Third Sunday of Lent/Scrutinies (Year A readings)

Loaded Questions
By Fr. Pete Iorio

Have you ever clicked on one of those articles that appear on your search engine page? On occasion, I do click  on something that interests me.  This title of an article intrigued me: The Most Loaded Question I Get about my Son with Down’s Syndrome.  At the top of the article was a picture of a happy mom and her son who is nine years old both smiling away. The article began with the loaded question: “Did you know he would have Down Syndrome when you were expecting?” I have heard that question hundreds of times, and I’ve always answered, “yes.” It is the truth.

Remember that this is not a religious article. Monique Ruffin went on the explain that hearing the question always triggers her and brings her back to one of the most difficult and scary times of her life. Although,  people say, “I could never do that,” or “I surely wouldn’t abort my child no matter what,” she shakes her head because you never know what you will do until you’re in a situation  for yourself.  For Monique, it required a level of trust she found difficult to call upon. Statistics show that 92% of all mothers who receive a Down Syndrome diagnosis terminate the pregnancy. Saying yes to a child with a diagnosis is difficult, but the rewards have been countless, she wrote. Monique Ruffin did not know that she would rise to the occasion, that she would have so much support and love from family and friends and people she did not know, how much her husband would teach her how men can show up as outstanding loving parents who advocate for their children, and that her 9 year old son would be so cute that she yearns to kiss his face a thousand times a day. I say: thank God for Monique and so many like her who value life and have the courage to share, that in the midst of life’s difficulties, come countless blessings.

In the Gospel today, Jesus  asks a Samaritan woman for a drink at a well. Her response is somewhat of a loaded question: “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” This is the beginning of a beautiful encounter that has all the elements of taboo and so-called cultural norms and the desire of a God not to condemn or to criticize, but to give confidence and strength to a person who yearns for it.

It is rare that a woman would go alone at noon, the hottest part of the day and get water. The implication is that she is ashamed to associate with the other women who would have come much  earlier and together as a group. The Samaritan woman  was probably ashamed for the fact that she has already had five husbands and is currently with a man that she  isn’t married to. The question she had asked is loaded with the reality that at that time and place, Jews and Samaritans hated each other and therefore would not speak. The culture dictated that women and men do not speak to each other. As He always does, Jesus goes beyond the barriers that human beings place on one another and initiates an encounter of compassion and generosity.  There is an important quality in this woman as well. She is open to the encounter. She does not dismiss him as a Jewish man or ignore him in going about her business. This openness to receive someone who is very different and even forbidden brought about a tremendous gift of grace for her. She was transformed into a messenger of the Good News.

Monique and the Samaritan  woman are great examples for us today of people who have courage and trust enough to allow good things to happen even when they seem that they are going to be difficult. Lent is an opportunity to take advantage of the gifts that God offers us. As we see in the Gospel, the gift of God is free and does not depend on our works. Jesus gave a wonderful gift of living water to the woman with many husbands. God is always ready to receive us and give us more than we can imagine.

The elect are those courageous, trusting nonbaptized persons preparing to receive the life giving waters of baptism at the Easter Vigil. We celebrate the first scrutiny today and they will receive what is called a small exorcism which means casting out evil in preparation for the sacraments. And so now, I invite the Elect and their godparents to come forward.

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