In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!"
The Lord answered Moses, "Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink." This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord in our midst or not?"(P) The word of the Lord.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him. (R)
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides. (R)
Oh, that today you would hear His voice: "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works." (R)
Brothers and sisters: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still helpless, Christ died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift to God and who is saying to you, "Give me a drink", you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst again; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty, or have to keep coming here to draw water."
Jesus said to her, "Go call your husband and come back." The woman answered and said to him, "I do not have a husband." Jesus answered her, "You are right in saying, "I do not have a husband." For you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true."
The woman said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth."
The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking with you."
At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, "What are you looking for?" or "Why are you talking with her?"
The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?" They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat." Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, "In four months the harvest will be here? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that "One sows and another reaps." I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work."
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me everything I have done." When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, "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."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Long ago there was a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. So often he dressed himself in the clothes of a working man or a beggar, and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited knew that he was their king. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a hut. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, "I am your king and I was the one who visited you a few days ago." The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn't. Instead he said, "Oh, my king, you left your royal palace and comforts to come and visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You spoke kind words to me. You brought gladness to my heart. To others you have given your rich gifts. But to me you have given yourself. Thank you".
Friends, God's core message to you and me from the cross is, "I love you". Every time we look at the cross we must gratefully remember in the depths of our soul how great is God's love for us. But I am afraid many of us have lost the focus of God's message to us. Many people view Jesus only as a good man, great teacher, miracle worker and provider of our needs and not as the Lord of all creation and the Savior of humankind. We are struggling in our Christian life because we no longer understand and appreciate God's love for us. The cross is God's statement of just how much He loves us. As we enter into the third week of Lent it is only appropriate that we contemplate the love of Christ displayed on the cross.
On the first Sunday of Lent we meditated upon the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness which reveal the truth of Jesus' humanity. Jesus' temptations teach us not only to beware of the worldly things that can distract us from the path that God has set for us but also to use the Word of God to resist temptations. However, obedience to God inevitably would bring affliction, suffering and hardship which otherwise we would not have. Last Sunday we read words of encouragement from Paul in his letter to his friend Timothy. He urges us to endure all suffering with the power of God, and reminds us that the gospel of Jesus is worth suffering for because God has saved us by sacrificing His only Son Jesus on the cross and by calling us to be holy. But people might ask, "Why was it necessary for Jesus to die?" "Why did he need to die for our sins? Why did God not simply take our sin away?"
Jesus had to die for our sins so that we could be forgiven. Jesus paid for our sins because he loves us. However, it is impossible for us, with our human mind, to fathom the love that God has for us because God's love is different from human love. God's love transcends human love to a point that it is hard for us to comprehend. There are many ways that God has expressed His love for us, and the Bible is full of examples of how God manifests His love - in the work of creation, in Jesus' teachings, healings, miracles, and the sacrifice of himself on the cross.
Today's second reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans (5:1-2, 5-8) is one of the greatest texts testifying to God's love. However, in order for us to grasp and experience God's love we must intentionally and sincerely declare our faith and hope in Him who is the embodiment of pure and unconditional love. Paul writes, "Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God." (5:1-2) In other words, Paul tells us that our faith gives God the means to pour all His goodness into our lives. The moment you and I believe and accept Jesus as our Lord, He enters into our lives and saves us. By faith in Jesus Christ, therefore, we gain access to the favors of God. But then some might say that they do not need God/God's love. Paul himself explains who needs God/God's love in today's text.
He writes, "While we were still helpless, Christ died at the appointed time for the ungodly". (5:6) In other words, Paul tells us that God's love is for those who are helpless, weak and incapable of saving themselves and the ungodly. Jesus did not die for the self-righteous because they have no need of him. He died for the sinners because they are in need of redemption. That's why Jesus said, "It is not those that are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have come to call not the upright but sinners to repentance." Luke (5:31-32) He also said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew (11:28)
Paul then goes on to state that there is a difference between human love and God's love. He writes "Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (5:7-8) Paul seems to think that it is hard enough to find someone willing to die for a just and righteous man, and perhaps it might be possible to find somebody to die for a good man. He makes a distinction between the righteous and the good. A righteous man is being right with God, a man who does no one any harm; whereas, a good man is being right with human beings, a man who does favors to people beneficial to the society. So, scarcely would one die in the place of a righteous man who is unjustly condemned to death. Some would dare to die for a good man. For example, a soldier might die to protect another soldier, thinking that his own life will be wasted on the battlefield anyway. The reason is crystal clear. It is because human love is limited, conditional and imperfect. And this is the way it is in many of our lives. We might promise others unconditional love. But in reality we tend to offer conditional love. From our childhood we try to earn the right to be loved. We try to earn it with our good behavior, by agreeing to others' wishes, or simply by just being "nice". We not only try to "please" others in order to receive love but also we start to expect others to "please" us if they want our love. It is hard for us to love anyone who disagrees with us; who acts and thinks differently; has different beliefs and who offends and betrays us. God's love, on the other hand, is unlimited, unconditional and perfect. God's love is not based on feelings or emotions. He doesn't love us because we're lovable or because we make Him feel good or because our acts are pleasing to Him. He loves us because He is love. God's name is Love. God demonstrates His unconditional love for the human kind in the death of His Son Jesus on the cross.
Friends, Paul describes Jesus as the embodiment of God's love and it is unconditional. Let me ask you some questions today. Each time you look at the cross do you see God's love for you? Have you experienced the power of God's love? Has God's love inspired you to live a holier life? Do you thank and praise Him for His love? If you haven't experienced God's love, He is calling you today, to trust in Him and experience the love that you want. Whenever we have an opportunity to worship God or look at the cross let us first thank and praise our Lord Jesus for becoming one of us here on Earth, for his teachings and exemplary life of humility, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, sharing and shedding his blood on the cross to save us from our sins. And then let us thank the Lord for all other gifts; ask His forgiveness for our shortcomings and wrong doings and finally, if there is any, pray for our daily needs.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!