Reflections 19th March 2017
A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent
JN: 4: 5-42 ( http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031917.cfm )
Calls to conversion are common during Lent. They also occur frequently throughout the Gospel stories about Jesus.
Today’s Gospel is a particularly powerful example of such a conversion story, involving a woman and a Samaritan town; the town represents an entire people despised by the ‘right-minded’ and orthodox. The very word conversion brings to mind a movement from evil, sinfulness and wrong-doing towards holiness and doing good.
When we listen to them the Gospel stories most often speak of people who are not, in fact, bad people. They are people who can honestly claim to obey the commandments, and who worship in the holy places. But they do live within certain horizons or boundaries as do we all. The call to conversion is then an invitation to go beyond those horizons, to go a step further, to become better and to grow. Accepting the invitation comes with a cost, and some found it too much. The people complained to Moses, regretting that they had followed him, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” (First Reading).
Today we find Jesus, the Samaritan woman and the disciples all moving beyond their horizons into a new reality which re-defined their relationship to God and to each other. Jesus moves towards the Samaritan; she is amazed that he, a Jew, is conversing with her; the disciples come back and “were amazed that he was talking with a woman”; we are amazed at the theological sophistication of their conversation. As we re-read the Gospel story we see that each is invited to go beyond intellectual, moral and religious horizons made relative and time-bound by the presence of the Word made flesh. We have been learning painfully in recent decades that this invitation is not only to individuals but also to our society and our Church communities.
Did you ever wonder at Jesus’ choice (and omission) of commandments when speaking to a man who asked what he must do: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” The man could respond, “I have kept all these commandments since my youth”. He turned away from Jesus, sad “because he had many possessions”, things he could not bring himself to leave behind. He too found the cost too much.
Where are the intellectual, moral or religious boundaries we need to cross in our discipleship of Jesus?
Dick Olin C.S.Sp. – Ordained in 1984, Fr. Dick has ministered in west Africa, Ireland and in continental Europe. He is currently leader of the Spiritan community attached to St. Mary’s College, Rathmines in Dublin and is part of the Spiritan Youth Services & New Membership team.