for the third Sunday of Lent
Ex 17:3-7 - Rm 5:1-2 & 5-8 - Jn 4:5...42
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
Recognizing the grace of God
Ex 17:3, The people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, «Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?» 4, So Moses cried to the Lord, «What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.» 5, And the Lord said to Moses, «Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6, Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.» And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7, And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the Lord to the proof by saying, «Is the Lord among us or not?»
"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt 18:20) These are the words of Jesus to his disciples, and therefore to us as well. And it is true: today, like yesterday, Jesus is here, among us. In the time of Moses, that is to say around the year 1200 before Christ, it was already true: God was there, present among his people. In the middle of the desert, God made this clearly known to Moses, saying to him: "I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb." (Ex 17:6)
If God was present in the desert, the people, however, did not see him. For God is spirit. And before the Incarnation of the Word, God was present among the people, and this in a solely spiritual manner: God was present in the manner of the Holy Spirit resting on Christ, God was present like the Spirit of God who "hovered over the waters" (Gen 1:2). This is why God says to Moses: "I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb." (Ex 17:6)
God was present among his people. He was present as if Christ already existed. For the Old Covenant prepares for the New! And so God tells Moses that He stands on the rock of Mount Horeb, on that rock from which the water would gush forth to quench the thirst of the people of God. Now, the rock, our rock, is Christ, who is the "living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious" (1 Pt 2:4). So, in the desert with his people, God, who is Spirit, rests on the rock, a figure of Christ, the Messiah to come.
From this rock will come water that quenches thirst, water that is material and real, but which is also the sign of that spiritual water, grace. Now, grace, which is a gift of God, must be received by man in an act of faith: in offering his grace, God trusts the man or woman He loves; in return, that person can receive the grace of God only by entrusting himself and giving himself fully to his Creator. So God is there, as Gift and as Gift of self, among his people. He waits for each person to recognize his presence and to stop saying: "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Ex 17:7)
Rm 5:1-2 & 5-8
Rm 5:1, Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2, Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 5, Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. 6, While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7, Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man--though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. 8, But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
When they received, miraculously, water in the desert, the People of God believed in the Lord's goodness and love towards them. Several centuries later, Saint Paul wrote to the Romans, inviting them to believe ever more in the love of God, a God who delivered his own Son to death, death on the cross: "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8) Ceaselessly, we Christians are invited to renew our faith in the love of God who gives himself to us. Ceaselessly, led by hope in the happiness of Heaven, we are invited to believe in the love of God! "Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Rom 5:5)
Jn 4:5, Jesus came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6, Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7, There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, «Give me a drink.» 8, For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9, The Samaritan woman said to him, «How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?» For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10, Jesus answered her, «If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.» 11, The woman said to him, «Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12, Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?» 13, Jesus said to her, «Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.» 15, The woman said to him, «Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.»
"If you knew the gift of God..." These words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman invite us to reflect on all that God has done in the past, is still doing today, and even will do for us until the end of our life. "If you knew..." The notion of knowledge is important, it is capital, in the life of a Christian. Let us not forget it. Let us recall this prayer of Jesus to his Father: "Father, the hour has come! ... This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (Jn 17:1-3)
Let us try to know God and his Church better, so that we might believe ever more in him! Let us ask God to help us believe ever more in him, so that we might better understand him! For faith will allow us to receive from God greater and more abundant graces. Through Mary, and with Mary, let us recognize within us the grace of God, which comes to save us!