Lent III [A] Sunday (March 15) 1- page summary for an 8-minute homily
Introduction: Today’s readings are centered on Baptism and new life. Living water represents God’s Spirit who comes to us in Baptism, penetrating every aspect of our lives and quenching our spiritual thirst. The Holy Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the Sacraments of God in the Church are the primary sources of the living water of Divine Grace. We are assembled here in the Church to drink this water of eternal life and salvation. Washed in it at Baptism, renewed by its abundance at each Eucharist, invited to it in every proclamation of the Word, and daily empowered by the anointing of the Spirit, we are challenged by today’s Gospel to remain thirsty for the living water, which only God can give.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading describes how God provided water to the ungrateful complainers of Israel, thus placing Jesus’ promise within the context of the Exodus account of water coming from the rock at Horeb. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 95), refers both to the Rock of our salvation and also to our hardened hearts. It reminds us that our hard hearts need to be softened by God through our grace-prompted and assisted prayer, fasting and works of mercy which enable us to receive the living water of the Holy Spirit, salvation, and eternal life from the Rock of our salvation. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the Savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. In the Gospel, an unclean and outcast Samaritan woman is given an opportunity to receive the living water. Jesus awakened in the woman at the well a thirst for the wholeness and integrity which she had lost, a thirst which he had come to satisfy. This Gospel passage also gives us Jesus’ revelation about himself as the Source of Living Water and teaches us that we need the grace of Jesus Christ for eternal life because he is that life-giving water.
Life messages: 1) We need to allow Jesus free entry into our personal lives. Jesus wishes to come into our “private” life, not to embarrass us, not to judge or condemn us, but to free us, to change us, and to offer us what we really need: the living water of the Holy Spirit. Let us find this living water in the Sacraments, in prayer, and in the Holy Bible, especially during this Lenten season. 2) We need to be witnesses to Jesus as the Samaritan woman was. Let us have the courage to “be” Jesus for others, especially in those “unexpected” places for unwanted people. Let us also have the courage of our Christian convictions to stand for truth and justice in our day-to-day life. 3) We need to leave the “husbands” behind during Lent as the Samaritan woman did. Today’s Gospel message challenges us to get rid of our unholy attachments and the evil habits and sinful addictions that keep us enslaved and idolatrous. Lent is our time to learn from our mistakes of over-indulgence in food, drink, drugs, gambling, promiscuity, or any other addiction that distances us from the Living Water. (L/20)
LENT III [A] (March 15): Ex 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42 (L/20)
Homily starter anecdote: # 1: A Samaritan woman evangelist: There is a Greek monastery at Mount Athos in which nothing female is allowed. Today, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and 2,000 monks from Greece and other Eastern Orthodox countries, including Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia. These monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world. The Mount – actually a 335 sq km (130 sq mile) peninsula – may be the largest area in the world from which women, and female animals, are banned. Men can enter but not women, roosters but not hens, horses but not mares, bulls but not cows. Armed guards patrol the border to ensure that nothing feminine passes the gates. It has been this way for more than 700 years. [Arnold Prater, The Presence, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993).] Separate and definitely not equal: that has been the attitude toward women of many Churches through the ages. So, it’s really remarkable that this particular Samaritan evangelist happens to be a woman. She would be as surprised about it as anybody. When she first met Jesus, she was surprised that even he talked to her in a culture which did not allow a Jewish rabbi to talk to his wife in a public place. Once converted, she became an evangelist, enthusiastically introducing Jesus to her fellow villagers. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 2: “No drinkin’ and no dancin’ area”! A couple of Catholic young men from the North were visiting a dusty little town in the back country of West Texas. It was a hard-shell Baptist town in the Bible belt of the South: “No drinkin’ and no dancin’ area”! But since these two men were strangers, they asked a cowboy where they might get a drink. “In this town,” said the cowboy, “we use whiskey only for snakebite: to wash the wound as first aid.” Then he added slyly, “If you guys are so thirsty for whiskey, there’s only one poisonous snake in this town and that is in the zoo. So, you better get a ticket to the zoo, go to the snake park, get hold of a cobra through the iron bar of its cage and give it a big hug! The zookeeper will appear immediately with whisky.” The woman at the well had a mighty thirst, a thirst like that of these young guys for whiskey, a thirst so big that it led her through five husbands and who knows what else. And still she was thirsty — a thirst caused by the absence of God in her life. A meeting with Jesus gave her the living waters of friendship with Jesus and the anointing of the Spirit of God which restored her dignity and changed her life. