3rd Sunday of Lent
Year A

Come, bet us bow down in worship

During the early years of the Catholic Church in America, our immigrant ancestors shared a devotion to Sunday Mass that was often heroic. Although almost lost in a new world when Catholics were few and Catholic churches fewer, they took great pains to get to Mass Sundays, no matter how long the trip or hard the road. In doing so they were heeding the psalm of today's Mass: "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord who made us; for He is our God."

Each of us may have family traditions of our forefathers' devotion to Mass. Here is another example of their hardy piety.

Around 1830, Michael and Patrick Owens, William Lysaght, Martin White and a couple of other friends left Ireland and settled in Canandaigua, N.Y. Now, the nearest church to Canandaigua in those days was St. Patrick's in Rochester, some thirty miles to the northwest. Rochester was too far to drive on Sunday, so they made a weekly overnight trip of it, returning home on Sunday afternoon.

One Saturday this toilsome journey over uncertain roads was marked by a curious mishap. The men had piled into their wagon as usual and said "Giddyap" to the pair of mules. All went well until they neared Dave Baker's farm near Penfield, a township adjacent to Rochester. At that point (to quote the storyteller), "the off-mule took a cramp in his nigh leg." The driver halted, and Pat Owens climbed down to examine the mule's leg. While he was doing so, the cramp suddenly ceased, and the critter gave Owens a smart and ungrateful kick. Too disabled to go farther, Pat agreed he'd better forego the Mass that week and stay overnight at Dave Baker's.

When his comrades returned from Rochester on Sunday afternoon, they found the victim sufficiently recovered to go back to Canandaigua. The mule must have kicked poor Pat in the face, for the storyteller went on to say, with stalwart humor, that after this mishap Owens was never so handsome, but a good deal wiser.

Joke as they might about Owens' rather serious accident, these pioneers considered it as happening in the line of duty. Only serious hardship could excuse them on Sunday from their conscientious duty to praise "the God who made them."

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q308: St. John always speaks his spiritual message in symbols and images. How does the story of the “Woman at the Well” speak to us today [Jn 4:5-42]?

The story of the “Woman at the Well” is the story of everyone’s faith journey. It is especially relevant to the RCIA journey of enlightenment, progressing from initial Inquirers, then to the formation of Catechumens, and finally to a Profession of Faith and Baptism into membership in the Body of Christ. Also, in the five-week “Returning Catholics” program, at one point seeds are planted in a pot, and then if they are properly nourished with water, they will sprout and grow strongly and rapidly. The visual message being conveyed is allegorical. It is a reminder that we have all been damaged on our journey of faith; we have all made bad decisions at one time or another, and we all need tender love and care and mercy. If we turn to the right source, and “re-root” ourselves in this true source of life, we will receive the proper “faith nourishment” and growth can resume.

Water from deep wells can provide temporary relief from physical thirst. However, we have an even deeper thirst, a thirst for eternal truth and eternal life. That kind of thirst can only be quenched by the author of truth and life, the living God who revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. This “living water” is pure gift, and always involves an encounter with Christ which demands humility and courage. We need the courage to face our selves, to ask the right questions, to listen to the Lord’s answers, and then have the humility to make the needed course corrections. Then we become enabled to participate fully in His mission, and share the Good News of the “living waters” that bring us eternal life.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The “gift of God” is sanctifying grace that God gives freely to us at our Baptism (CCC #1999) – it is Christ himself. Thirst for God can only be quenched by God himself (CCC #2557). Christ alone is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth (CCC #1179).

The Lord is in Our Midst

Picture Israel in the desert with no water with death staring them in the face. God had saved the Israelites from death in Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea but now we hear: "Where is he now? Where is the water to save us? Where is God when we need him." They are in desperate need, but instead of prayer and trust in God's mercy and power, they complain and challenge His good will. But God still provides for them. Centuries later Jesus confronts a Samaritan woman and asks her for water. She has water to spare but deep within her there is a thirst that cannot be satisfied from the well. Her response to Jesus' words go from skepticism through hope to faith as she recognizes Jesus as the savior of the world. She and her Samaritan towns people encounter Jesus and proclaim that the Lord is truly in their midst.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your have done for me us. It is by your grace that we come to you in faith. Give us strength and hope when we find our faith difficult, when we are downcast and depressed, when we are tempted to lose faith in your mercy. Faith is your gift to us; may we be open to accept it.