesus, was fully human
and was tempted like any of us.
His example of saying no to evil and making the right choices
is a challenge to us to do the same.
Give us the courage to choose
what is right, healthy, and helpful
and to avoid what is unhealthy and destructive.
Help us thus to be shining examples
of goodness and kindness to others.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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