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 3: Photeine, the Samaritan woman evangelist: Venerated as a saint among the Greek and Russian Orthodox and given the name Photeine (Greek) or Svetlana (Russian), which means radiant or shining (from the Greek noun phos or light), the woman at the well has been variously praised by Origen, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Teresa of Avila as: (1) an “apostle,” (2) one who “left her water pot at the well in order to go off and preach the Gospel,” (3) “the first apostle to the Gentiles who invited her neighbors to ‘Come and see’.” Legend has it that when the woman left Samaria to preach the Good News, she eventually made her way to Carthage in Africa where she was imprisoned for the Faith and died a martyr. Another legend, preserved in Spain, says that Photeine (also Photina) converted and baptized Nero’s daughter and 100 of her servants (Margaret Hebblethwaite, Six New Gospels, Cowley Publications, Boston: 1994). Fascinating legends and traditions notwithstanding, the woman of Shechem offers veteran believers and catechumens a living example of the dynamics and ramifications of Christian Baptism including: (1) the overture of God to the sinner 2) the sinner’s growing response in Faith and consequent conversion. (3) the mission of the disciple to proclaim the Good News to others. (Sanchez Archives). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: Today’s readings are centered on Baptism and new life. Today’s liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. Water represents God’s Spirit Who comes to us in Baptism. Baptism is the outward, symbolic sign of a deep Reality, the coming of God as a Force penetrating every aspect of a person’s life. The Spirit quenches our spiritual thirst. Just as water in the desert was life-giving for the wandering Israelites, the water of a true, loving relationship with Jesus is life-giving for those who accept him as Lord and Savior. We are assembled here in the Church to share in this water of eternal life and salvation. The Holy Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the Sacraments of God in the Church are the primary sources for the living water of Divine Grace. Washed in it at Baptism, renewed by its abundance at each Eucharist, invited to it in every proclamation of the Word, and daily empowered by the Spirit, we are challenged by today’s Gospel to remain thirsty for the living water which only God can give.
Scripture readings summarized: The first reading describes how God provided water to the ungrateful complainers of Israel, thus placing Jesus’ promise within the context of the Exodus account of water coming from the rock at Horeb. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 95), refers both to the Rock of our salvation and also to our hardened hearts. It reminds us that our hard hearts need to be softened by God through our grace-prompted and -assisted prayer, fasting and works of mercy which enable us to receive the living water of the Holy Spirit, salvation, and eternal life from the Rock of our salvation. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the Savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. In the Gospel, an unclean Samaritan woman is given an opportunity to receive living water. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus awakened in the woman at the well a thirst for the wholeness and integrity which she had lost, a thirst which He had come to satisfy. In revealing himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman, Jesus speaks to her of the fountain of water he will give — the life-giving waters of Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. Here is a woman who comes to Faith and becomes a missionary who brings others to Jesus. Jesus recognizes the gifts and ministries of women in his future Church. This is also a narrative about God wooing the outsider or, as Paul will say, “the godless.” The Samaritans, who were considered godless in general, in this town ended up confessing Jesus as the Savior of “the world.” This Gospel passage also gives us Jesus’ revelation about Himself as the Source of Living Water and teaches us that we need the grace of Jesus Christ for eternal life, because He is that life-giving water.
The first reading: Exodus 17:3-7, explained: Today’s Gospel gives us Jesus’ revelation of himself as the Source of Living Water. Hence, the passage chosen from Exodus tells of the Jews’ complaining about their thirst, a figure of human longing for God and spiritual satisfaction. The rock which Moses strikes represents God who gives the water (God’s own life), essential for our spiritual life. This reading shows us a time when God’s people literally thirsted, and God satisfied them. The Israelites had been slaves for several generations in Egypt, and for the most part, they had forgotten their ancestral religion and their God’s Covenant with their patriarch Abraham. Now their new leader, Moses, was telling them that their ancient Lord had at last heard their cries and was now leading their escape from Egypt back to their homeland. In spite of the mighty deeds God had done for their liberation from Egypt, the former slaves complained that in Egypt, at least they were not thirsty. It is astounding to see their lack of Faith.
