Third Sunday of Lent -A
(Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, pages 75-106)
Chapter 3: The Genius of Catholicism
A traveler to the Holy Land describes something that he saw. A woman came to the center of that town to a well, and she brought with her a small bucket on a long rope, and a large bucket. With the small bucket she dipped down into the well, and then she poured each of those bucketfuls into the large pail. It took her several times to fill that large pail. Then she picked them both up and went home.
A short time later, a man came along. It was noon, it was hot and he was thirsty. He went over to the well and looked for a bucket to dip in and get a drink, but there was none there. So being very thirsty, he got down on all fours and lapped up the water that had spilled when the woman was filling the large bucket
That incident reminds me of today’s Gospel. It was noon, it was hot and Jesus is thirsty. His disciples had gone off into town to buy some lunch and bring it back. Jesus, not finding a bucket at that well, just sat down next to it. And then a woman, a Samaritan woman, comes to draw water from that well.
Jesus says to her, “Give me a drink.”
She is surprised, and she says to Jesus, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
Jesus answered, “If you knew who is asking you, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
Then she moves from seeing Jesus as a stranger to calling Him respectfully “Sir,” and replies, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket. Where can you get this living water?”
And Jesus tells her, “Everyone who drinks this water [from this well] will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I shall give will never be thirsty again.”
Then she says to Him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ. When He comes, He will tell us everything.”
And Jesus reveals to her, “I am He, the one who is speaking with you.”
She believes. And she goes back into the town and tells everybody. They come out, and Jesus stays with them for two days. They listen to Jesus speak to them, and they come to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
What happened to that woman there at the well? In about 10-15 minutes with Jesus, that Samaritan woman, who was spiritually thirsty, came to believe that she was in the presence of the Messiah, the Christ.
We have a spiritual thirst too. What does that mean? Spiritual thirst is a longing for God. It is that restlessness, that emptiness we sometimes feel, that we try to fill with so many things other than God – and then find that we are never satisfied.
Trying to quench our spiritual thirst with material things, someone said, is about as effective as trying to quench our physical thirst with ocean water…it doesn’t work. It doesn’t fulfill. It doesn’t satisfy.
This Lent we are studying together Matthew Kelly’s book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Last weekend we looked at the first sign, prayer. This weekend, in light of this Gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well, we look at the second sign, study. It is the subject of chapter 3 in the book which is entitled, “The Genius of Catholicism.”
1. In this Gospel Jesus challenged the worldview of that woman at the well. She didn’t see things the same way ever again after being with Jesus. Jesus challenged the worldview of every person that He encountered. And He challenges ours in our thirst for Him.
God has an incredible dream for every one of us. He wants you to become the best version of yourself. The quest for holiness and the quest to become the best version of yourself are the same concept, using different words. The genius of Catholicism is that everything makes sense in relation to this one idea.
Every time you become a better version of yourself, you become a better parent, child, manager, neighbor, parishioner, citizen and Catholic. Personal transformation is at the heart of renewing the world in the way that God intends.
The question is: what can I do right now that will help me become a better version of myself? And then to do today only the things that help me become a better version of myself. [It sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? But, with God’s grace one day at a time, it is do-able.]
2. Today’s culture does not have a vision for the human person – or for you. The goal of today’s culture is consumption. And if the culture does not have a vision for the human person, then it certainly does not have a vision for your marriage or your family or your calling in life. It is time for us to start thinking about where our lives are leading and to where God is calling us.
It is time for us to renew our desire for truth and wisdom – and to develop a habit of daily study.
3. A world without truth would be a world without joy and meaning.
Relativism is the theory that there are no absolute truths, but rather that all truth is relative. That is, something that is true for you may not necessarily be true for me.
This philosophy is full of contradictions because the idea that nothing is absolute is itself an absolute statement.
The real problem with relativism is that since there is no place for absolute truth, there is no place for wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, good, right or lasting.
Relativism makes wisdom irrelevant. If humanity is going to make any progress in this century, moral relativism must come to an end.
4. People deserve answers to their questions, especially those surrounding the faith.
Catholics have an almost universal inferiority complex around how little they know about their faith. We actually fear that wonderful grace-filled moment when someone has the courage to ask a question about our faith. What makes Catholicism remarkably unique is that there are answers to the questions and the answers are beautiful.
For two thousand years, the best Catholic minds have been gathering wisdom on every topic that touches the human experience. And this gathered wisdom make up a great treasure chest. And the questions not only lead to individual answers, but they allow us to discover the coherent and comprehensive worldview that is Catholicism – and its genius.
How can we help Catholics of all ages to learn more about the genius of Catholicism?
5. Highly engaged Catholics are continuous learners. They study regularly. On average they spend fourteen minutes each day learning more about our faith. They see themselves as disciples of Jesus and His Church. And they make an effort to allow His teachings to form them and guide them.
Dynamic Catholics have a routine for their continuous learning. Just like with prayer, they don’t learn more about their faith simply when they get around to it. It has a place in their day. They have a plan. They have a routine.
How would your life be different one year from now, five years from now, ten years from now if you read five pages of a good Catholic book each day?
How would our parishes be different one year from now if every parishioner read five pages of a great Catholic book each day?
It is a game changer – simple, practical, powerful, transformative.
Read five pages of a great Catholic book every day. Look at how those 10-15 minutes with Jesus at the well changed the life of the Samaritan woman, and changed the lives of the townspeople.
Quiet time every day with the Lord – in prayer and in study – will also change your life, as it changes mine. And this, I can promise you.
The first sign of a Dynamic Catholic is prayer. The second sign of a Dynamic Catholic is study. Discussion questions about today’s lesson are found inside this weekend’s bulletin.
Next week we will look at the third sign of a Dynamic Catholic which is generosity in chapter 4 which is entitled, “The Happiest People I Know.” The page references [pages 109-140] in The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic are also listed in this weekend’s bulletin.
Happy praying, happy studying and happy Lent, everybody!