The liturgical season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday and runs until Holy Thursday night. Lent has a two fold character. It serves as a time for the immediate preparation of the catechumens and candidates who will be fully initiated into the church at the Easter Vigil when they celebrate the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist). It also serves as a time for the rest of us to prepare ourselves, by penance, alms-giving and prayer to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and the renewal of our own baptismal promises at Easter. This double character actually speaks of two ways to describe the same journey. All of us, whether new catechumen or long time believer, are constantly being called to more complete conversion. God always calls us to approach Him more closely. During this time, the church invites us to spend time with Jesus, John the Baptist and the ancient prophets of Israel in the wilderness, listening to this call from God and reflecting on the mystery of redemption through the cross and resurrection of Jesus and on what it means for each of us today.
Although we are in the midst of Cycle B, in parishes where the RCIA will celebrate the First Scrutiny of the Elect this Sunday, the readings for Cycle A will be used at those Masses rather than the ones for Cycle B. At St. Raymond Parish this will occur at the 10:30 Mass. The Cycle A readings are: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4: 5-42. These readings call us to think about our thirst for eternal life and how it can be quenched only by the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit that comes to us through Jesus. We, like the Israelites, in the first reading are called to recognize God in our lives and to trust in His care for us. Paul reminds us that in spite of our sinfulness, and in the midst of our woundedness, God has justified us in Christ and poured forth His love into our hearts in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel gives us a model of conversion as Jesus goes to Samaria and reclaims a people who had strayed. May He do the same for us in today’s church and in today’s world.
First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17
1 Then God delivered all these commandments: 2 “I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. 3 You shall not have other gods besides me. 4 You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; 5 you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; 6 but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. 9 Six days you may labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. 11 In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you. 13 “You shall not kill. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”
NOTES on First Reading:
* 20:1-17 The precise division of these precepts into “ten commandments” is somewhat uncertain. Traditionally among Catholics, Exodus 20:1-6 is considered as only one commandment, and Exodus 20:17 as two. Cf Deut 5:6-21.
* 20:5-6 “Impassioned” is a better translation than “jealous”. Yahweh is passionately committed to Israel. The people encompass more than one generation. Sin in the Bible often meant the act and the consequences of the act. Those consequences were often seen as coming directly from God. Although the statement in verse 5 about God punishing the children of sinners seems harsh to our modern ears, when taken with verse 6 it is a Semitism that, by contrast, emphasizes how much greater the mercy of God is than is His justice. The language contrasts the third generation with the thousandth generation.
* 20:7 There are two usual ways of interpreting this commandment. On the one hand it may be seen as requiring respect for the Divine Name in general or on the other hand it may be seen as prohibiting the use of false oaths in legal proceedings. Another less common way of interpreting it follows: There may be a link with the ancient middle eastern understanding of name as giving an advantage over the one whose name one knows. In this case it may actually be a prohibition against the use of the Divine Name in any attempts to control God or manipulate Him into doing something.
* 20:17 The word used is “dmx chamad khaw-mad” which means conspiracy or taking steps to steal not simply covet.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 1:22 The demand for signs (as in Exodus17:3-7) is a refusal to trust God and hides a satisfaction with the status quo. Greeks, here, actually refers to Gentiles. Wisdom as used here is a reference to the gentile construction of a religious systems and then living by it.
* 1:23 The Crucified Christ is rejected by Jews because of their Messianic expectations and by Gentiles because of their rationalism.
* 1:24 The authentic humanity of Jesus makes visible God�s intentions for humanity and radiates an attractive force that enables a response to it.
* 1:25 Paradox illustrates that God�s ways are not our ways.
Gospel Reading: John 2:13-25
13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. 15 He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, 16 and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” 17 His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. 23 While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. 24 But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, 25 and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
NOTES on Gospel Reading:
* 2:13 This is the first of three Passovers mentioned in John�s Gospel. The others are: 6:4; 13:1 Taken literally that makes the public ministry of Jesus at least two years long and possibly as tradition has always maintained three.
* 2:14 These were the animals that were to be offered in sacrifice in the temple worship.