The second reading: Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 explained: In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the Savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water, or the gift of the Holy Spirit, into our hearts. We need the Holy Spirit to sustain us spiritually, just as we need water to sustain us physically. Through Jesus, God gave us the Spirit when we were dying of thirst. Paul realized that he and all the Jews who kept the Law of Moses were trying to become justified on their own. But keeping the Law is not an adequate means of justification because we are unable to make ourselves worthy of God’s favor, whether by good works, by keeping the Commandments, by rituals or by prayers. The word grace, in this context, means the gratuitous, unearned, undeserved love and favor of God for us. By living water in today’s Gospel, Jesus is referring to this grace as a relationship with God and an active participation in His life. According to Paul, redemption or justification is the gratuitous gift of God manifested in Jesus’ saving death on the cross. By virtue of his death, Jesus has made just, or put in right relationship with God, every sinner who will appropriate His saving gifts by Faith. Faith, then, is the admission that one cannot justify oneself, and that it is God who will grant us justification by His grace.
Gospel exegesis: The conversion texts for Cycle A Gospel: Since each of the persons featured in the Gospels, e.g. the woman of Samaria (Lent III Sunday), the man born blind (Lent IV) and Lazarus (Lent V), is an example of conversion, their stories offer excellent catechesis for Lenten penitents and RCIA participants, and, hence, they were placed in the Lenten Sunday lectionary from the fourth century, where they have remained. Each of these Gospel texts also features the transforming love of Christ for those whom he calls to salvation; he is living water, light and sight for the blind, and the source of life for all who believe.
Jesus’ mission trip from Judea to Galilee: Palestine is only 120 miles long from north to south. Judea is in the extreme south, Samaria in the middle and Galilee in the extreme North. In order to avoid the controversy about baptism, Jesus decided to concentrate his ministry in Galilee. The usual route around Samaria, normally taken by the Jews to avoid the hated Samaritans, took six days. The shortcut (three days’ journey), from Judea to Galilee crossed through Samaria and, on the way to the town of Sychar, passed Jacob’s well. The well itself was more than 100 feet deep. It was located on a piece of land that had been bought by Jacob (Gn 33:18-19), and later bequeathed to Joseph (Gn 48:22).
Jesus’ encounter with an outcast sinner: Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat down by the well. When Jesus and his disciples reached the well, it was a hot midday, and Jesus was weary and thirsty from traveling. Ignoring the racial barriers and traditional hostility between Samaritans and Jews, Jesus sent his disciples to buy some food in the Samaritan town. It was at this point that a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. She had probably been driven away from visiting the common well in the town of Sychar at dawn by the other women of the town, as a moral outcast. It was this woman whom Jesus asked for water, and it is no wonder that she was surprised, because the petitioner was a Jew who hated her people as polluted outcasts and betrayers of Judaism. The scene recalls Old Testament meetings between future spouses at wells. Jacob meets Rebekah at the well of Haran, and Moses and Zipporah meet at a well in Midian.
The background history: The mutual hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans had begun centuries earlier when the Assyrians carried the northern tribes of Israel into captivity. The Jewish slaves betrayed their heritage by intermarrying with the Assyrians, thus diluting their bloodline and creating a “mongrel race” called the Samaritans. The Assyrian men who were relocated to Israel married Jewish women, thus producing a mixed race in Israel as well. Hence, southern Jews considered all Samaritan bloodlines and their heritage impure. By the time the Samaritan Jews returned to their homeland, their views of God had been greatly contaminated. By contrast, when the southern Hebrew tribes were carried off into captivity, they stubbornly resisted the Babylonian culture. They returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, proud that they had compromised neither their religious convictions nor their culture. So, when the Samaritans offered to help to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, the southern Jews who had returned from exile vehemently rejected Samaritan assistance. Consequently, the rejected and ostracized Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. But in 129 B.C. a Jewish General destroyed it, a slap in the face for Samaritan dignity that continued to sting for centuries, deepening the mutual scorn and hostility between Samaritans and Jews.
