15 March 20203 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent - A Cycle - John 4:5-15,19-26,39,40-42

A British princess was treated graciously by a shopclerk. She told his employer of his deference to her station. The puzzled shopkeeper said, "Princess, he treats everyone the same way."

One reason the Father humanized His Son in the person of Jesus was to allow us to find a divine person eminently approachable. Thus we can latch onto Him in happy days but also in blue ones. One can prove this thesis by using today's Gospel.

The first point to notice is the woman is not named. John wanted her to be a type for us sinners. Slip your name into the blank spot. There is room for every mother's child of us.

The Christ painted here by the artist John is sensitive and warm. The reader can just about extend a hand and feel the Teacher. When the Gospel opens, Jesus and His people are on the run from southern Palestine. John the Baptist had just been arrested. Christ did not want to wait around until the authorities decided to round up the usual suspects. He and His party were heading quick march into the safety of the northern Palestinian mountains. He knew that territory better than the south. There nobody would lay a hand on Him. He would campaign again but on His own terms.

One of the great charms of Jesus, who owned nothing but a toothbrush bought at Wal-Mart, is that He could break camp anytime and at any place. He did not own enough to fill even a brown paper bag. John is asking us why we need to have so many possessions. We need a fleet of trucks to move us. After all, we can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.

For safety reasons, Jesus was moving through Samaria. The Samaritans disliked the Jews then as much as many Arabs do today. The Jewish police would not dare follow Him lest they be  murdered. Ironically, events would prove the Nazarene received a better hearing from the Samaritans than from His own fellow-Jews.

He and the twelve were only into the second of their three day journey. They had covered thirty blistering miles and with no bottled water. The party finally came to a deep well fed by a fresh spring of delicious cool water. It was near the town of Sychar. There was a problem. Jesus had no rope or bucket. The well was one hundred feet deep. Shrewd John is faxing us the message that the clever Jesus began His journey without a jar. John here is asking all of us, "Isn't this a Christ you can identify with? Have you not yourselves made similar dumb mistakes?" His apostles rush off to Home Depot to buy rope and a bucket. But the Teacher is too dehydrated to join them. His get up and go had got up and gone. His feet were killing Him. His wet clothing was sticking to His skin. John is shouting to us, "Jesus knew what exhaustion was." Do you feel you cannot relate with Him?" John too is telling us the Messiah gave others the opportunity to do favors for Him. He knew that others are anxious to be generous. Do we accept favors reluctantly?

No doubt Christ sat in the shade offered by the well. The energies He had left were spent fighting off the mosquitoes looking for lunch. He was feeling sorry for Himself. Can you not identify with Him?

The Samaritan woman found herself attracted to this Christ. Why was she so swept off her feet by the Man at the well? This was not the first man she had met. If anything, she was an authority on men. She could have written her own Dear Abby column. As Christ gently reminded her, she had six lovers. She had forgotten more about men than most women will ever know. Professional prostitute though she might be, Christ engaged this woman as an equal. He showered her with kindness and treated her as a princess. This type of deference she had never received from any of her Johns. They had treated her like white trash. He realized the truth of the aphorism that while words can't break bones, they can break hearts. Christ saw in her not the evil she had done but rather the heroine she could become with His encouragement.

Do you believe Jesus will not forgive your sins? Recall the sinner who asked the monk: "Will Jesus really forgive me?" The monk asked: "Do you throw away dirty clothes?" "No." "Then neither will Jesus throw you away. No matter what your past, your future is spotless."

Come and drink a glass of cool well water with Christ and confess your sins.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent: Thirst No More

She really was quite intelligent, this Samaritan Woman that Jesus met at the well. She engaged Jesus in discussion about Jews and Samaritans. She asked him, "Why do you bother talking to me? Jews don't speak to Samaritans." She even delved a bit into theological argument, "We worship on the Mountain; you worship in Jerusalem, so who's right?"

She was also a hard worker, not a lazy woman. She was at that well probably to get the water she needed to care for her livestock, clean her home, and, perhaps, prepare the afternoon meal. Her life was difficult, but no more than any other woman of her time and place. However, her life was different. She had gone through five husbands and now was living with a man she had not married. No one respected her. She did not respect herself. She had given up on herself and just gone with whatever the immediate situation presented. Another husband, another man. Another child. Who's the father of this one? Of that one? She had learned to live with the emptiness that comes from accepting sin in her life.

