Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst"

The theme of thirsting and water continues in this Third Sunday of Lent's fascinating and evocative Gospel story of the woman of Samaria and her encounter with Jesus at high noon. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Samaritan Woman

Once again, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a critical encounter. This time he meets not Satan, but a most unlikely angel. In the heat of the day, a woman joins him for a life-giving exchange. The Samaritan woman is the most carefully and intensely catechized person in John's Gospel.

Christ engaged this woman as an equal. He showered her with kindness and treated her as a princess. Fr. James Gilhooley says Christ saw in her not the evil things she had done in her life but rather the heroine she could become with His encouragement. Her story is a metaphor for our own lives -- often lived in deserts of alienation, sinfulness, despair. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us that Lent invites us to join the woman of Samaria in today's Gospel and the women of Samaria throughout the world and all those so desperately in need of life.

Father Cusick tells us we should all be like this simple woman, whose simplicity enables her to encounter, without prejudice, the revelation of Almighty God. Will each one of us accept God as He lovingly and wisely reveals Himself, or will we, tragically, reject Him because He does not appear according to our preconceived notions?

Thirsting for Living Water

Jesus speaks about Living Water and we interpret this as the Water of Baptism and we are not wrong. But we can think of all kinds of Living Water—the Living Water of the Scriptures, the Living Water of Prayer, the Living Water of Worship, the Living Water of our Christian Fellowship, the Living Water of the Cry of the Poor and so on.

We need to be fed, we need to have our thirst quenched. But often, explains Fr. John Foley, S. J., you and I use other worldly things to try and satisfy this great need: food, work, looks, accomplishment, other persons, sex, drink, and so on. We thirst for God. Sometimes we drink Him in. But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out, often we ignore Jesus. Sometimes we downright reject Him. But He doesn’t give up on us.

As we enter into these more intense weeks of Lent, we recognize a longing in our hearts. Fr. Phil Bloom says it is a thirst that has its source in God's thirst for us. And it is only the words of Jesus spoken to us through the scriptures, explains Fr. Alex McAllister SDS, that can bring us real satisfaction and fulfilment.

God's Gift is for All His Children

When Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is amazed that he seems so unaware of how things really are. Does he not know about the human conventions that have condemned her to social invisibility?

It is interesting to note in the gospels how the apostles, well-meaning of course, often tried to keep certain people - like the Samaritan woman - away from Jesus as if they weren’t worthy. Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us that things haven’t changed today. Always in the church, we, well-intentioned persons, for the same reasons as the apostles, keep trying to keep certain individuals and groups away from God’s mercy.

This gospel story, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. clarifies, is a witness to the gift of God for all His children. In the breaking down of barriers, Jesus shows us a new way to learn about one another and learn that we need one another. Today's gospel, explains Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B, invites us to dream about the possibility of a world where opportunity and hope replace the bondage of fear and despair.

So, do you think non-Catholics go to heaven? Our Burning Question challenges you to speak from the heart. If the Father can lovingly offer the Son for the very least, those who have turned away, then why can’t we offer a small portion of our time and energy to the most challenging people? College student Megan Diestelmeier poses the question.

This Lenten season, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks us to be like the Samaritan woman. Let us abandon our water jars and return to town to tell everyone about Jesus. Did she wait till she had a master’s degree in theology? No. She simply told people, with joy, confidence, and conviction, what Jesus had done for her. And she invited people to come and experience him for themselves. We should do the same.

Confession, Spiritual Fitness & Almsgiving

When's a good time to go to Confession? For New York's Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, it's on Saturday mornings. Three years ago,  the then archbishop would get a brisk hike in to one of the many city churches that offers the sacrament of Penance. He sneaks in, rarely recognized since he's in walking clothes, and stands in line with the others outside the confessional. In he goes, contrite, forgiven he leaves, gratefully he prays, and renewed he walks back home. What a great example he offered to those who struggle with this most difficult sacrament of all.

People recognize the importance of a regular physical workout. But, Judith Costello explains, there is another kind of “workout” that is far more important. Unfortunately, it gets no press. There is no “Biggest Losers” TV show about spiritual fitness. But there should be. Those who neglect their prayer life may very well be “the biggest losers.”

Spiritual fitness is a process of tuning into the silence of the heart in order to connect with God. It’s not easy. Msgr. Charles Pope says frequently the problem is one of the stubborn and unrepentant heart. The heart becomes obstinate, stubborn, incorrigible, and unrepentant. Increasingly, the heart becomes hardened and unlikely to change, even despite overwhelming evidence that the course one is on is destructive, and a source of pain.

Which brings us to an interesting question. Is Hell Crowded or Empty? Fr. Robert Barron shares his reflection on this topic from a Catholic perspective.

One of the ways we mark Lent is through almsgiving, which doesn't just mean writing checks but engaging in all the Works of Mercy recommended by the Church. John Zmirak challenges us to perform one specific work of mercy that that has never really appealed to him: "visiting the prisoner." Read more about his enlightening experience.

Mass Attendance, Teens & College Life

We usually think of the 1950s as an era when just about everyone went to Church. But even at that time there were already trends underway that indicated not all was perfect in paradise. It is a long and unfortunate trend that men have often left the spiritual upbringing of the Church to their wives and stayed home on Sundays. Msgr. Charles Pope sets the record straight. Mass attendance has indeed dropped. But it's not as much as we may think.

If you're about to start college, are currently enrolled, recently or not so recently graduated -- or even if you never attended at all -- don't put it on a pedestal. College student Elizabeth Hanna says today's college experience might be "fun," but you can't escape the consequences to your body, mind, and soul. The last three years of her life have been awesome, but not because of the number of Facebook pictures she has holding up a red Solo cup. Rather, in this time she's matured as a person and grown closer to God and others.

Which brings us to a major challenge our youth faces on a daily basis: supervising social
media. Tell me a teen who's not on Facebook. Danielle Bean offers soem really timely advise for teens and parents. She offers her "5 Rules for Teens on Facebook."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: "Can non-Catholic people go to heaven?"
FEATURED BLOG: Is Hell Crowded or Empty? A Catholic Perspective
PASTORAL HISPANA: Solo Dios puede saciar plenamente la sed del ser humano

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