The Divine touch and conversion: So, the water-seeking Samaritan woman who faced Jesus that day belonged to a heritage rejected by the Jews. In addition, she expected scorn simply because she was a woman, for in the ancient Middle East, men systematically degraded women. Finally, this Samaritan woman seemed unwanted by her own people. Since she had had five “husbands,” and was living with a sixth “lover,” she seems to have been considered by fellow villagers a social leper, and she seems to have been driven from the common well of the town by the decent women. Perhaps she had not stopped wishing that somewhere, sometime, some way, God would touch His people — that He would touch her! Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well illustrates the principal role of Jesus as the Messiah: to reconcile all men and women to the Father. Hence, Jesus deliberately placed himself face-to-face with this person whom, apparently, no one else wanted. Jesus saw, in this social outcast and moral wreck, a person who mattered to God. The Samaritan woman must have unburdened her soul to this stranger because she had found one Jew with kindness in his eyes instead of an air of critical superiority. She was thirsting for love that would last, love that would fill her full and give purpose to her life. Just as Jesus confronted the woman at the well with the reality of her own sinfulness and brokenness, so we must, with God’s grace, confront our own sinfulness and, in doing so, realize our need for God.
The conversion leading to witnessing: Jesus not only talked with the woman, but, in a carefully orchestrated, seven-part dialogue, he guided her progressively from ignorance to enlightenment, and from misunderstanding to clearer understanding, thus making her the most carefully and intensely catechized person in this entire Gospel. Jesus always has a way of coming into our personal lives. When Jesus became personal with this woman and started asking embarrassing questions about her five husbands, she cleverly tried to change the subject and talk about religion. She didn’t want Jesus to get personal. But Jesus wanted to free her, forgive her, shape her life in a new direction, and change her. He wanted to offer this woman Living Water. [Scholars have debated as to precisely what Jesus meant when he referred to living water. As Raymond E. Brown has explained, there are two possibilities: living water means the revelation or teaching which Jesus came to give, and it also means the Spirit which Jesus bestows (The Gospel According to John, Anchor Bible, Vol. 29, Doubleday, New York: 1966).]The living water may refer to Baptism and the gift of the Spirit, the source of life. It may also refer to Jesus as the source of life. At the end of their long, heart-to-heart conversation, Jesus revealed himself to the woman as the Messiah, which in turn led her to Faith in him. This growth in understanding on the part of the woman moved through several stages: first, she called him a Jew, then Sir or Lord, then Prophet, and finally Messiah. When the Samaritans came to hear Jesus because of her testimony, their affirmation of Faith reached its climax as they declared that Jesus was the Savior of the world, and that they believed in him not just because of what she had said “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” Step-by-step Jesus had led the marginalized woman in her Faith journey, and her enthusiastic response, powerful personal testimony and brave witnessing with its dramatic results in her town, stand in dramatic contrast to Nicodemus’ hesitance (3:9), the crowd’s demand for proof (6:25-34) and the Pharisees’ refusal to acknowledge the hand of God in the healing of a blind man (9:24-34).
Life messages: 1) We need to allow Jesus free entry into our personal lives. A sign that God is active in our lives is His entering in to our personal, “private” lives. Jesus wants to “get personal” with us, especially during this Lenten season. Jesus wants to get into our “private” lives because we have a “private” personal life which is contrary to the will of God. Christ wishes to come into that “private” life, not to embarrass us, not to judge or condemn us, not to be unkind or malicious to us, but to free us, to change us, and to offer us what we really need: living water. The living water is God the Holy Spirit Who enters the soul of the woman through Jesus and his love. We human beings are composed of four parts: mind, body, emotions and spirit. When we let God, the Holy Spirit come into us and take control of our thinking, our physical activity, our emotions and our spirit, He can bring harmony to all four parts of our humanity, and so to the way we live. We can find this living water in the Sacraments, in prayer and in the Holy Bible.
