By Dina Dow

The midpoint of Lent is here.  Hopefully a new pattern of prayer, fasting and almsgiving has been established. If not, it is perfectly permissible to begin again. Remain steadfast with hope in the Lord and trust in his grace. Speaking of grace, the Sunday Mass readings for the Third and Fourth Sundays in Lent reveal the depth of trust when it comes to times of thirst and darkness. These are the moments when, by his grace, we lean upon faith and hope. 

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Thirst 

The Third Sunday of Lent begins with the Israelites’ desert journey with little to no water. Be reminded in the previous chapter, God provided manna and quail after the Israelites grumbled at Moses that they had nothing to eat. Here, we find them thirsting for water. Who can blame them? It seems only natural to ask for this.  

 Perhaps it was not so much the asking as it was the disposition. They were suffering, upset, impatient, struggling, fatigued, parched and hopeless. Where was their heart in the moment? The asking came from a grievance of physical hardship. One would think they knew from the previous miracle God would provide. Did their trust subside so quickly? Had their faith been lost so soon? Despite Moses’ attempt to assure hope and trust in the Lord, the Israelites grew angry. Really angry. Moses desperately pleaded with the Lord to help lest they kill him. God did provide, as always, with water from, of all places, a rock. 

When have I been “thirsty” for the Lord? Whom have I complained to that God has forgotten me in the desert of the moment? Have I ignored their reassurance of trusting in the Lord? Have I hardened my heart? When have I been the messenger of hope only to be rejected and doubted? What “rock” did God ask me to strike?  What happened when I struck the rock?  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul” (Ps 23: 1-2). 

Hope  

St. Paul writes “… hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Faith informs hope. When faith is strong so too is our hope. Life without hope is like a sailboat without wind, very much afloat yet simply adrift.  Hope gives faith the winds to a destiny, promised and yet to come. Paragraph 1817 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” 

The woman at the well had both: faith and hope. Even though her lifestyle lacked virtue, it was her faith and hope in the promise of the coming of the Messiah that ultimately enabled her to believe who Jesus said he was. Like the Israelites she was in her own desert, drawing water on a life of sin and isolation. Yet, Jesus interrupted her routine and offered more than what regular well water could quench in a lifetime. In fact, the living water Jesus gives is eternally life-giving as he relieves all physical, spiritual, mental and emotional thirsts we experience. The power of the Holy Spirit calls us forth from our desert world and into the salvific waters of his mercy. 

Have I come to the well of Jesus with hope? What thirst needs satisfying? What path am I on and will it lead to Jesus, who awaits our openness to his mercy? “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage” (Ps 23: 3-4). 

Look into the heart 

The Fourth Sunday of Lent begins with the anointing of young David, least likely to be king of Israel yet most beloved by God because of the disposition of David’s heart. We read, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). What does one see when they see me? How do I see others? Is appearance primary, or am I most inspired by who they are? How does my heart inform my thoughts, decisions and actions? What is the source that fills my heart? Have I embraced the anointing of baptism? “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5). 

Opened my eyes 

St. John’s Gospel tells of the miraculous healing of the man born blind. Imagine never seeing the face of your family, not to mention the beauty of the earth. We can close our eyes and try to grasp this, yet unlike those whose vision is impaired, we can simply open our eyes and see. This passage is deeper than physical sight. Do we experience a type of blindness in the spiritual sense? If Jesus came for “recovery of sight to the blind” (Lk 4:18), then what does this “recovery look like?” Perhaps he wants us to “see” as he sees, to know as he knows, to serve as he serves and to love as he loves. Perhaps Jesus desires to open our eyes to his life. He calls us from the darkness of the desert into the light of his life. The blind man’s physical sight is healed by the very spittle of Jesus, mixed with dirt to make a clay paste which was smeared over his eyes, washed off in a pool. His eyes were open. So much controversy was generated over this miracle. Some believed, while others doubted. Hence Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind” (Jn 9:39). 

What am I filling my eyes with? Does what I “see” give glory to God or darkness to my soul? How can Jesus recover my sight? Am I willing to have him open my eyes? Is Jesus the light of my life? Lord, help me to see! “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come” (Ps 23: 6).

Dow is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.