Each year growing up, I remember hearing the Gospel readings that we have heard this year on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent, because my parish chose to use them for the catechumens and candidates as they prepared to receive the sacraments at Easter. Hearing these beautiful and detailed accounts of encounters with Christ every year was also formative of my own prayer life as a child and young adult.
These readings all come from St. John’s Gospel — the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the healing of the man born blind (John 9), and the raising of Lazarus (John 11). Each shows people coming to know Jesus as the promised Messiah.
After He has brought to light her sins and conversed with her about true worship, the Samaritan woman at the well comments that she knows, “the Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will tell us everything.” And Jesus assures her, “I am He, the one who is speaking with you.”
Next, the faith of the man born blind continues to grow as he is questioned about the healing he received from Jesus. He refers to Jesus first as “the man called Jesus” and then as “a prophet,” until Jesus tells him that He is the Son of Man (a title for the Messiah); then, the man bows down in worship, recognizing Jesus’ divinity and calling Him “Lord.”
Finally, when Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies, Lazarus’ sister Martha expresses her faith that if Jesus had been present, her brother would have recovered instead of dying. When Jesus promises that Lazarus will rise and proclaims to Martha that He is “the resurrection and the life,” she professes further faith: “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world.”
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus had asked Peter and the other apostles. The followers of Christ from these Lenten Gospels give their own answers: the Messiah. The One who “told me everything I ever did.” The promised Son of Man. The Lord, our God. The resurrection and the life. The Son of God!
As we approach Holy Week, ask yourself, “Who do I say that Jesus is?” The crowds on Palm Sunday acclaimed Him as the Messiah, the “Son of David,” yet the Pharisees rejected this claim and ordered Him to “rebuke” them. Days later, these same Pharisees incited the crowds to shout for something very different: for His condemnation to death. But Mary and His faithful followers knew that even in the midst of the ignominy of the Passion, this was truly the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Who do you say that Jesus is? Everything depends upon this question.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.