Sunday, March 4, is the Third Sunday of Lent (Year B), but I will be using the readings from (Year A). Mass Readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,8-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42.
During the holy season of Lent, the Church permits the use of the Lectionary readings from Year A. This is done for a specific purpose. On the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent, the Church, in preparing catechumens for baptism and to receive confirmation and their first Holy Communion, uses what we refer to as “Scrutiny” readings.
These are also used to help prepare those who have already received the sacrament of baptism, but are now official candidates for coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, to receive the sacraments of penance and reconciliation (confession), confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
That being said, these “Scrutiny” readings are not merely for catechumens and candidates, but for all the baptized and fully initiated into the Church.
Why does the Church call these Sundays of Lent “Scrutiny Sundays”? When we hear the word — “scrutiny” — we might not have positive experiences. To be under scrutiny can bring fear and anxiety.
But the Church intends to place no person in fear or anxiety. Quite the opposite: The Church desires that those who are preparing to receive the sacraments have freedom to do so. The Church uses these readings to help remove obstacles that may be in the way of a person receiving the grace of the sacraments.
The “Scrutiny Gospel” for this Third Sunday of Lent focuses on the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Take some time to read through the entire account (John 4:5-42).
Samaritans were outsiders. They were not of the Chosen People. In going to the well, this woman already has two strikes against her — she is an outsider and she is a woman. The Samaritan Woman came to the well at a time where she knew she would be alone.
But Jesus breaks through the cultural barriers and speaks with her: “Give me a drink.”
The point of this reading is to awaken and to stir within those preparing for baptism and the other sacraments a thirst for Jesus, who truly satisfies: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
A question we might ask is: Was the Lord Jesus just thirsty for water? He was tired and thirsty after a long journey. But there is something deeper than bodily thirst.
Many spiritual writers and theologians of the Church have connected this passage to the cry of the Lord Jesus on the cross — “I thirst.”
Obviously, during his passion, he was thirsty for water, after enduring brutal torture and hanging on the cross for three hours. But he was also thirsty for you and for me — for our response to him and for our love in return!
God thirsts for us!
As we continue this journey of Lent, while taking up penances and denying ourselves creature comforts, our bodies may start to crave what we are used to consuming.
In those circumstances, think of the thirst of the Lord Jesus. His thirst for us gives new perspective on any thirst, bodily or spiritual, that we might have.
Father John Paul Mary Zeller is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word
and resides in Irondale, Alabama, the home of EWTN. He was commissioned a “missionary of mercy” by Pope Francis in 2016.