She was thirsty. It may have been her sheep or her home that needed the water, but she herself was quite thirsty. She was dry. Internally, spiritually, she was thirsty. She had led a sinful life but had refused to acknowledge her sins and seek forgiveness. Perhaps, like many of us, she felt that the past would go away if she just did not think about it. However, that didn't quench her thirst. She went about her daily routine, doing her best to ignore the emptiness within herself. But it was still there, that thirst, that dryness.

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink." (John 7:37)

A thirsty Jesus goes to the same well. He sees the woman and thirsts even more. He also is dry, but he is not empty. He thirsts for the people who need Him. One of his last words from the Cross would be, "I thirst." He was not talking about water. He was speaking about the overwhelming desire within him to bring God's love to the world.

At the well, Jesus simply tells the woman that she will remain dry unless she confronts her past and changes her life. These are the words she needed to hear. She submits to the Love of God. From that moment on she is absolved, transformed. Her thirst is quenched. Now she has a spring of water within her, a reservoir really. She is overflowing with the Love of Jesus the Christ.

She goes into the town. Her joy is on her face. The townspeople experience her peace and want this for themselves. So they go out to the well to meet Jesus. They go to investigate. They experience God.

This wonderful drama, the first of three we will hear the next few weeks, is really a drama about our lives. We thirst for God. Sometimes we drink Him in. Often we ignore Him. Sometimes we downright reject Him. But He doesn't give up on us. Perhaps we finally give in and let Him transform our lives. We confront our sins, take responsibility for our actions, and allow the compassion of the Lord into our lives. Then we have that joy that pours out from us to everyone around us. And then others seek out and find Christ.

We will probably be thirsty again. With the distractions of our lives, it is easy for us to lose sight of the fundamental reason for our existence, to know love and serve God. With the pressures of our society, the responsibility to provide for the family financially, the mission to raise our children, the fight against sickness and suffering in our lives, it is easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we do. As a result, we feel thirsty, dry within. With the pressures of the anti-Catholic, anti-theistic, immoral aspects of our society, it is easy for us to give in to arguments that justify improper or immoral behavior. It is easy for us to return to dryness.

We will thirst again. And in one way, this is good, very good. It is part of the human condition to thirst for God. St. Augustine wrote, "Our hearts are made for you, O God, and can not rest until they rest in you." We will always thirst for a greater presence of God. We seek His Presence throughout our lives, particularly in the love of others, in the love of our families, in the love of those reaching out to us for help. Many of you seek God in the love of your marriages, and your children or, for the children, in their parents' love. We will all always thirst for a greater presence of God in our reading the Word of God and our sharing in the Eucharist.

We need to take this thirst with us wherever we go. We need to bring the longing for Jesus with us so others can experience the joy that the very longing for His Presence forms in our lives. Remember, the townsfolk only experienced Jesus because they first experienced the joy of His Presence in the woman who had just returned from the well of God's Love and Compassion. We cannot be afraid to let all know that Jesus is the joy of our lives.

Sometimes people ask me, "How do I bring Jesus to the school, to the workplace, to my family, to the neighborhood?" If we focus on His Presence in our lives, if we recognize the Mercy and Compassion we have received, others will experience Him within us.

There is a famous Latin expression, "Nemo dat quo non habat." It means, "No one gives what he does not have." We cannot bring God to others if we do not have Him ourselves. The opposite of this expression is also true. It is powerful and life transforming. "We cannot help but give Him whom we have." If we have the Lord, then we cannot keep Him from others. Our very being will not allow us to keep the joy within us secret. The spring of water within us will well up to Eternal Life.

Today's Gospel calls us to remember the Source of our Joy. It reminds us that we do not have to settle with putting up with life. Jesus has given us mercy and compassion. Jesus has transformed our lives. Like the woman at the conclusion of the reading, we live in the joy of the Lord.

If we drink the water that he gives us, we will thirst no more.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Lent
The First Scrutiny (March 15, 2020)

Bottom line: Those spiritual powers are personal - Satan and the demons. We need the power of Jesus to combat them.

This Sunday we have the First Scrutiny: an exorcism prayer based on the Gospel we just heard where Jesus offers the Samaritan woman "Living Water" that is, the Holy Spirit.

"Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Jesus then dialogues with the woman about the state of her soul. She admits she has had five husbands. Bishop Barron says: "Think of the five husbands as five errant paths the woman has taken. She has 'married' herself to wealth, pleasure, honor, power, material things, etc.""Or think of them as five ideologies or gurus she has followed hoping to find joy."

It was not easy for the woman to accept Jesus. She had become cynical about men in general and as a Samaritan she bears a hostility to Jews. Think of the aversion some Democrats feel about Republicans - and vica versa - and you will have a tiny idea of the hostility between Samaritans and Jews.

