Sunday readings in brief 3 Lent A
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 94(95); Romans 5:1-2’5-8; John 4:5-42
“Now we know he is the Savior”
Dear friends, today is the third Sunday of Lent. It is the Sunday when the Catechumens will be received in the first of the three stages that will lead to their baptism on the Easter Vigil. Catechumenate is the very last stage in the process where adults are received into faith. First, the candidates express their desire to become Christian and are taken through thorough catechesis that may take even years. When they are deemed ready, the following Lenten season becomes the climax of their process and where they are officially called catechumenates and are prepared for Baptism. The catechumenate period may also last for years.
This is because Christianity is a tradition and a custom that someone who would want to be a true follower of Christ needs to be well-inducted into. Every tradition has its values, do’s and don’ts, taboos, abominations, and most of all the reverence for the supernatural associated with that particular culture. What makes it even more important to follow the due process is that, unlike children adults who want to be Christians have already matured in other traditions and values. They need to abandon the previous ones and embrace Christianity. This is not easy and if this period is rushed, then we will end up with many baptized but few true Christians.
The Gospel passage today presents us with the perfect example of a catechumen’s journey. Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman demonstrates the stages of believing. The Samaritan woman comes to fetch water and meets Jesus’ who is a Jew by the look though she did not know who he was. Jesus asks the woman to give him some water and this leads into a conversation about the differences Jews and Samaritans had since the division of the Kingdom of Israel. The dispute was all about which was the true Holy City of God. For the Samaritans, Samaria was and for the Jews it was Jerusalem. The woman refuses to give Jesus water based on these differences. What differences do I harbor that makes me not associate with someone or some people?
Jesus introduces another level of conversation – a spiritual one – but the woman does not get it immediately. When Jesus tells her that if she knew who he was she would have asked him for the living water, she wonders about how he would get that water without a bucket whereas the well was deep. She even dismisses him, because he made himself seem greater than he made Jacob, who gave them the well did.
Continuing with catechesis to the woman, Jesus goes on to explain what living water was and this draws the attention of the woman. She thinks about getting the living water that would save her the trouble of going back the distance to the well every day. Seeing that the woman did not yet understand, Jesus asks her to go and get her husband so that he could give them both water. This is very important to underline. Here Jesus emphasizes the importance of the conversion, not of an individual but the whole family and community.
The woman is disturbed by this and tells Jesus the truth about her life though only to cut the story short and get the water. “I have no husband,” she said. Here Jesus gets a chance to reveal who he truly was to the woman and tells her about her previous five husbands and the sixth one who was not her real husband. Hearing this the woman believes in Jesus, leaves her bucket there (like the disciples living with their father and nets), hurries back to the village, and gives witness to what she had seen and heard.
The villagers went with her to meet Jesus and pleaded with him to stay for longer. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them and finally, the whole village concludes that he was truly the messiah. This statement by the village people is the expression of faith that every catechumen must arrive at, at the end of the process, “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world”.
The stages in this passage are 1) the meeting – of Jesus and the woman. 2) The expression of reality – the wounded relationship between Jews and Samaritans. 3) The catechetical conversation – Jesus’ instructions to the woman. 4) The leap of faith – the woman believes in Jesus. 5) The witness – the woman goes back to the villages and gives witness to the faith she had received and the villagers express their faith after listening to Jesus for two days.
Dear friends, I invite each one of us to reflect upon our journey of faith. Did I pass through the five stages of faith? Was my catechism enough? Did I ever come to a personal conclusion about the things I believe? Did I grow in conviction about my faith? Did I lose faith at some point because there was a stage that I did not understand well? If we can answer all these questions, I will be able to determine my standing about my faith. i can always go back to my catechism and polish the things I did not understand well.
Have a fruitful Lenten season
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.
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