Growing in the Knowledge of Christ

Sometimes an ordinary encounter can have a much deeper meaning than the surface may initially reveal. We can all recall instances where we encounter a person who reveals to us the presence of Christ. I recall meeting a man outside a church I was entering for a time of prayer. He asked me for a ride to his doctor, as he was running late and it wasn’t far. I agreed to do so after I made a short visit to the church, but he said that I need not help; he would find another way. I was only in the church a minute when I felt guilty about not helping the man, and I rushed out of the church, realizing that God was present in the man who had this need. I searched everywhere for him, but I could not find him anywhere. It was at that point that I learned what God had revealed to me: prayer before the real presence of Christ should lead us to see Christ in others and to serve them as Christ served us.

The Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel reading has a similar experience. A simple conversation about water leads to a profound realization about the identity of Jesus. When the story begins the woman addresses Jesus with a slur, calling him a Jew. As the story progresses she then refers to Jesus with more respect, calling him ‘sir’. Then, after Jesus tells her about her irregular life, she comes to see Jesus as a prophet, and later wondering whether Jesus is the promised messiah. By the time the story is over, the entire village of Samaritans comes to regard Jesus as the savior of the world. What is more, the woman leaves behind her water jar, never having filled it with water.

This Gospel text is the first of three passages from the Gospel of John we will encounter through Lent. Each of these texts is a step along the road to initiation into the Church for those preparing for baptism at Easter. The entire Church is asked to consider anew our understanding of the identity of Christ as we walk with the catechumens toward the font of baptism. What does it mean for us to assert that Jesus is the savior of the world?

At the time in which John wrote his Gospel text the early Christian community was experiencing their first widespread persecution from the Roman Empire. This persecution arose because the Christians no longer had the protection of the Jewish synagogues from the requirement to offer sacrifice to the emperor. They had been expelled from the synagogues and were no longer considered Jews by both the Jewish community and the Roman authorities. Thus, the Christians now were required to offer the sacrifice for emperor worship. The title “savior of the world” was the title of the Emperor. Thus, when John ends this story with the Samaritans declaring Jesus to be the savior of the world it represents a firm act of faith in the face of severe persecution: the Church would not betray her faith in Christ amid the pressures of the world.

We might well ask ourselves why the Church faces so little overt persecution in our nation. Is it because our nation has become fully converted and is a Christian nation, as some would suggest? Hardly. The reality of abortion on demand, the widespread proliferation of pornography, the xenophobic hatred of immigrants, and our materialistic culture would indicate something other than a Christian nation. Perhaps our lack of persecution has more to do with our general acquiescence to the larger culture, as polls on most subjects show Catholics to follow the general attitudes of the wider population.

Lent is a time for catechumens and candidates to prepare for the sacraments of initiation, where we are asked whether we reject Satan and all his works, and whether we believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church which is Christ’s spouse. The whole Church prepares with them to renew these vows and to recommit to living a fully Christian life. We pray together in our repentance: “Let us pray to the Father and ask him to form a new heart within us. God of all compassion, Father of all goodness, to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us you bid us turn to fasting, prayer, and sharing with our brothers. We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us: when our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Jude Huntz is Director of the Human Rights Office for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

Daily Scripture Readings

For complete daily Scripture texts, click here.

Monday, March 28
2 Kings 5:1-15ab
Psalms 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4
Lk 4:24-30

Tuesday, March 29
Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Psalms 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Wednesday, March 30
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Psalms 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
Matthew 5:17-19

Thursday, March 31
Jeremiah 7:23-28
Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Luke 11:14-23

Friday, April 1
Hosea 14:2-10
Psalms 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9,
10-11ab, 14 and 17
Mark 12:28-34

Saturday, April 2
Hosea 6:1-6
Psalms 51:3-4, 18-19,
20-21ab
Luke 18:9-14

Fourth Sunday of Lent, April 3
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Psalms 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41 or
9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

The full text of the Scripture readings for this week and next week can be found here: http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/

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Tuesday
April 25, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph