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Sunday Reflections by Fr John Zeland SVD (Japan)

3rd Sunday of Lent / A

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In all languages certain words stand out as more important than others. Undoubtedly, we can include the following words: love, faith, hope, acceptance, conversion, and, strange as it may seem, the word why. In today’s reflection, let’s consider for a while why this word is so important.

In the year 2,000, a Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, wrote a small book called The Better Part. In the book he says that many people carry the thoughts, feelings and education they have experienced as children into their adult lives. They do this without recognizing it. On the surface, they seem to be normal and mature adults, while underneath this facade lives a child.

Fr. Keating gives the example of a fifty five year old man who became violently angry whenever someone did not see things the way he did. During some counseling, a psychiatrist pointed out that he acted in a similar way as a child. When his high school English teacher, for example, showed him that he received a low grade because all of his compositions had many grammatical errors, he exploded in anger.

Fr. Keating says that many people are like this. Most of the time they act as adults, but now and then the childish part of their being which they never managed to develop expresses itself.

Why do people continue the same pattern of behavior? Because they never seriously reflect or ask the important question, why? Why do I sometimes get so angry? Why am I so impatient? Why do I often put off doing what I should do immediately? Why . . . why . . . why?

In today’s Gospel we have an example of this. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he began a conversation with her. Wanting her to think about her behavior—actually, wanting her to change her way of life and to come closer to God—he asked her about her husbands. Why has she had five husbands, and why is she now living with another man?  

How is it with us? Perhaps we are eighty or ninety percent mature, but what about the other ten or twenty percent of our character that still needs development? That is the area we want to focus on. That is the area where we do well to ask ourselves honestly why we find it difficult to deal with certain people or with certain situations. Why do we feel or think as we do?

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