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Friday, 17 March 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent Year A 2017

 3rd. Sunday of Lent (A)
(Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; St. John 4:5-15, 19-26, 39-42)

It was a long Gospel reading today, People of God, and I don’t want to distract you from what you have heard nor to overburden you by myself ‘talking’ too long.  Let me, therefore, just bring to your attention two points in particular. 
In these days you can often hear from over-enthusiastic Ecumenists and from former Catholics seeking to justify their betrayal of the Faith, “All that matters is to do good to your neighbour.”  Sorry, I have made a mistake there!  Those words ‘to your neighbour’ are not acceptable, they are too Christian, too reminiscent of the Bible.  You are more likely to hear over-enthusiastic Ecumenists and former Catholics saying, ‘All that matters is to do good!!’
That sort of attitude is, indeed, very prevalent today because our modern Western societies, having rejected Christianity, are striving to justify themselves by doing good, that is, good as they see it: marriage is for everybody, sexuality is not to be regarded as being determined by our birth but is to be subject to whatever might be our personal will or preference; all sorts of operations or treatments can help anyone finding it too difficult to practice self-discipline!! Yes, our modern Western societies are seeking ‘good’ independent of religion, totally freed from any sort of obedience to or dependence upon a transcendent God.  Now the main criterion for what is thus to be the desired good, useful for their purposes, is that it be popularly justifiable and even more popularly acceptable.   And that is not sarcasm but absolute truth … no ‘democratic’ government, party, or caucus, will readily take up and ‘faithfully’ support what is unpopular.
Well, in answer to such an attitude, notice Our Blessed Lord’s words to the Samaritan woman:
You (Samaritans) worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews.
Jesus had much fault to find with Jewish practice, but He did not hesitate to tell this Samaritan woman that ‘We’, the Jews, know the truth about God and His offer of salvation.  Jesus had respect for Samaritans, as His parable about the ‘Good Samaritan’ shows, and as also does His delicate reticence when answering His Jewish opponents:
The Jews answered and said to Him, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and are possessed?”  Jesus answered, “I am not possessed; I honor my Father, but you dishonor Me.  (John 8:48–49)

Nevertheless, He did not flinch from making it quite clear to the Samaritan woman-at-the-well that they, the Samaritans – as distinct from the Jews -- did not have the fullness of God’s truth in their teaching.  As one commentator (Saunders) writes concerning this part of St. John’s Gospel, ‘By rejecting all of the O.T. but the Pentateuch, the Samaritans had wilfully denied themselves of access to the revelation of  God and shown themselves prone to error…. The old Covenant (with the Jews) may have been incomplete, but it was -- unlike the Samaritan schism -- on the right lines.’
The same can be said of the Catholic Church today.  The old, enduring Church, our Mother, has made many human mistakes, and she is still slow in advancing towards the youthful beauty and perfection her Lord requires of her, but, nevertheless, she is still on the right lines, and salvation still comes -- despite all the attacks of her, usually so self-righteous, critics -- through her uniquely authoritative proclamation of Jesus’ Gospel truth and through her sacraments which are the inimitable channels of His heavenly-bestowed saving grace.
The truth – not religiosity, not sentimental love -- was of supreme importance in Jesus’ eyes.  Why was this?  Because the proof that He was the Son of God was His knowledge of the Father:
                Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know You.    (John 17:25)
Truly, truly, the Son can do nothing of His own accord but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does the Son does likewise. (John 5:19)
As the Father knows Me and I know the Father … For this reason the Father loves Me because I lay down My life … this charge I have received from My Father.  (John 10:15-18)
People of God, Jesus came to give us a share in His own sonship, to make us children of God in Him; do then strive to know your Father, to know your Faith.   Sentimental feelings are not enough as Jesus Himself said to His disciples:
The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God.  (John 16:27)
Jesus was, as a young boy-cum-man, found by His anxious parents in the Temple:
Sitting in the midst of the teachers listening to them and asking them questions.
What an example for us!!   How few, even among devout Catholics , ask simple questions today; how few find the Faith beautiful and ‘interesting’ enough to want, indeed to need, to know it better, understand it more, and just love it!   For doctrine is there for us (objectively, so to speak), faithfully given us by ‘Old’ Mother Church, to be known and loved first of all, even before we prayerfully ask God and calmly consult our own conscience, or even perhaps humbly consult others for help and/or advice, how best to respond to it.
There are many today, however, who will only pose (not really ‘ask’) a question in order to open up a field for their own opinions and ideas; Jesus, on the other hand, was humble, and we are told that He just listened to the teachers and asked them questions …. with no subsequent ‘but’s, or, ‘it seems to me’, ‘wouldn’t it be better’ etc. etc.
The second point I would like to make is, observe carefully the sort of knowledge of God we should seek: knowledge, and ultimately worship, in Spirit and in Truth.
We receive the truth in the faith which Mother Church hands on to us; but we have then, in our turn, to live that faith for ourselves, that truth, in Spirit, under the guidance, the impulse and protection, of the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwelling in our hearts nourished by the Eucharist.  As I have just mentioned, it is not a faith for our heads alone … we are meant to treasure it also in our hearts, as did our Blessed Lady, until the warmth of the Holy Spirit dwelling there gradually ignites it and makes it glow, before ultimately causing it to burst into flames – reminiscent of the Spirit Himself -- giving new light and new warmth to all around.
Like the Samaritan villagers in today’s Gospel reading, we believe on hearing the message of salvation, but, in our case, from one deliberately chosen, publicly endowed, and sent by Jesus Himself, that is, Mother Church’s preaching and teaching.  However, it is not meant to stop there, we are called to then live (stay) with Jesus (Who stayed two days with those Samaritans; Who invited Andrew and his companion to go and see, stay a while, with Him).  We in our turn are meant (in our measure) to hold and treasure His teaching in our hearts, and thus come to know Him from our own experience … a person-to-Person knowledge, nourished above all from our closeness to and with Him here at Mass where He sacrifices Himself for us and gives Himself to us in Communion.  That is how we too can say with those Samaritan villagers:
We believe and we have heard (learned, experienced) for ourselves, and we know that this (Jesus) is truly the Saviour of the world.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, may our Blessed Saviour draw us as we proceed with Holy Mass to an ever deeper awareness and appreciation of Himself, and in Him, with Him, by His Spirit, to a truly filial trust of and self-commitment to Him Who is indeed our Father and our fulfilment.  

That love, that appreciation of Our Lord, His Spirit, and the Father is way above what the writer of an 'apologia' (in a famous Catholic Journal just received by me) for what he chooses to call 'de facto' marriages as distinct from 'de iure', Church approved, marriages, is able to appreciate, for he writes, 'For the individuals concerned, their marriage -- 'de facto' or whatever we choose to call it -- is the most important, valuable, and wonderful thing they knew of.'    And that, dear People of God, is the point ... so many are willing put the Faith second in their lives and want us to admire their choice and acknowledge the beauty of their resultant lives.  They may be good human lives, but they are definitely not, as such, Christian lives, lives lived by the Spirit of Jesus, for love of Jesus, and for the glory of the Father.