by Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.
“WHOEVER DRINKS the water I give will never thirst … will have a spring of water deep inside (John 4) … If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95)
Today in parishes throughout our diocese, nation and universal Church, thousands of men and women begin the final preparation for the Easter sacraments. We, their millions of brothers and sisters, multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic, join and stand in solidarity with them. At the Easter Vigil they will embrace our Catholic faith and be one with us in baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
These next weeks are meant to help the “elect” look closely (scrutinize) at their personal weaknesses and sin so that Jesus’ mercy and freedom strengthens their desire and fidelity in this journey. The rites are primarily meant for the “elect and candidates,” but they are also meant for you, for me and for the entire Church. The “run,” the “race,” the “sprint” is for all of us. These rites and readings invite and “oxygenate” all of us for that recommitment to our own baptismal promises.
Journey Through the Desert
Today’s readings and prayers held up for our reflection offer powerful images of water as a sign of life. This water is a sign of destruction, purification (cleansing) and God’s awesome power in the world and within our souls. We journey through the desert with ancestors in the faith and hear their grumbling, disillusionment and anger toward God and toward their leader. In desert times and in arid lands, where people thirst, the lack of water is destructive and deadly to body and spirit. God reminds them and allays Moses’ desperation with “water from a rock.”
God says, “I will be in front of you” on this journey. But our God, Who made streams to gush from a rock and quenched thirst with waters like rivers, continued to be tested by our ancestors in the desert.
“Can God set a table in the wilderness? (Psalm 78) they cry as the foods of Egypt look so rich in hunger’s eyes and memory. Falling from trust, they long for the past and forget their liberation from slavery. Are not these waters from rock a rich symbol of liberation and passage from death to life?
Psalm 95, our responsorial, is our prayer on this journey toward recommitment. “If today, you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” On this day, I hear that response in a new way because I’m in a new place.
This reflection was written two weeks ago and as it goes to press this week, I am away from Brooklyn and Queens. With others from the Federation of Sisters of Saint Joseph, I am blessed to participate in an experience of mission immersion in Haiti. I am seeing up close and personally a hope in the midst of extreme poverty, a trust in the midst of terrorizing destruction and healings in the midst of what you and I might think as hopeless disease and death-defying illness. As the people of Haiti live the passion of Jesus in their homes and bodies, they proclaim a steadfast faith and trust.
Followed God’s Dream
Today is St. Joseph’s Day and our feast as Sisters of St. Joseph. In Joseph we honor a man who, filled with questions, fear and great faith, followed God’s dream and his own thirst for God’s grace working in his life. Tonight, we will gather for Eucharist and table sharing with Passionist Father Rick Frechette, who is a doctor, and our Haitian brothers and sisters at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital. We will celebrate and glorify God’s power working in and through a people of hope. We will pray for God’s grace and working in our own lives.
Outsider Turned Disciple
You and I, my companion travelers and our “candidates” and “elect” throughout the world find a model and lesson in today’s Gospel. We see a “foreigner,” a Samaritan woman, an “outsider” encountering the Source of Living Water. At a well Jesus invites her to look deeply into her own life. She sees Jesus and His words as refreshment and cleansing for her new life. “Come and see” is her message, and disciple is her new name. She embraces discipleship and carries the message: “Come and see the One who knows me through and through.”
We all thirst on the journey, even those of us not “sprinting” or running. We ask refreshment and cleansing as we live in a world and a country so in need of this Source of Living Water.
May these words encourage our journey: “There is a really deep well inside of me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug out again” (“An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-43”), and “I am a vessel. The draught is God’s. And God is the thirsty One.” (“Markings” by Dag Hammarskjold, 1964).
May we hear today’s responsorial psalm and beg God to soften, reshape and redirect our hearts. Let us pray for each other this week.
Readings for the Third Sunday of Lent
Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 5: 1-2, 5-8
John 4: 5-42 or John 4: 5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42
Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.