Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Third Week of Lent 2011

                                                                                                                                             Third Sunday of Lent 
                                                                                                                                                        Mt. 17: 1-9 

In the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), going on in all our Parishes as a preparation for entry to the Catholic Faith, the Third Sunday of Lent is the Sunday designated for the first scrutiny in preparation for Baptism at the Easter Vigil. The scrutinies are spiritual steps in this process intended to purify the catechumens’ minds and hearts and to purify their intentions to make them firm in their resolve to joining the Catholic Faith. Most Parishes will experience this ritual today.

The Gospel to be read on this Third Sunday of Lent is the rather long Gospel from St. John telling the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well. The essence of this story’s revelation is that “the hour is coming and is now here,” meaning that in the person of Jesus the new order in the history of salvation has arrived. Jesus affirms that he is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God who is to come to us incarnate to “make all things new.” It is the new way, truth and life Jesus brings us that the RCIA candidates are studying during these times and which they will totally embrace at the Easter Vigil.

This is the message that comes to us in today’s story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan Woman at the well. He asks her for a drink of water. She hesitates because he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan and the one does not associate with the other. Jesus tells her that if she knew who he was, “you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”Something new! “Whoever drinks this living water will never get thirsty again and will give whoever drinks it eternal life, life that will not end.” Wow! No more trips to the well for water, no more thirst, and eternal, everlasting life on top of all this.

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water.”

Jesus opens himself to her and tells her who he is. She sees from their conversation that he is a prophet. Pretty soon she is convinced that he is the Messiah, the One who is to come. She goes and tells the other Samaritans of the town and pretty soon the whole town began to believe in him. It is not too difficult to see why this Gospel is used on the Sunday for the first scrutiny, the checkup or self-evaluation on where they are in accepting Jesus as their Lord and Master.

Today all of us can ask ourselves where we are, even the old-time Catholics, in our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Master. Where would we like to be? This is a good time for a bit of scrutiny regarding ourselves, for a bit of checking up, examining ourselves, where we are in our resolve made many years ago in Baptism to follow Jesus.

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Third Week of Lent 
2 Book of Kings 5: 1-5, Luke 4: 24-30

Both of our readings chosen to be read on this Third Monday of Lent make mention of Naaman the Syrian. We have mentioned him before in these homilies but his story is a good one for us to remember from time to time as it contains a pivotal message for our spirituality.

Naaman was a commander in King Aram’s army and highly respected. He seems to have had a fine reputation and a good future ahead of him. But one day he discovered he had leprosy and he saw his career in the army shrinking away. He would even be forced to stop living in the city and to live outside the town with the other lepers. He began doing everything he could do to find a cure. One of the servants of Naaman’s wife told her about Elisha the Prophet who could cure him of the disease. The King sent a letter of recommendation for Naaman to Elisha to cure Naaman of his disease. Naaman started out taking with him his whole retinue and plenty of money to pay for the cure. When he arrived Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to see him but sent word to Naaman by his servant, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”

Naaman thought this was too easy or too weird. After all, there were plenty of rivers at home where he could wash seven times and he started to leave on his way back home. One of his servants asked him to give it a shot. He had come all this way; what did he have to lose? So Naaman bathed seven times in the Jordan River and was cured.

The moral once again for all of us: Do it God’s way, whatever it is, and not your own way and what you are seeking will materialize.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent 
Mt. 18: 21-35

The subject matter of our Gospel read on this Lenten Tuesday is forgiveness – forgiving those who have hurt us. For one reason or another, the first thing that came to my mind this morning in thinking of forgiveness is the story of the father whose son is shot that is told in the book Dead Man Walking by Sr. Helen Prejohn. This man’s son was gunned down for no reason at all by the man Sr. Helen was working with in prison. The man whose son was killed was called by the Police to identify the body and as he knelt in the muddy field where the body of his son was found, he said a prayer of forgiveness for the one who had committed this senseless act. Wow! That has to be forgiveness at its hardest.

It isn’t always easy to forgive. Hurts run deep sometimes. And some of the things we are asked to forgive, we will never forget. But forgive we must – for our own good and for the good of the perpetrator. The Gospel tells us we are to forgive others as God forgives us. In other words, we are to let it go, let it drift into non-existence, and get on with living.

Is there anyone in my life I must forgive today?

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent 
Mt. 5: 17-19

Our Gospel for today tell us that whoever obeys the commandments of God and teaches them to others will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. A good question to ask ourselves occasionally is whether or not there is something going on in our corner of the world that I am enabling and not doing anything about. Sometimes we see things happening that should be corrected and we take the easy way out and say nothing at all. This could be anything from gossiping about others to harassing or criticizing handicapped people, to stealing insignificant things from the workplace or whatever.

If we see something unethical going on, we should confront it in a nice way. Don’t just sit back and say nothing. This tends to make bad situations worse and sometimes unstoppable. A good example of this would be having too much to drink and then driving a car, or just drinking too much on occasion.

We should not let our fear and our people-pleasing put us in the category of enablers.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent 
Luke 11: 14-23

Today is the last day of the month of March. The snow of the winter has almost disappeared (except here in Minnesota where it just keeps right on snowing) and the floods of spring have begun. Nature moves on and so do we. As we pass now into the month of April, we see Holy Week beginning on April 17 followed by the glorious feast of Easter on the 24th.

The Gospel for this last day of March is about driving out demons. As we continue our Lenten journey, do we see any demons in our lives that are keeping us from being better people? Any excessive anger, rage, violence, selfishness, etc.?

Lent is marching on. How am I doing with my “turning around” we talked of a week or two ago? Have any noticeable U turns been made? Or have we drifted into complacency? What do I see that must be attended to before this penitential season is over?

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Third Week of Lent 
Mark 12: 28-34

“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

Today’s Gospel for this first day of the month of April presents us with the Great Commandment as given in the Gospel of St. Mark. It is good for us to focus on this as we head down the home stretch toward the end of Lent. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This commandment gives us the main concern of the Christian disciple: Love God in a very special way and the love of my neighbor. That’s really what its all about. Fulfilling this Great Commandment means living the values of Jesus. Let’s all pause right now and make a list of these values as we remember them from the Gospels. I’ll write mine down as I sit here thinking of them. You make your own list. Read mine later. My list would include: prayer (talking to God), meditation (listening to God), obeying the commandments of God, doing things God’s way, making God a part of my life, caring, compassion, forgiving, unselfish service to others, respecting others, being patient with things, listening to others, being gentle, kind, being non-judgmental of others, practicing the physical and spiritual works of mercy. This is my list for right now. I am sure I missed mentioning many others. All of this reminds me that I still have much to do in becoming the true Christian person I hope to be.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent 
Luke 18: 9-14

Today’s Gospel tells the story of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax collector praying in the temple. The Pharisee was better than everybody else and wouldn’t let God forget it. His inventory was BRAG, BRAG, BRAG. The tax collector knew his unworthiness as he stood before God and he simply asked, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Actually, if we stick to our guns, neither one of them was truly humble. Certainly not the Pharisee; he was proud all the way. But he did have good points and wasn’t afraid to speak about them. The tax collector knew his faults but didn’t even think about his BRAG points, his goodness.

Humility, as we have said before, is true self-knowledge. The truly humble person realizes his good points and bad points. He knows he doesn’t deserve nor has he earned the good things, his gifts and talents. They are God’s gifts of his grace. Humility stand on the middle ground.

Let us ask God today for the strength to be truly humble people using our gifts and talents for the good of others and trying to make things better in the area of our character defects.

Fr. Howard

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