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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
March 1, 2002 Issue

Three good Lenten companions

The Samaritan woman, Paul and Moses were graced by God's presence

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. Who are your Lenten companions?

2. How do you experience God?

3. How does the water of God's grace come to you? In Scripture? In the sacraments? Community? Work? Prayer?

March 3, 2002, Third Sunday of Lent

By Bishop Robert Morneau

The woman at the well; the man at the rock; the pilgrim on the road. God's word today presents us with an unnamed Samaritan woman, Moses, Paul. All of them, in their unique way, encounter the mystery of God.

In response to the question: "Is the Lord in our midst or not?" -- they all utter a positive response. Jesus came to the well in need. He was thirsty, hungry, and tired. These basic human needs were part of his daily experience as he took upon himself our human condition. And yet he claims, even without a bucket, to have access to another water that gives eternal life.

The Samaritan woman found God in the midst of her life. At first she did not realize this, thinking that the man at the well to be just another human being. But after a conversation that led to a revelation, she knew the experience of both truth and love. She, with the bucket, was given grace, sanctifying water that offered eternal life.

Moses was caught between a rock and a hard place. The hard place was an embittered, quarrelsome people who demanded immediate satisfaction of their needs. Who can blame them? Their hopes for a good life were thwarted by the desert existence. This is not what they had bargained for. Rather Egypt with its flesh pots than the barren wasteland.

The Lord heard Moses' plea. Water, that is, life, would be given to the people through the agency of Moses' intercession. Out of an apparently impossible situation -- waterless desert and rocks -- God would bring forth life. Out of a quarrelsome people and a beleaguered prophet, God would bring hope.

St. Paul was a pilgrim (like the rest of us). His journey at times was torturous as he struggled to respond with integrity to God's will. There was a defining moment in his travels -- the encounter with Jesus. From that time on Paul knew that God, through Christ, was not only in our midst but was the very center of human history. Now Paul lived a life of faith, hope, and love even though he had to wrestle with all the tensions and paradoxes of life.

Paul, the Samaritan woman, and Moses are good Lenten companions. As pilgrims, like them, we desire to experience the intrusions of grace. Paul shares with us his faith in the mystery of the Lord. And, fortunate for us, he left behind his letters, which continue to call us to deeper and deeper discipleship.

The Samaritan woman, though deceptive at times, was willing to engage in dialogue with Jesus. That encounter changed her life and the life of those in her village. She was taken by surprise, the surprise of a God who never lets us alone.

Moses, familiar with the ways of God, spoke courageously with God. He got what he asked for: life, life for his people and himself. Such familiarity becomes for us a model of how we might address a God who is always attentive to our needs.

God is in our midst if we have the eyes of faith and a heart of love. So graced, we will experience God's loving and abiding presence. And even if we are blind and hard of heart, God will continue to invite us into the divine presence. God remains forever faithful to the covenant.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)

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