2) We need to be witnesses to God’s work in us, just as the Samaritan woman was, proclaiming Jesus as God and Savior through our loving lives. Let us have the courage to “be” Jesus for others, especially in those “unexpected” places for unwanted people. Let us also have the courage of our Christian convictions to stand for truth and justice in our day-to-day life. Today, the invitation of the Samaritan women to “Come and see” reminds all thirsty sinners that we are daily called to be cleansed, taught, renewed and satisfied by Jesus’ great gift.
3) We need to be open to others and accept others as they are, just as Jesus did. We have been baptized into a community of Faith so that we may become one with each other as brothers and sisters of Jesus and as children of God. To live this oneness demands that we open ourselves to others and listen to one another. We need to provide the atmosphere, the room, for all to be honestly what they really are: the children of God. It is the ministry of Jesus that we inherit and share. Jesus did not allow the woman’s status, past, attitude, or anything else to obstruct his ability to love her. And loving her, he freed her and made her whole, made her the child of God she already was. Let us also open our hearts to one another and accept each other as God’s gifts to us. Thus, we shall experience resurrection in our own lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters.
4) We need to leave the “husbands” behind during Lent as the Samaritan woman did. Today’s Gospel message challenges us to get rid of our unholy attachments and the evil habits that keep us enslaved and idolatrous. Lent is the time to learn from our mistakes of over-indulgence in food, drink, drugs, gambling, promiscuity, or any other addiction that may keep us from coming to the living waters of a right relationship with God. We all have our short list, don’t we? And we all know, honest to God, what it is we need to leave behind before we come to the Living Water and the Bread of Heaven. Let us make an earnest attempt to do so during this Lenten season.
5) We need to turn to Jesus who loves us with non-judgmental, unconditional love: We all face moments when guilt plagues us; when we are upset for falling for the same temptations again and again; when we make choices that turn out to be all wrong; when our relationships with others fall in a heap; when we feel lonely, sick and tired of the way people are treating us; when we are depressed and upset and can’t see anything good in ourselves; when our Faith is at rock bottom and we feel as if the Church and religion aren’t doing anything for us; when we beat ourselves up for lack of enthusiasm to be true disciples of Jesus ready to do anything for him; when we survey the days that have gone by without a word of prayer; when all we feel is failure and defeat. During such moments it is great to read a story about Jesus and his love and acceptance of the woman at the well. Let us rest assured that Jesus is there to accept us warmly and help us to see that he will give us the strength and the power we need to overcome whatever it is that is grieving us.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
# 1: Anthony de Mello tells the story of the little girl who asks a boy, “Are you a Presbyterian?” He answers, “No, we belong to another abomination.”
# 2: Baptizing cow into fish for Lent: John Smith was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood. On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill. Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating
cold tuna fish for supper. This went on each Friday of Lent. On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided that something had to be done about John! He was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent, and they couldn’t take it anymore. They decided to try and convert John to Catholicism. They went over and talked to him and were so happy when he decided to join his neighbors and become a Catholic. After an intensive training in Catholic catechism they took him to their pastor and got him baptized and announced to him: “You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic.” The men were most relieved, that their biggest Lenten temptation had been resolved. The next year’s Lenten season rolled around. The first Friday of Lent came, and just at supper time, when the neighborhood was setting down to their tuna fish dinner, came the wafting smell of steak cooking on a grill. The neighborhood men could not believe their noses! WHAT WAS GOING ON? They called each other up and decided to meet over in John’s yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent. The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water. He was sprinkling some water over his steak on the grill, saying, “You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, but now you are a fish.”