Jesus knows all the issues involved but he knows something else - the spiritual powers that turn us away from God and from each others. Those spiritual powers are personal - Satan and the demons. We need the power of Jesus to combat them. As we will hear in the First Scrutiny:

"Grant that these catechumens, who, like the woman of Samaria, thirst for living water,may turn to the Lord as they hear his word and acknowledge the sins and weaknesses that weigh them down. Protect them from vain reliance on self and defend them from the power of Satan...Amen."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Lent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Lent

The First Reading and the Gospel on a Sunday are usually related to each other and this Sunday is no exception. Both of these readings are about water. The First Reading is about Moses striking the rock from which flowed water at Massah and Meribah, sufficient to assuage the people's thirst. In the Gospel we hear the wonderful story of the Woman at the Well.

In this meeting at the well the conversation between Jesus and the woman seems to be operating at two different levels. She takes his words at face value and yet Jesus means his words to be understood at a much deeper level. He is talking not so much about the water in the well as of the waters of Baptism. The waters that Jesus talks about will not just relieve ordinary thirst but will quench that much deeper thirst which is our yearning for salvation.

The fact that this is a Samaritan woman is no coincidence. Jesus often has dialogues of great significance with people who are not Jewish. We know that his mission is not only to the Jewish people but in fact to all the people of the world.

This woman would be socially marginalised at a number of different levels. Firstly, she was a woman and so regarded as a second-class citizen; feminism took another two thousand years to make an appearance. Then she is of dubious reputation since she has had five husbands and the man she was currently with was not her husband. Moreover, her appearance at the well in the middle of the day when most people would be at home resting during the hottest part of the day makes one wonder what she was doing there. We are being invited to think that she might have been there for an immoral purpose.

Then there is the fact that she was a Samaritan and therefore considered to be an outcast by the observant Jews. The Samaritans were regarded as an heretical sect and therefore even more hated by the Jews than ordinary Gentiles. But, of course, Jesus has previously spoken about this group when he told the story of the Good Samaritan as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. There is also in Luke an account of the Ten Lepers of which only the Samaritan returned to thank Jesus when he discovered he was cured.

Then there is the matter of all the husbands this woman has had. When she discovers that Jesus knows all about them, she is surprised and this leads her to presume that Jesus is a prophet. This knowledge that he has convinces her that here is someone special, someone who knows so much more than the ordinary person, someone who can speak about spiritual things and do so with real authority. It leads her to talk a little about the differences between the Jews and the Samaritans

Jesus uses the fact of her being a Samaritan to demonstrate that he certainly knows all about the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. He says, "You worship what you do not know but we worship what we do know for salvation comes from the Jews." But he then goes on to tell her that the day is soon coming when believers will worship in spirit and in truth. We understand very well that Jesus is blind when it comes to questions of race and religion. He looks into a person’s heart and not to the outward observance of matters of faith or questions of heredity.

Jesus doesn't often reveal directly to anyone that he is the Messiah but he does so to this Samaritan woman despite her dubious reputation. This is an example of how Jesus favours the poor and despised. We don't know for certain whether she was poor but we certainly can conclude that she was despised. Even his disciples reproach Jesus for talking to her in such an open way. It says that though they didn't say anything they were surprised to find him speaking to her. I think they we not so much surprised as appalled.

The upshot of the story is that this woman goes back to her village and rouses all the people and tells them that Jesus has revealed to her that he is the Messiah and many come to believe in him. This shows that she understands her new role to be that of an Evangelist and on the strength of her testimony she is able to bring other people to faith.

In this the woman is like us because this is our role too, to speak in a convincing way that Jesus is the Lord of all and that we should believe his words because he is the true son of the Father. We need to bring the Gospel message to the people we live and work among. Primarily this is, of course, to our children but also to all those we meet. Maybe we don't always have to do it with words but perhaps more effectively by our example.

We cannot ever underestimate the importance of this duty to evangelise others. After all, we would not want it to lie on our conscience that a particular person did not come to faith because we were too lazy to tell them the truths of the Gospel.

Jesus stays in the village for two days and explains his Gospel of love to the people there. They are obviously entranced by his words and his insights and they come to a deep understanding of what God wants from them. Jesus doesn't convert them to Judaism but rather explains the much deeper truths that he has to offer. We can imagine that he taught them about the salvation that he was soon to bring to the human race and the importance of love as the driving force of our lives.

The people then admitted to the woman, "Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the Saviour of the World." After listening to our testimony we would be very happy if other people could say those same words to us.
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