The refrain of today’s Responsorial Psalm is one that occurs frequently in the Church’s liturgy during Lent. In fact Psalm 95, from which today’s Responsorial Psalm is taken, is recited almost daily at the very beginning of the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours. What a good way to start the day, being reminded to be open to God’s will! That same attitude is reflected in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done.”
Today’s Gospel is the first of three long passages from John’s Gospel, placed on these three Sundays for the instruction of the catechumens preparing for baptism at Easter. Each contains a symbol which is part of the baptismal rite. This week it’s water; next week it’s light; the week after that it’s new life.
Water appears in both the First Reading and Gospel as a source of life. In the Gospel Jesus speaks of water he will give which “will become…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is a reference to sanctifying grace, first received through the waters of baptism, though which one is “born from above.” (Cf. John 3:3, 5) In today’s First Reading Moses brings forth water from a rock. This water brings refreshment and sustains life. Saint Paul alludes to this, along with the exodus through the Red Sea, as a foreshadowing of baptism in his First Letter to the Corinthians (10:1-4): “Our ancestors…all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses…in the sea.…And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.” This allusion finds its fulfillment in the water that flowed from the side of Christ as he hung upon the cross. (Cf. John 19:34) So the water Jesus promises the woman at the well is his very life, poured out for the redemption of the world. Finally, in today’s Second Reading, Saint Paul translates this into an outpouring of love, “because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Throughout the season of Lent the Church exhorts us to “turn away from sin and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) The sacrament of penance is the most powerful means of persevering in this resolve, because its grace is the result of Christ’s obedient sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The Lenten discipline of prayer and penance finds its completion in a good confession and act of contrition. The prayer of absolution frees us from the sinful entanglements into which we fall. It renews in us the cleansing and life-giving waters of baptism we call “sanctifying grace.” Take advantage of the opportunities for confession and the conversion it affords. Remember also to participate in Operation Rice Bowl or in some other charitable cause this Lent.
This Thursday, March 19, is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, the latter title closely related to the first. In his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”) Pope St. John Paul II stated: “Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model.” Therefore we will celebrate this solemnity with due honor at the 8:30 Mass this coming Thursday at St. Charles.
Please remember and try to attend the Stations of the Cross and Benediction at 6:00 PM Wednesdays at St. Charles or at noon on Thursdays at St. Peter during Lent. These devotions are great for families and remind us all of the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord, which is the source of all sacramental grace and serves as a fitting preparation for the liturgies of Holy Week.
Pray the Rosary this week for all throughout our diocese who are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation this Easter. Pray for people experiencing turmoil in their lives, for whatever reason. Pray for all who are struggling with illness and for the people who care for them. Pray for Christians in Nigeria who are suffering persecution and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.