Useful websites of the week
- Liberation theology: http://liberationtheology.org/,
- Most visited Catholic Websites: http://www.catholicchurch.org/cid/top40.html
- General Catholic Resources: http://www.everythingcatholic.com/1024/default.asp
- http://www.lentreflections.com/five-simple-ways-to-deepen-your-prayer-life/ (Lenten reflections by Fr. Robert Barron- text & video)
- http://www.lentreflections.com/five-simple-ways-to-deepen-your-prayer-life/ (Lenten reflections by Fr. Robert Barron- text & video)
- Text week sermon resources on Lent III(A): http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/jn4.htm
- YouTube presentation: https://youtu.be/zF7ma1yoLNk
- Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
- Roman breviary: https://breviary.net/login
1) “Here comes my friend, Douglass!” Carl Sandberg describes the firm stand that Abraham Lincoln took against racial prejudice. One particularly stirring drama unfolded on the night of Lincoln’s second Inaugural Ball. He had just delivered the blazing address in which he made famous the words, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work that we are in.” That evening in a White House reception room, Lincoln stood shaking hands with a long line of well-wishers. Someone informed him that Frederick Douglass was at the door, but security wouldn’t let him in because he was black. Lincoln broke off from high-level protocol and instructed security to bring Douglass to him, at once. The crowd of guests hushed as the great black leader appeared at the door. In a booming voice that filled the silence, Lincoln unashamedly announced, “Here comes my friend, Douglass!” And then turning to Douglass, Lincoln said, “I am glad to see you. I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my address. There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what you think of it.” Those who see and respect the rich human qualities in those individuals whom others reject blaze pioneer trails through thick jungles of bigotry. The next generation can walk on the paths made by such giants as Lincoln who drew inspiration from Jesus’ example and teaching! Today’s Gospel shows us Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman and social outcast, giving us a model to follow in this world. ((Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “The dawn is coming!” During those awful days following Dr. King’s assassination on Thursday, April 4, 1968, pandemonium broke out across America. The New York Times sent a reporter into Harlem to interview a prominent minister. He was asked what he was going to tell his people on the coming Sunday — Palm Sunday that year. The minister replied angrily, “I don’t know, but it won’t be about the love of Jesus.” But on that Palm Sunday, another pastor in another large city stood in his pulpit. His name was Martin Luther King, Sr. If anyone had a right to anger or despair or revenge, it was he. But Dr. King, Sr. declared, “The night is never so dark that you cannot see a star. Hold on. Keep the Faith. The dawn is coming!” Can we really get along? Yes, with the help of Jesus. Today’s Gospel presents the detailed dialogue between Jesus and an ostracized Samaritan woman, teaching us how to get along with those who are different, sharing with them the love of God. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) “Is there more than one way to Heaven?” Around the world of religion today, there are about 2 billion Christians, 1 billion Muslims, 750 million Hindus, 334 million Buddhists, 18 million Jews, and a growing number of people who declare no religious allegiance at all. Once upon a time, religious tolerance consisted of Baptists having a worship service with Methodists or a Protestant marrying a Roman Catholic. Now a Hindu may be your next-door neighbor or a Baha’i may be dating your daughter. All of us down deep in our hearts are trying to decide whether we love or hate Muslims. The religious marketplace has become complex. At the crossroads of Faith, we Christians must now consider our relationships with people of other religions. Tibetan leader, His Holiness Dalai Lama says, “All religions are essentially the same in their goal of developing a good human heart that we may become better human beings.” As the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well described in today’s Gospel becomes intimate, the woman creates distance by introducing a religious debate: “Is there more than one way to Heaven?” Jesus clarifies that He is the Messiah – the way, truth and life.(Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) A very special horse: St. Thomas Aquinas told of a man who heard about a very special horse and determined to have it for his own. He traveled all over the world. He spent his entire fortune. He gave his whole life to the search for this horse. At last, just moments before he died, he realized he had been riding on that very special horse all that time! You are searching for happiness, perhaps? Look no farther. Look no farther than your own heart. Open your heart to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. He will give you the living water he promised to the woman at the well. You need never thirst again.(Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5)”Water is life.” Mohandas Gandhi, India’s great Champion, proved to the whole world that a person can go without food for a long, long time – for weeks – but water is something else. I don’t know how long someone can live without water, but it isn’t very long. A baby who can’t keep down fluids will dehydrate and die in just a few days. Adults last only slightly longer. The only life-sustaining substance that we need more frequently than water is air. Water, then, is essential to life. In one sense, water is life. Where there is no water, there is no life. Cactuses and camels and gnarled trees and grasses of the desert can adapt to conditions of low water, but there isn’t any living thing on this earth that can adapt to no water. “Water is life.” Lack of water is death. To be thirsty is to stare death in the eye. It’s no wonder that Jesus turned water and thirst into spiritual teachings as he sat there by Jacob’s well, that ancient and sacred place for quenching thirst. If thirst of the body is the very taste of death, then thirst of the soul is the very picture of spiritual despair. