Third Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
Reflecting on John 4: 5-15, 19b-26, 39a,40-42
One Sunday three decades ago I was distraught over the collapse of the strong parish community I had enjoyed for over a decade. A new pastor had come in, and a better preacher had been installed in the parish down the road. Within a few months the vibrant, warm, packed-to-the-gills Sunday Masses had deteriorated, and most of the friends with whom I shared Sunday had moved to the other parish. It was so painful.
This particular Sunday I stopped by to visit a friend. He did then, and still does to this day, spend the early morning hours in prayer with the Scriptures. We talked for awhile about the dwindling numbers and the lackluster preaching, and then we fell silent for a few minutes.
What are you reading today? He looked down at the Bible on the table, open to the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel, and read the Samaritan woman’s challenge to Jesus: Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people say the place to worship is Jerusalem.
Huh. So questions about who’s got the best parish have been around at least since the day Jesus went out of his way to find that heartbroken woman, in the heat of the day, at a well that her great ancestor Jacob had dug. He invited her into friendship with himself, and she left everything behind to tell the world about him. Now that’s true worship, in Spirit and in truth.
Sharing God’s Word at Home:
Are there ways that you can build up your parish and the worshipping community?
What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
I’ve learned my lesson and today I simply focused on my small faith sharing group hoping that some of them would catch the ‘renovating spirit.’ And some did. A couple of them took off and form their own lenten group aside from our primary prayer group. The metrics of macro-organizational expansion has value but is not the exclusive value. – – Cris
This morning, I went to our 7:30 Mass, only to find that none of our three priests are in town this week, and the priest who was supposedly scheduled didn’t show up. There were about seventy parishioners in attendance. Fortunately, there were consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle, so I did a Communion Service.
According to many comments afterwards, my community was happy that someone stepped up to do the Communion Service. Everyone would have had a day that didn’t begin with the reception of the Eucharist. I am so glad that I was able to do that for them. I believe we are stronger as a community when we begin each day together praying and receiving the Body of Christ, who then helps us be the body of Christ!
I agree that it is very important to support our priests and our church, rather than complain about what doesn’t work for us, or running off somewhere else. After all, we are a church family and need to be there for each other.
However, my faith grows stronger and matures more when I am given insight from the priest’s homily, or another speaker at our church. What if we are not being challenged in our faith because our priest gives very weak homilies? I do a lot around church and am ministered to by the lives of close friends in the church, and I am also leading a group study, but I feel like I need more (spiritual) food for thought from our priest…
I understand your frustration. Perhaps Kathy’s questions on this website can help with the need for spiritual food for thought. There are also many books on the lives of the saints, and all kinds of books written by our popes, archbishops and bishops. I look for the pastoral (compassionate) qualities in the priests. If they also give good and thoughtful homilies, I count that as a bonus.
Since my Lenten resolution is to not complain about church, I’ll try not to. Sometimes, however, I feel like I live in a parallel universe. I’m a cradle Catholic who has lived through the dynamic experience of Vatican II. I love the use of the vernacular, so when Latin shows up during liturgy, I wonder where I am. My personality calls me to ministry and to involvement in liturgy, so I have to participate to the fullest, even though I am a woman. When I am not being “fed” during the homily, I give about ten minutes to listening before I pick up the Breaking Bread book, open it to the Scripture of the day, and pray what I read. When all the additional artwork reflecting someone’s personal piety keeps showing up in our parish church every week, I close my eyes to the feeling of overwhelming distraction and examine the many judgments and opinions that arise in me. Sometimes it’s only my sense of humor and the hope that God knows my heart that saves me.
How I build community flows from my own personal growth. I listen to the people with whom I worship during Mass. For them I try to be positive though often enough I think the same way they do. It causes me to reflect and find something that feels life giving. I also go to a Christian women’s bible study every week where I can offer my reflections and share in breaking open the word. The ecumenical contemplative prayer group to which I belong nourishes my soul in the quiet and in the way we pray as community. I bring this to Mass and stand in faith with all those present, letting their faith strengthen me when I feel lost or helping them stand when faith is difficult for them.
We had a pastor a few assignments ago who stayed for twelve years. His contribution was to show us “The Dark Night of the Soul” that St. John of the Cross described. Mother Teresa, according to her journal, also experienced this phenomenon for many years. I am certain that she had many experiences of not being “fed.”
Christianity isn’t how we feel; rather, it’s how we act in spite of how we feel. I admire Mother Teresa because she lived her Christian life without hearing any affirmation from God! That’s faith.