Mass Readings and Scripture Reflections

March 12, 2023 - Mary Jane Sullivan, Pastoral Associate
Be Disciples.  Make Disciples.
Water is essential for life.  We can’t have plants without water.  Animals and humans become sick and die without water.  Creation flourishes when water is plentiful.  In both our 1st Reading from Exodus (Old Testament) and our Gospel reading from John, the imagery is water.  In Exodus, Moses cries out to God and God responds, “Strike the rock and the water will flow from it.” People were dying of thirst and Moses was beside himself with worry.  He actually thought that the people would turn on him (stone him).  What about spiritual water?  Our Gospel reminds us that our spiritual water is even more important to our wellbeing. Spiritual water is our relationship with Jesus. 
I don’t think it is just a coincidence that this Gospel happens to be the First Scrutiny with our RCIA folks (those preparing to be fully welcomed into the Catholic Faith through the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) each year.  These adults are asking to take part in this “living water” which Jesus freely offers to us.  After learning about this living water from Jesus himself, the unnamed woman in the gospel leaves her water jug and runs off to tell everyone. She was a water carrier and now is a proclaimer of the Good News.  She learned that if she believes in Jesus’ living water, she will never again thirst.  She became a disciple at the well and she runs off to make disciples by sharing what she has learned.  
Water was essential to our baptism.   Through our baptismal promises, with water flowing, we committed to being a disciple and making disciples.  What does that look like in your own journey of faith?  
Water is indeed essential for life. But living water is essential for our salvation.
In today’s slang, Jesus is just built different. He is set apart from all of humanity. When Jesus is reduced to simply a human teacher, preacher, and healer we are missing out on the fullness of who He is. There are many layers, but if this Sunday’s Gospel can be simplified to one message it is this: Jesus is not just any human. 

Jesus is the Son of the Father, the Word of God. He took part in Creation at the beginning of time and possesses the fullness of divine glory. If he was simply a good role model and teacher, he might deserve respect, but only God deserves worship. 

As Christians, this is of utmost significance because of the perspective it gives us. Like Jesus being more than simply human, we are called to be more than simply good people. I encourage you to go read paragraph 460 of the Catechism (or even try Catechism in a Year from Ascension Press). Part of the entire reason that the Word became flesh is so that our human nature could be glorified that we might share in the divinity of God. 

This is called theosis or divinization and don’t worry, I’m not spreading a heresy! It is a longstanding part of Catholic Tradition. We are not to become divine, but we are to be more than just good people. As Christians we have a universal call to holiness. Holy means “set apart” and Christian means “little Christ.” So we are called to become like Christ ourselves and receive our inheritance as a special place in all of Creation. In Heaven, we reach this in fullness as we are fully united and fully partaking in the divinity of God we see on display in the Transfiguration. 

Like Jesus’ closest friends Peter, James, and John, it is important that we continuously grow closer to Jesus in intimacy. The closer we get to Christ the more Christ-like we become and continue on this path of divinization. This Lent I hope that you can keep this in mind and set your goal a little higher. We do these practices to get closer to becoming like Christ because we too are supposed to be built different.
Disclaimer: As the resident youth minister, I can tell you that practicing your faith will make you more like Christ, but I cannot guarantee that using slang like this will make you cool.
It’s kind of hard to believe that Wednesday of this week is Ash Wednesday, and the 40 days of Lent begin. Christmas feels like it was just a breath ago. Now we are faced with the annual question: “What are you giving up for Lent?”
As a child I was gung-ho about it.  No more of my favorite candy (Mounds Bars).  No ice cream.  No sitting on the floor in Berger’s drug store and reading the new comic books that were on the bottom shelf near the greeting cards. And no board games like Monopoly or Life (today’s equivalent of saying “no computer games”). Since Sister Annette or Sister Avelino or Sister William would always ask us on Monday mornings during Lent if we had been keeping our Lenten resolutions, I always added one or two more which would be easier to keep, as my fall back “yes” answer to their question.  So I also gave up surfing, mountain climbing, liver and spinach. I could stand up and say, “Yes, most of them.”  They would tell me to try harder and that Mounds Bar or ice cream cone I succumbed to would be conveniently forgotten. 

This worked until high school when Fr. Kinn told us that Lenten resolutions were more than what we were giving up. He asked us, what were we doing to be better young Christians?  How were we trying better to live out our faith?  This week’s readings reflect that more mature outlook. Leviticus tells us we must do more than just not hate our neighbor even if they hate us.  We are expected to love them no matter what. Paul tells us not to boast about what we have because it all ultimately comes from God. And Jesus in the Gospel today tells us—in no uncertain terms—that we must do more than the basics expected of everyone.  Our faith calls us to take it all a step further.  Everyone is expected to love those who love us.  We are called to be better than that. Being a follower of Jesus demands this of us.  And our Lenten resolutions this year can challenge us to do just that. 

One Lent I gave up sugar in my coffee (no big thing).  Easter Sunday after the last Mass, I stopped on my way home for the family Easter feast and bought a large coffee with sugar to savor on the drive to Palatine.  One sip was all it took. The cup remained full until I dumped it when I got home.  I no longer liked the taste of the sugar and have never added it since then. If something inconsequential like that can happen, then so might something bigger.

What if I ask myself, who am I struggling with, no matter what the reason? And can a simple resolution to try to understand them better—or say something nice to them, or to pray an Our Father for them when the anger boils up inside of me—be what Lent is calling me to do?  Who knows? Maybe it will last beyond Lent like my sugarless coffee.

It might be a child whose search for independence is frustrating you, or a boss whose ignorance is making work miserable, or a neighbor whose gossip is spiteful and hurting, or a friend who has betrayed you.  There is someone out there whose actions are challenging you to respond as a better Christian this year.  A Lenten resolution may help.  It can’t hurt. (And keep the “not eating liver” as a backup, just in case you falter.)

Fr. Dominic Grassi