3rd Sunday of Lent | March 19, 2017
Today’s guest post is from Jessica Dennis, author and curator of Leaven in the World. She currently works part-time from home doing marketing and graphic design, has been married for 7 years to the most patient man in the world and is the proud mama of 2 insanity-inducing yet amazing girls.
To see the archive of all the homilies and reflections for each liturgical year since 2014, just click here: Salesian Sermons
PROTIP: You can take a look at the readings here. This reflection focuses on the first and Gospel readings and is inspired by the presentations heard this past weekend at Live Jesus in northern Virginia. Also, The Lego Movie 🙂
When I was growing up, one of my absolute favorite things to do was go shopping for school supplies. I loved picking out new binders, writing labels for my dividers with a fresh set of glittery gel pens, filling out my carefully-selected planner with all the important dates of the upcoming year. (And yes, I was, and still am, a huge nerd).
I loved having everything in its place, knowing what to expect, and I’m sure, to no one’s surprise, was a huge believer in following the rules (otherwise, how would anyone know what we were supposed to do in a given situation?!) In the world of The Lego Movie, I mostly identify with Emmett, whose mind is blown by anyone who doesn’t know how to follow instructions.
So it also shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that in both the first and Gospel readings, my heart goes out to Moses and the disciples, who have to decide what to do in the face of people who aren’t doing what they “should” be doing.
In Moses’ instance, he’s dealing with the grumbling Israelites who, for all intents and purposes “should” be grateful for being freed from slavery in Egypt. When Moses cries out to God, he says he is afraid the people will stone him, but I also wonder if there’s some exasperation mixed in there from hearing them complain so much.
In the disciples’ instance, after journeying during the hottest part of the day to get food for Jesus, they return to see him talking to someone he shouldn’t even be seen with. Not only that, but Jesus is talking about already having food they didn’t know about. If my 12 year-old self had been there, I probably would have been super annoyed because HE DIDN’T STICK TO THE PLAN.
And while planning and organizing have a place in helping build the kingdom of God, I’ve found that an over-reliance on any plan doesn’t leave room for the Spirit to move. When taken too far, my fixation on everyone doing it right and following directions becomes a distraction from how God is moving in the present moment.
Because let’s face it — when you look at how Jesus carries himself over the course of his public ministry, most of it was done while pushing the limits of how the Jewish people understood God’s law. He was constantly redrawing the boundaries of who was in and who was out. It started with everyday interactions with everyday people — a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, telling stories that made the “bad Samaritan” the hero, eating meals with the “wrong” crowd, inviting himself over to a hated tax collector’s home for a visit, the list could go on and on.
And the only way that any of us — Moses, the disciples, or otherwise — could ever keep up with the God of Surprises, the Moving Target, is by constantly looking to God — not the plan — for help.
For Moses, his conversation with YHWH leads him to meet the people where they are — by giving them water.
For Jesus, his ongoing relationship with his Abba is what leads him to disregard social conventions, to see and speak to the Samaritan woman at the well — to meet her where she is and offer her living water.
For the disciples, both past and present, it is our genuine encounter with Christ that empowers us and gives us the courage to meet people where they are and continue the mission that Christ began — the healing and redemption of the whole world.
At the end of today’s Gospel, while we know the disciples’ internal reactions, we don’t actually find out how the disciples respond to Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well. Did they question his actions? Did they give him the benefit of the doubt? Did they complain because he was going off script? That they didn’t sign up for this?
Or were they quiet for long enough to hear Jesus’ gentle and ever-present invitation — an invitation we see throughout the Gospels both in his words and actions — to make room for everyone at the table, to come to the party, to celebrate.
My prayer is that each of us, especially in this Lenten season, is able to rid ourselves of what distracts us from hearing God clearly, to make space in our lives, to be quiet for long enough to hear God’s ever-present invitation, by virtue of our Baptism, “to bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18).
An invitation, more succinctly, for everyone to come to the party.