Today we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Lent. In some Churches the readings will be taken from cycle A instead of the current cycle C. This is because some churches celebrate the scrutinies. This is an interesting word is it not? Who likes to be scrutinized?
During the Lenten scrutinies, those who feel called to baptism or into full communion with the Church are asked some basic questions about their desire to conform their lives more closely to Christ. But the scrutiny does not end there. The community is also challenged to be a worthy example for these new catechumens (those to be baptized) and candidates (those to be received into full communion).
The readings for cycle C place Moses at the burning bush where he is instructed to address God as, “I Am who Am!”. The Psalm reminds us of God’s kindness and mercy. St. Paul beckons back to the journey of the Israelites through the desert; unlike the rock that yielded water for them, Christ is our true Rock, and the eternal source for living water. The Gospel relates the parable of the caretaker of the fig tree, who’s first thought is to cut down the barren tree, but begs for another year to see if added care might yield fruit.
The readings for cycle A find Moses in the desert with a hoard of complaints. The people are thirsty and are not trusting in God’s providence and plan, but God provides the water from a rock struck by Moses. The Psalm invites us to listen to God and be open to God’s ways. St. Paul reminds us how faith is essential, and hope does not disappoint. It is God who saves us, even though we are sinners, and Christ died for us to show us His love for us. And the Gospel is that beautiful story of the woman at the well.
The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is something that reveals the depth of God’s love for us – all of us, not just those who belong to a certain group. Seemingly, she is caught up in the world and the daily struggles of life. She had many relationships, but none seemed to satisfy her. She freely asks Jesus questions. The Jews and the Samaritans were not friends, to say the least; her people did not recognize the Temple in Jerusalem for what it was, they had their own sacred place. But Jesus informs her that salvation is from the Jews and then points to a future time “when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.”
This is where the rubber hits the road. We are called to worship God in Spirit and in truth. We are called to propose our faith to everyone, while realizing that it is truly impossible to impose it on anyone.
We believe that the deliverance of the Israelites by the blood of an unblemished male lamb from Pharaoh’s oppression and cruel slavery foreshadowed our deliverance from the oppression of the slavery to sin by Jesus, the true Lamb, who was slain, whose blood was poured out on the doorpost of the cross!
The Jewish Temple was built for the Ark of the Covenant (originally in a tent, in Latin – tabernacle) originally containing the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron, and a cup of manna. In our tabernacle we have Jesus, the Word of God, the Good Shepherd, and the true Bread come down from heaven. May we always be counted among those who worship in Spirit and in Truth!