* 2:15 The language used by John indicates that this version of the incident was developed as a separate tradition from the ones given in the other gospels. See Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48. The other gospels place this incident at the end of Jesus career while John places it at the beginning. The reason for the move is that John uses the raising of Lazarus as the immediate cause for the arrest of Jesus rather than the sharp attack on the temple. The attack on the temple serves as a preparation for the saying on “true worshipers” in 4:21.
* 2:17 This is a quote from Ps 69:10 although the tense was changed. The word, “remembered”, is a technical word in John for the process by which the community came to see Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture after the resurrection.
* 2:18 They also ask for a sign in the other gospels. The statement in Zec would indicate that the action is itself a sign. See Zec 14:21
* 2:19 Jesus� answer to their question would have been totally unintelligible to them. Typical of John there is a misunderstanding which gives the writer an opportunity to explain the meaning to the reader.
* 2:21 Here John explains the symbolic meaning of Jesus� statement to the reader. The replacement of the temple by the resurrected body of Jesus in which the Holy Spirit is present is a major idea in the Gospel of John. For John, Jesus is the reality of all the religious symbols of Israel expressed together at the same time.
* 2:22 In this verse John seems to make the word of Jesus equal to the scriptures, the Word of God.
If Scrutinies are celebrated, the following readings are proclaimed instead of the previous readings.
First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7
3 Here, 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?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” 5 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. 6 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. 7 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?”
NOTES on First Reading:
* 17:3-7 The issue is not thirst but the rejection of the value of the Exodus. This is a rejection of the Divine plan. The people do not believe that God can care for them. There is no Divine rebuke, simply a command to take the elders as witnesses and to strike the rock and water will spring forth.
* 17:6 In Horeb is a reference to Exodus 3:1-5 where Moses had met God. The rock is used as an image of Christ in 1 Cor 10:4.
* 17:7 Massah and Meribah are Hebrew words meaning respectively, “the (place of the) test,” and, “the (place of the) quarreling.”
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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. 3 Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, 4 and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 5:1-11 Popular thinking frequently construed reverses and troubles as punishment for sin as in John 9:2. Paul assures believers that God’s justifying action in Jesus Christ is an act of peace. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ displays God’s initiative in giving humanity unimpeded access into the Divine presence.
* 5:1 Reconciliation is God’s gift of pardon to the entire human race. Paul’s term, justification, means to benefit personally from this pardon through faith. God desires to liberate believers from the pre-Christian self as described in Romans 1-3. Because this liberation will first find completion in the believer’s resurrection, salvation is described as future in Romans 5:10. For this reason it is called the Christian hope.
Paul’s Greek term for hope does not, however, suggest any note of uncertainty. Rather, God’s promise in the gospel fills believers with expectation and anticipation for the climactic gift of complete commitment in the Holy Spirit to the performance of the will of God. The persecutions that attend Christian commitment teach believers patience and strengthen this hope, which will not disappoint them because the Holy Spirit dwells in their hearts and imbues them with God’s love (Romans 5:5).
* 5:3-4 These two verses are included here for completeness but are left out of the Lectionary reading.
*5:7 In Paul’s time a “just” person would have been one who was known to be generous with others, especially the poor.
Gospel Reading: John 4:5-42
5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 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.) 10 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.” 11 (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? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 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.” 15 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 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.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
27 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?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 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. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 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.”
39 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.” 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 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.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 4:5 The Old Testament is full of meetings at wells. They form a very important part of the Patriarchal narratives; see Gen 25:10; Gen 29:1; Ex 2:15. Here John uses a meeting of Jesus and a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well to show us the basic elements of conversion. She at first resists His questions and tries to change the subject. Jesus refuses to play along with her and she is empowered by His presence to face her past and begin a new life. At the end of the story she is described by John in the same words he uses in Ch.17 to describe the missionary work of the apostles. So she changes from an outcast sinner into a missionary for Christ.
* 4:6 The hour was counted from dawn so the sixth hour is about noon. Water in such a place is drawn at the end of the day or in the early morning but not in the noontime heat. She may have been trying to avoid the other women who would be found at the well during the more usual times for drawing water.
