Saturday, March 15, 2014

Third Sunday in Lent

The readings for Lent this year are the oldest set of readings in the Christian church.  It was used in the days of old to prepare catechumens for baptism.  In those days, it takes two years before a catechumen could be baptised and the liturgy for Lent includes scrutinies of catechumens.
The readings for Lent are structured as a journey, a journey of faith not just for the catechumens but for all the faithful as we prepare to renew our baptismal cleansing at Easter.
The journey begins with the testing of Jesus in the desert on the first Sunday of Lent.  On the second Sunday, we see the desired goal of our Lenten journey.  The readings used for the third to fifth Sundays focus on baptismal themes: water, light and life.
We end our Lenten series with the telling of the Passion story on Palm Sunday.

Year A
Third Sunday in Lent



Points to note

The imagery used for the next three Sundays centres around the baptism.  For this Sunday, the imagery is that of water.  You may wish to have a bowl of water as the centrepiece in the room but make sure you have a very efficient mop handy.  The reading used is vivid but very intricately related to the Gospel reading.


Acclamation before the Gospel

There is no acclamation as the Gospel is not read.

Explain that the people of Israel have left Egypt and are wandering around in the desert.  They have just been fed by God using the manna bread and quails but they are still not satisfied.

As the Gospel is not read, the sign of the cross is omitted but the introductory dialogue (i.e., the Lord be with you...) may be used.

The Lord be with you.
All:   And also with you.

A Reading from the Book of Exodus
(Ex 17: 3-7)
The people were thirsty and complained against Moses.  “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” they asked, “Was it so that I and my children and cattle should die of thirst?”  Moses appealed to the Lord.  “How am I to deal with this people?” he said “A little more and they will stone me!”  The Lord said to Moses, “Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the front of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go.  I shall be standing there before you on the rock, at Horeb.  You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.”  This is what Moses did, seen by the elders of Israel.  The place was named Massah[1] and Meribah[2] because of the grumbling of the people of Israel and because they doubted the Lord by asking, “Is the Lord with us, or not?”

This is the Word of the Lord


What do we use water for?  For drinking and for cleaning.  Discuss what would happen if we have no water.  Discuss what happens if there is too much water.

What does the priest pour over the head of a person during a baptism?  Why does he use water?  Why not something like sand?  Be prepared for some really silly answers!

Can you remember two stories in the Bible where there was lots of water?  The crossing of the Red Sea and the Flood.  In each, take the children through the story, emphasising that in each case, the water drowned the baddies and saved the good people. 

Likewise when we are baptised with water, the water kills the sinner in us and the Christian is born.  You may need to use concepts like the naughty child disappearing and the good child replaces the bad.  The concept of death and rebirth in the waters of baptism is very apparent in the practice of baptism by immersion by the Orthodox, some Protestant and some Catholic churches.  When a person is submerged below the water, he or she is said to have drowned and a new person, a Christian  emerges from the waters.

Another symbolic significance in the use of water in baptism is the Church rule that only moving water may be used for baptism.  Water that is moving is said to be alive.  Ideally we would all be baptised in a flowing river as Jesus was.

You may now bring the discussion back round to the uses of water that we started the session with.  Water gives us life in Jesus.  Water also cleanses us of our sins.  That is why we use water for baptism.  During the Easter midnight mass, part of the beginning of the mass is devoted to the blessing of the water.  The priest dips the newly lit Easter candle into the baptismal water (not fully, of course) and blesses it.  The water is then used for baptism during the year.

The concept of water cleansing and giving life isn’t all that difficult to impart to the children if you parallel it with simple everyday examples.  Take your time to explain if necessary, as understanding this will help them grasp next week’s imagery of light.

If you have the time, you may wish to discuss other uses of holy water in the Church.  We use it to bless ourselves when we enter the church.  Sometimes, people may take some holy water home as a way of taking a bit of the holiness of the church home with them.

[1] Massah   trial
[2] Meribah   contention

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