Third Sunday of Lent (A)
We have heard expressions, like: This food doesn’t taste good. “This place is horrible!” “The weather is always bad here!” “We were better off in the 30’s or the 60’s or the 90’s!” “You are old-fashioned!” These and many familiar and unsolicited statements and judgments come our way in various forms, when people complain needlessly, judge arrogantly, and live aimlessly in the past. Looking at them, we see that:
1. Complaining needlessly gets us nowhere. We only go in circles as we make ourselves the standard for others’ actions, tastes and lifestyle. We cannot get out of ourselves. Everything has to refer back to us. So in circles do we think, in grouchy mood do we live, and going around the bush do we lead.
2. Judging arrogantly gets us nowhere, either. We think we know everything, and everybody must listen to us. We have already stopped growing for we could not tolerate anyone or anything different from us and our style. We have made ourselves the lawmaker and judge; but that does not make us any better than anyone.
3. Aimlessly living in the past, and constantly invoking it, makes us stagnant. We also do not allow others to grow, and we do not see the opportunities presented to us. The past becomes our standard, and nothing is better than what we have done in the past. So, when we think that what we have done in the past is still better than what we are doing now, it only means that we really have not done much today.
The Israelites complained too much. They complained to Moses and Aaron and to one another. They even wanted to return to Egypt and be slaves again. But slavery doesn’t get anybody anywhere. Slaves do not have rights and privileges. Their only privilege is to be alive, their right, to serve their master. The difference between Moses and the Israelites is that Moses complained to God, and God listened to him, while the Israelites complained arrogantly against Moses and among themselves. They could not see the blessing that they were. They did not remember their blessings and the way God led them out of Egypt. They could not even remember God’s promise to them of the land flowing with milk and honey. They said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt” (Ex 24:11)? They did not see the opportunities promised them by God through Moses and their leaders. All they cared about was their stomach.
The woman in the Gospel complained that Jesus was talking with her, a Samaritan. She was also living her faith in the past, in Jacob and his ancestors, and in the well that gave them water all those years, which for her was life for her people. However, she did not close herself to an opportunity. She was tolerant of the situation of talking with Jesus whom she did not know. She did not rationalize nor did she defend herself before Jesus. Thus, she was given the capacity to grow in faith and lead others to believe in Jesus. She became an instrument of the faith of others.
From all these we learn many things. Among them are:
1. God is the rock of our salvation (cf Ps 62:7). As the Israelites drank the water from the rock at Horeb despite their obstinacy, believers drink from Jesus, the Rock, from whom flow living waters: the graces we need. The Church is built on this Rock, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it (Mt16:18).
2. God does not judge us according to our complaints, nor according to our sins. He is a compassionate Lord and judge. He does not only forgive us, but also brings us back to His graces, and gives us opportunities to grow in holiness and in friendship with Him.
3. God’s presence in our lives here and now is our sure hope that we will receive His promise of eternal life. His word is life, and His life is ours. Jesus does not dwell in His impression of us in the past, but always renews us in Himself. He gives us the strength and the joy to journey to eternal life, for “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:1-2, 5-8), and will never leave us.
Psalm 95 urges us: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (7-8). In humility and fidelity to God’s call, let us celebrate the Eucharist, full of hope, that He will give us the integrity we need before God and His people. Let us thank the Lord for what we have and for what we are now, for there is no other world but here, that we can serve Him on account of His loved ones. Let us avoid judging others, for God loves us so much that He gives Himself to us in Jesus, our Eucharist. Despite the difficulties in life, God will always be present to those who trust in Him, and His Kingdom will be theirs.