* 4:9 Jews would consider themselves to be ritually unclean if they drank from a cup that had been handled by a Samaritan woman. This is why the woman is surprised by His request.
* 4:10 The term “living water” meant a spring or a river or any water body that had the water in motion rather than stagnant. Water from such a moving source was considered much more desirable than water that had been sitting in a well. Jesus uses it in a symbolic sense as the Holy Spirit. Living water has been used often as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and for the life that stems from Him. John often used such verbal misunderstandings as a literary device to provide the opportunity to inject a further explanation. See 3:3.
* 4:11 John uses the misunderstanding as a springboard for Jesus to reach out to her and help her face the stumbling blocks from her past that had alienated her from God and from her neighbors.
The woman addresses Jesus as “kyrios” which is translated as “Sir” here. This is the same word, usually translated as LORD, that was used in the Septuagint (Greek text of the Old Testament) for the Hebrew word “Adonai” as a substitute for the Hebrew Name of God, “YHWH”, also called the tetragrammaton.
* 4:14 Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whose presence will infuse the believer with eternal life.
* 4:15 The woman does not understand and is still thinking of “drinking water.”
* 4:17 Jesus confronts the woman with her past and she tries to change the subject.
* 4:18 The reference to five husbands may be interpreted in at least two ways. As a personal scandal: The accepted standard was that a woman could be divorced 2 times, and a few more radical teachers would allow three times but a woman who had been divorced five times would be considered a scandal. This may have been what made the woman an outcast among the people.
As a symbolic scandal: There were five waves of gentile invasions that swept through Samaria. The Samaritans accepted them and intermarried with them and accepted some of their cultural artifacts. This made them unclean in the sight of the Jews.
* 4:24 Protestants tend to interpret this as: Jesus is speaking about interior worship of the Father in the Spirit. Catholics tend to interpret this as: Jesus is talking about worship of the Father by the power of the Spirit which is found in the church. The text and grammar allow both interpretations although the Catholic view is much older. Either way, taken with verse 21 it seems that Jesus is saying that both the Temple worship of Jerusalem and the worship of the Samaritans will soon be replaced by “true worship in Spirit and truth.”
* 4:25 Apparently the Samaritans were not expecting a Messiah who would be a king but one who would be a prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15).
* 4:26 Jesus uses a term that can also be translated as “I am”, the same name that God used when He met Moses and which became identified as God’s self-revelation to His people (Exod 3:14; Isa 41:4-10, 43:3). This link will be made explicit when Jesus is shown to be greater than Abraham (8:24,28). Confession of Jesus as prophet, Messiah, Savior of the world, and equal to God will become the basis for true worship in John’s community.
* 4:27 A Jewish Rabbi would not speak to a woman in public. Jesus seems to disregard this social requirement.
* 4:28 The woman abandons the very reason that she went to the well in the first place and leaving the water behind she goes back to town to tell others about Jesus. Her actions follow the pattern of the discipleship stories presented in 1:40-49.
* 4:31-34 The disciples misunderstand Jesus’ words about “food” just as the woman misunderstood His words about “water”. Jewish tradition often described the Torah as food (Prov 9:5, Sir 24:21). Jesus makes doing God’s will His “food.” This expression is common in Jesus’ ministry (5:30.36;6:38,17:4).
* 4:35-38 John has placed a series of proverbial sayings here that parallel the agricultural imagery of the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus uses them to aim the disciples toward their task of harvesting those who come close to Jesus.
* 4:37-38 Jesus uses the saying from Mic 6:15 with the pessimistic overtones removed. He has sower and reaper rejoicing together which was taken as a sign of a new age (Lev 26:5 implies an overlap of sowing and reaping).
* 4:39-42 The woman is presented as a missionary in virtually the same words as the disciples are in Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20. The Samaritans first believe because of the words of the woman. They must have seen something vastly different in her in order to get past their previous opinion of her and actually listen. Later their belief is based upon their own experience of Jesus and His Word.</font