For me, this Gospel story for this Third Sunday of Lent, Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, is one of the more beautiful and touching stories in the Gospels. I believe this story has a very special meaning for anyone who has undergone a special conversion in their life. Anyone who is in recovery from any addiction, depression, or mental handicap knows what I am talking about. We all follow, more or less, the same path when we look at our story of how we got into recovery. We all had to meet Jesus or a Higher Power to accomplish this. But obviously our stories begin before the encounter. It’s kind of how it is described in the Big Book of AA: How my life was, what happened to change it, and how it is now equals my story.
The conversion process begins with our encountering Jesus. The woman in today’s Gospel story met Jesus, encountered him, at Jacob’s Well. In talking to him, she realized her own sinfulness and her need for forgiveness. She also realizes God’s tremendous love for her. She is reconciled with God and begins her spiritual awakening, her transformation into a new person and then she goes and shares what happened to her with others that they too may come to recovery, to conversion.
This is more or less the way it happened to me, as I look back, in my recovery from alcoholism. First of all, I encountered Jesus in the words of a little old lady: “Shame on you, shame on you.” – and later I met him again and again at Guest House where I went for treatment. I began to realize my sinfulness and shame and my need for conversion and forgiveness if I was going to continue living. I discovered God’s tremendous love for me in Luke’s Parable of the Lost Son (chapter 15). I was reconciled with Jesus in confession and began my spiritual growth and awakening that hopefully will continue until the moment of my death. And I have tried my best to share my story with others in the hope that it will help them in their conversion. I also discovered somewhere along the line that unless I give what I found away, I will lose it.
The story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well, then, is a beautiful story of conversion that sets the way for millions of people transforming their lives during this special season of Lent. Let us all read it several times, carefully, to see where we fit into it and where we are on our pilgrimage to the Father. Click for today’s prayer
With today’s story of Naaman, the leper, in the first reading and mention of him again in today’s Gospel, I am two out of two for this Third Week of Lent. I identified yesterday with the Woman at the Well in the Gospel and I can also identify with Naaman mentioned in today’s Liturgy.
I kind of get a kick out of Naaman, and out of myself when I see how much I was like him. Naaman is so human. He had his whole trip to Elisha, the Prophet, for healing of his leprosy all planned out all by himself. (This reminds me of the old line: If you want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are for tomorrow.) God’s way, revealed to Naaman through Elisha, was too simple for him. You can just about hear him saying: “My Lord, do you mean that all I have to do is bathe seven times in the Jordan River to get rid of this leprosy? We have rivers in Damascus too, you know! I could have bathed there. And you mean to tell me that all of this isn’t going to cost anything? No way!”
At this point, one of his servants remarked to Naaman that he had come this far to hear what he has heard, so why doesn’t he at least give it a try? What does Naaman have to lose? At worst he will still be a leper. Naaman listened to the servant and tried it Elisha’s way, God’s way, and it worked! He was cleansed of his leprosy.
I was the same way. God’s way to sobriety was patiently explained to me at Guest House but it sounded too simple as a remedy for all the trouble I’d gotten myself into. All I have to do is read this book and follow these 12 Steps and invite God into my life? But I tried it and it worked! Fact is, I’m still trying it and it is still working. And I have no intentions of returning to my way. Does all of this make any sense, ring any bells, with you? I hope so. Click for today’s prayer
Unless each of us forgives our brother and sister, our Father in heaven will not forgive us. I believe it is safe to say that this is the gist of the rather long Gospel to be read at our Liturgy today. Resentments are bad enough in what they do to us. And now, on top of all that, we are told that our Father is not going to forgive us until we get rid of the resentments we have. Whoa!
To resent someone means to feel it again. The word resent comes from the Latin re – sentire which means to feel again. Someone hurt us perhaps years ago and yet even today when we think of them or hear their name said, we feel that hurt as though it just happened and our bad feelings for that person rise up again. Sometimes, the people we resent are even dead!
The truth of the matter is we are responsible for how we feel today. No other person or event should have that power over us. When we resent someone, we are letting them tell us how we feel today. We are quite literally their slaves. Obviously, this is not the way to go.
