Sunday Sermon for March 12, 2023, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Readings: Ex 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42

In the first reading today, we hear about the people of Israel grumbling against God and Moses.  The people had just recently come out of Egypt and, as they were making their way through the desert there was a lack of water for the people and for their livestock.  Rather than turning to prayer or seeking to rely on the Lord Who had brought them out of Egypt with an abundance of signs and wonders, the people decided to grumble instead.  In fact, we are told that a name was given to the place, Meribah and Massah, because the people quarreled with the Lord and tested Him saying: “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”

People naturally assume that if the Lord is in our midst, then everything should be easy, even pleasant.  How quickly the Israelites forgot that when the Lord was showing Himself in Egypt through the ten plagues, things became increasingly worse for the people of Israel.  They even seem to have forgotten that before God opened the Red Sea before them, the Egyptian army had hemmed them in between the army and the sea.  God showed Himself to be in the midst of His people many times and in many ways.  The problem, however, is almost always the same: God is with the people, but the people are not with God.

Since the struggle to believe the Lord is in the midst of His people is a perennial problem, we must ask ourselves if we believe.  We can begin with the Gospel reading in which our Lord speaks to the woman of Samaria.  At one point in the conversation, the woman says to the Lord that she knows the Messiah is coming and He will tell us everything.  Jesus responds: “I am He, the One speaking to you.”  We are told that the woman went into the town and spread the word to the people about a man who told her everything she had done, then added, “Could He possibly be the Christ?”

These Samaritan people convinced our Lord to remain with them for two days, then told the woman that they no longer believed because of her word, but because of what they themselves had heard from the mouth of the Lord.  Following this, it states clearly what they have come to believe: “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.”  What a fantastic statement!  They did not just believe, they knew Jesus is the Savior of the world.  It only took these people two days to be able to go from nothing to absolute faith in Jesus.

How many years have we been working at this?  Can we say we have absolute faith?  Many people are grumbling today about what they see going on in the world.  There are plenty of reasons to not like what we see going on, but there is no reason to grumble against the Lord.  We recognize the same pattern as with the people of Israel.  God has given us many proofs, but no proof is necessary.  He promised to remain with us all days until the end of the world.  He made the promise and He is faithful.  He cannot lie or deceive. 

Moreover, for those of us of little faith, we need to be reminded of what St. Paul writes in the second reading.  He says that Christ died for us while we were sinners and while we were helpless.  So, when we, individuals and the whole human race, were separated from God, He sent His Son to live among us and die for us so that we would have access to God and His grace.  Once again, God was with us when we were not with Him.

So, once again we must ask ourselves if we truly believe.  God is in our midst.  He is with us, are we with Him?  Ask yourself if you are guilty of grumbling against the Lord.  Maybe this is due to some difficult things in your own life or maybe it is because of the disaster we are all witnessing in the world.  Regardless of the reason, to grumble and quarrel with God is to doubt His love for us.  If we truly believed that He is in our midst, we would automatically have recourse to Him.  Moreover, we would remain at peace, regardless of the troubles that surround us because we are with the Lord and He is with us.  Too often we become like Peter when he was walking on the water: he took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink.

If we truly believe in Jesus, then we need not fear or grumble.  Pray and keep your focus on Him; He is in the midst of the chaos and He has everything in control!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit