Third Sunday of Lent, March 19
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Why are you a Christian? What is it that has causes you to follow a man who walked the earth about 2,000 years ago, never traveled too far from his home and died a criminal’s death? Why do you go to church on Sundays and, for that matter, why are you reading this column?
My guess is that a big part of the answer to those questions is connected to a number of people in your life. Maybe the main people who influenced your faith are your parents. Maybe it was one of your relatives, a friend, a priest or youth minister. I do not think there are many disciples of Jesus who got to that faith totally on their own.
In my own case, I can point to my parents, many priests, my youth minister and a number of friends. Each of them in some way witnessed to me about what Jesus had done for them. Their stories had such an effect on me that I decided to surrender my heart to him as well.
Soon after this surrender, I began to encounter Jesus in a more personal way and before I knew it, my faith in Jesus was not based on the words of others but on my own experience of the living God.
This same story plays out in this week’s Gospel. The woman at the well encountered Jesus in such a powerful way that she went back home and told about her experience. Not long afterward, the people of the town say this: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
This is how the Christian faith spreads. We first hear about God from others, but for faith to have its deepest impact we must believe based on our own experience of the God who, as St. Paul puts it, “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, (he) died for us.”
It is one thing to stand on the shoulders of others, but it is even more important to stand on your own experience of God and his saving love.
QUESTIONS: Who are the people who have shaped your faith life? What are some reasons you continue to follow Jesus?
Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
In the U.S. there is an eight-month period called daylight saving time. Each fall, we move our clocks back one hour and in the spring we move the clock an hour ahead (“spring forward, fall back”).
Aside from confusing my body’s sleep cycle and causing people to be an hour late for Mass one Sunday out of the year, the manipulation of the clock serves a useful purpose. Taking advantage of the longer and later daylight hours during those eight months presumably allows us to use less electricity in lighting our homes and thus conserve energy.
The downside for me, however, is that my mind and body shut down an hour earlier in the wintertime, making me much less productive than I’d like to be. Because it’s already dark by the time I get home from work, I’m less inclined to take that pre-dinner walk or work in the yard like I did during the summer. I have to make new rules to make the clock work for me during the months of November through March.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus also changes the Sabbath rules — by using spittle, kneading clay and healing a blind man. But he’s not simply flouting convention for the sake of it. Rather, he is making a point that the covenant between God and human beings — which the strict observance of the Sabbath venerates — is fulfilled in Jesus’ merciful act of bringing sight to human beings, both physically and spiritually. The bystanders, whose well-meaning religious zeal led them to object so strenuously to the healing, missed the entire point.
Jesus came to the world to bring judgment, “that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Simply put, his light comes to those who admit their blindness and acknowledge their need for healing. And nothing — not our past transgressions, nor our current narrow-mindedness, nor our inevitable future failings — can prevent his radiance from piercing our darkness.
As St. Paul tells the church at Ephesus: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Regardless of what the clock says, it’s daytime for the disciple of the Lord Jesus.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever been blind to your own self-righteousness? How did your attitude prevent you from seeing Jesus’ merciful healing at work right in front of you?