All of us need to work on forgiving any resentments we have and this Lenten season is a good time to do it. Lord, grant us the strength and the wisdom to pardon and forgive these resentments and regain the freedom we desire in our lives. Click for today’s prayer
The Gospel today tells us that disciples of the Lord, and this includes us, are not only to obey the commands of Jesus, but also to teach them to others. Priests and parents are forever trying to teach the commandments of God. The priests preach them to their congregations; the parents preach them to their children. And I must admit that I sometimes wonder as one who does a lot of preaching every week, just how much good I’m doing; how much I am accomplishing. I imagine our religion teachers and parents occasionally wonder the same thing. Our congregations and children often get the idea that we are “telling them what to do,” when we preach to them. They have a point. Bill Wilson, when he wrote the Big Book, of Alcoholics Anonymous, knew he couldn’t tell the alcoholics he was writing to what to do. Rather, he made suggestions. Suggestions are much better received and listened to than advice and preaching. At least, I think so.
I also believe that we do more productive “preaching” when we do it by example rather than by words or by giving advice. When others see us doing this or that and being happy and joyful because of it, they are far more likely to imitate and follow what we are doing. “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Do you agree? Click for today’s prayer
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” The Gospel chosen for today’s Lenten Liturgy is telling us, I believe, to seek oneness, unity among ourselves as members of the Kingdom or otherwise we will scatter and fail in our efforts.
Really, the importance of unity in our families, religious orders and congregations, in the Church itself, is apparent to all of us. We have to be going in the same direction if we want to achieve success in our endeavors. The right hand has to know that the left hand is doing. The Church tries to achieve this by synods, councils, bishops’ meetings, deanery meetings, parish council meetings and so on. Religious Orders have chapters every so many years, assemblies yearly, house chapters monthly in the individual houses. Unity is achieved by communication. It is good for families to have family meetings occasionally to look at how the family is doing, what is to be praised, what is to be criticized, what we need to do to be a better family.
It seems to me that family life is far more complicated today than when I was a child. Everyone’s agenda is jammed full and often necessitates doing our own thing. That’s fine. But is this dividing the family because no one knows what the other is doing? I know how we handle all of this in our local Friary at the Franciscan Retreat House. How do you handle it in your family? All of this is another good reminder from the Gospel on something to be looked at during this Lenten season. Click for today’s prayer
The month of February comes to an end with one of the most important of all the Gospels: the revelation of the Greatest Commandment. This same material may also be found in Matthew 22: 34-40 and in Luke 10: 25-28 and in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 and Leviticus 19: 17. In Mark’s Gospel read in today’s Liturgy, it reads: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
It is rather apparent, if we reflect closely on these words, that every good action we perform fits into and fulfills this commandment. With every good, virtuous action we are serving God, our neighbor and ourselves. We are all one, as we saw in the homily the other day, and what is good for one is good for all. All holiness, then, boils down to keeping the Greatest Commandment. This is about as simple as it can get. Click for today’s prayer
Our Gospel selection for this Saturday in Lent gives us the opportunity to reflect on the virtue of humility in our lives. In last week’s homilies we were talking about the capital sins and usually the first one mentioned in the list of these sins is pride. I think we should remember here that pride can also be a virtue. We have to have some pride in ourselves. This is what helps us with our good self-image, with our taking care of ourselves. We are worth it. If you have ever met someone without any pride at all, you have seen what a sorry state this can be. It is only pride in the extreme that is wrong. I am God. I am the best of all. These are extremes and are wrong. This is what we must avoid because the extremes are not true. They are lies.
Humility, the opposite of pride in the extreme, is true self-knowledge; to know ourselves as we really are. This includes our good points, gifts and talents, virtues, as well as our defects. And we realize here too that our good gifts and talents are God’s gift to us. We have not earned them. We do not deserve them. They are meant to serve others. This is humility and it is a great virtue and a necessary virtue. We couldn’t even pray without it. It is good to reflect on the humility and pride thing in our lives during the season of Lent. Do we have things balanced as they should be or do we find some extremes in our lives that we must deal with?