3rd Sunday of Lent: Year A

The Exodus reading is difficult if we don’t take it deep enough. At the surface we have a narrative where God’s people whine and God seems to withhold basics, providing water only after a scene has been made. Beneath the water shortage is an accusation that God’s plan is to kill the people and a non-denial of that charge by God. Of course water is urgent in the wilderness, and anyone would complain when it runs short. So this reading deserves better than a superior disquisition about foolish faithlessness of the Israelites. What’s being negotiated is the gift of liberation and more fundamentally the gift of relationship: how Israel is to become distinctively God’s people. Their discourse efficiently suggests they are still wondering if Pharaoh is the better choice. There are quite a few of these "murmuring stories" sprinkled through Exodus and Numbers, and it’s worth reflecting on why this negative dynamic needs so much attention. A similar though less antagonistic discussion shows up in the gospel reading, helping us see, perhaps, that in both narratives the participants are "playing symbols": Water is life, God is life, relationship with God is life, humans are thirsty and water-dependent. Water is a deep and rich way to suggest what is on offer. God "isn’t" water, but we can see in the symbol how giver, gift and gifted meet "in the water," and why it needs lots of discussion. And in our warming world, with its uneven distribution of goods, there are plenty of other points to make too. Barbara Green, O.P.
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Native American protestors hold hands with parishioner Nathanial Hall, right, during a group prayer outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington on Jan. 22, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The furor over a chance meeting between Catholic high school students and Native American protesters underscores the need to listen and learn from indigenous voices.
Marlene LangJanuary 23, 2019
The staggering parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May, seen here leaving 10 Downing Street on Jan. 23, pushed the country even further from safe dry land. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
After the stunning defeat of Theresa May's exit deal, Scotland is looking anew at independence, and the U.K. government fears economic disaster.
David StewartJanuary 23, 2019
Michael Osborne, a film director, documents the damage from a mud slide next to his home in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, after three days of heavy rain. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The conceit of California-as-disaster-movie is ridiculous. But maybe watching our fires and mudslides helps other states consider both their own fragility and their underlying strength.
Jim McDermottJanuary 23, 2019
A commitment to religious liberty demands that effort be devoted to resolving, rather than exacerbating, any real or apparent tension between religious obligation and civil duty.
The EditorsJanuary 23, 2019