Sunday Scripture Readings

third sunday of lent,

march 3

Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95;

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42 OUR GOOD NEWS: Jesus quenches our thirst - for life, friendship and happiness. Faith should have come easily to ancient Israelites de-scribed in today's first reading. Through spectacular plagues God had just rescued them from slavery in Egypt and from Pharaoh's murderous, pursuing army. God then personally took charge, leading his people through deserts to fulfill their dream of a land for themselves. Further, at Mara, God purified undrinkable water and in the desert of Sin gave them manna and quail for food. Now, temporarily without a water supply, we would expect patience and trust. Instead, the people responded with cruel ingratitude, doubting the Lord's effective presence and turning against his mediator, Moses, with absurd accusations. Moses had forced them to leave Egypt! This was part of God's deliberate plot to kill everyone, including "children and livestock!" The situation was serious and turning ugly. Moses was threatened with physical violence and possible death. God promptly intervened, but not as we might expect. From himself, no righteous anger, pouting, show of temper. Toward sinful insurgents, he neither threatened nor delivered prompt (and richly deserved!) punishment. Instead, God instructed Moses to take the very rod with which he had fouled Egyptian waters (Ex 7:14-24) and use it to give Israelites good water - and from desiccated, impermeable rock! Once again, God demonstrated both his power and willingness to care for his fickle community. Moses prefigures Christ, mediating by prompt obedience God's gift of living water to us, a thirsty but quite undeserving people. In sum, this first reading amazes us with a God eager to bless rather than punish, who ignores our ungrateful petulance to provide life-giving waters. This is the lesson to be learned from Lenten readings. Each generation of God's people relives the challenge presented to Exodus-generation Israelites (psalm). Will we "hear his voice" with trusting obedience, or "harden our hearts," willfully ignoring clear demonstrations of his loving care? "Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him." We join in spirit with ancient Israelites, joyfully entering into God's sanctuary, there acknowledging our debt of gratitude through exuberant hymns. "Come, let us bow down in worship; for he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds." Gestures of worship express appreciation of our unique privilege. Because of God's freely offered covenant, the Creator has become our special friend. "Our God" is concerned for our welfare like a shepherd for his flock. But gifts expect a thank you. Rejoicing in good fortune must not obscure our covenant responsibilities. God lovingly challenges us to learn the lesson of Scripture and not duplicate in our own lives the ancestral sin, ungratefully find fault ("as at Meribah") with divine providence, questioning ("as in the day of Massah") his power and eagerness to care.

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