March 19, 2017 - 3rd Sunday of Lent;
FIRST READING: Exodus 17:3–7
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 95:1–2, 6–7, 8–9 (8)
SECOND READING: Romans 5:1–2, 5–8
GOSPEL: John 4:5–42
There’s a question in the first reading which I need you to listen for, “Is God in our midst or not?”
Let me set the stage for you. This is one of the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures that is important to understand the theology of the New Testament. We all know the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years and God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Many, many signs and wonders and miracles were worked to make this possible, so that the Israelites should have NO DOUBT that God was behind this.
But today – they get to a spot in the desert where there is no water. That’s a dangerous, scary place to be. I’ve not spent a lot of time in the desert, but I have a vivid memory of passing through a desert in Colorado one summer where the air temperature was 113 and the relative humidity was like 11%... that’s dry…. Every breath you take you feel like you need a glass of water.
Keep that in mind as you hear the story.
Is God in our midst or not?
What do you think? Were the Israelites justified in asking that question?
On one hand, I think if I was there, I’d have been getting worried too… we HAVE to have water.
On the other hand, the Israelites had seen all the miracles and wonders – in fact, in the chapter right before this - this is from Exodus chapter 17...in Chapter 16 God provided the Manna – the bread from heaven – which would miraculously appear to feed them when food was scarce. How could they so quickly forget?
But isn’t that like you and me? God blesses us every day with countless blessings – and sometimes we remember to be thankful – but as soon as one of our basic needs is threatened, we start questioning “Is God in our midst or not?”
Could it be that God WANTS us to ask that question? That may sound strange, but hear me out.
I think God pushed the Israelites into a corner to MAKE them question. See – the whole time they were following Moses in the desert, they were still keeping the Egyptian gods in their back pocket… ready to change allegiance at the drop of a hat. In fact, the Egyptian god of the Nile – I think his name was Hapi – was the god they had turned to all their life for water….remember, they were slaves for 400 years, so Hapi was the only god they ever KNEW who would provide water… And the Nile never let them down. They didn’t realize that the whole time it was the Lord God who had provided the water….that thought hadn’t even crossed their minds. It’s even likely that as they travelled with Moses, they would still do some of the rituals to the god Hapi as they collected water or purified themselves.
God needed to lead them AWAY from that behavior…AWAY from that false god Hapi. He led them to a spot where there was no water and couldn’t possibly be any water, so that when He provided, it would be undeniably HIS doing. That’s the key point… God needs to prove to each one of us that HE is God…and He does that by blessing us where we least expect it. Pulling a bucket of water from a creek is not news – but pulling a bucket of water from a rock – THAT is news! That would get anybody’s attention.
God is trying to get our attention. Every one of us has some false god we’ve gotten comfortable with in our life… something we’re afraid to let go of. He’ll lead every one of us into a desert of some sort – away from our comfort and peace of mind – so that He can bless us where we least expect it and prove once and for all that He is God.
You see, as long as all of our basic needs are being met, we’ll stay in our unhealthy situation forever, rather than risking the loss of our comforts. It’s easier to remain a slave near the river than to risk going thirsty.
What’s your desert? Maybe you thirst for health. Maybe your marriage is a lifeless desert. Maybe your job sucks the life out of you. Maybe you’re dealing with the recent loss of a friend or family member and you’re questioning, God are you in our midst, or not?
Don’t despair. If you’re in the desert, God is either leading you TO something or AWAY from something. Pray about it. Prayer doesn’t need to be all flowery words and Our Fathers and Hail Marys… true prayer speaks what is in your heart… so go ahead… Yell at God – at the top of your lungs… GOD ARE YOU IN OUR MIDST OR NOT?!!!
God is hoping you will ask… so He can strike a rock and bless you where you least expect it.