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Life-giving water: Almost 30 years ago, Hurricane Andrew (1992) devastated southern Florida. Houses were leveled, trees were uprooted, and human lives were severely disturbed. To cope with this chaos, the National Guard was called out to restore a semblance of order and to respond to immediate human needs. One of the first things the Guard did in the midst of people whose lives had been devastated by water and wind was to supply clean drinking water. In the midst of so much loss, clean drinking water was absolutely necessary to sustain health and life. You may recall the image of a National Guardsman standing next to a tanker dispensing clean drinking water to those who were victimized by Hurricane Andrew. In 1994, we saw the same scene in Rwanda, where thousands died of cholera until the UN could get America and other nations to set up clean water systems to supply life-giving water to the dying. Do we go to Jesus, who alone can satisfy our thirst, as our fountain of water springing up to eternal life? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) “God will not let you stumble or fall.” One of the commencement traditions at Harvard University is Senior Class Chapel. On the morning of graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave “the Yard” to take their places in the world. The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible, including The Good Book and Sermons. In his gentle ringing tones, that call to mind a cross between a Shakespearean actor and the TV sitcom character Frasier, the inimitable Doctor Gomes took no prisoners as he began: “You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren’t ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and,” – and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis – “you know just – how – dumb – you – really – are.” The senior class cheered in agreement. “And worse than that,” Doctor Gomes continued, “the world – and your parents in particular – are going to expect that you will be among the brightest and best. But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That’s a fact – no exceptions, no extensions.” “Nevertheless, there is reason to hope,” Doctor Gomes promised. “The future is God’s gift to you. God has not brought you this far to this place to abandon you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical. Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid.” What Doctor Gomes did for the senior class at Harvard, Jesus does for the woman at the well described in today’s Gospel. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) “Well, we never gave pamphlets to people.” Bruce Larsen, in his book, Ask Me to Dance, includes the story of a member of his congregation who had come from another country. Pastor Larsen said of this person, “Her Faith sparkled, and the living water of the Spirit flowed out of her soul to all around her.” He invited her to go with him to a seminar on the topic of evangelism. The leaders had prepared tables filled with all sorts of pamphlets and strategies and demographic studies, all aimed at reaching the un‑churched in their area. At some point during the program the leaders turned to this woman and asked her to share some of the reasons that made the Church so important and so vital in her home country. At first, she was a bit intimidated by the crowds, but then she had this to say, “Well, we never gave pamphlets to people because we never had any. We just showed people by our life and example what it is like to be a Christian, and when they can see for themselves, then they want to be a Christian, too.” (Cited by Rev. Judith Carrick, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/6087_61962_ENG_HTM.htm) That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? After her encounter with the Master, the Samaritan woman passed the test for being an effective Christian witness. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) “I want to be that finger.” The highly esteemed theologian Karl Barth had a painting of the crucifixion on the wall of his study that was painted by the artist Matthias Grunewald. In the painting there is an image of John the Baptist. The artist portrayed John the Baptist pointing his finger to the cross of Jesus in the center of the painting. It’s said that when Barth would talk with a visitor about his work, he would direct them to John the Baptist in the painting, and he would say, “I want to be that finger.” Barth wanted to point people to Christ. (Jeremy Troxler, http://faithandleadership.com/sermons/coming-soon). Pointing people to Christ is our most important task as His people. This is properly referred to as evangelization, sharing with others the love of Jesus Christ. Today’s message is about one of the most effective evangelists who ever lived. But this evangelist had a shady past. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) Water-bearers and water-sharers: Centuries ago, a waterman used to carry water from the river to the king’s palace in two earthen pots – one perfect, another cracked – and was paid according to the amount of water he brought. Unfortunately, the waterman was poorly paid since much water leaked through his cracked pot. Dejected, the cracked-pot cried, “Master, I’m cracked and bring you less money. Discard me!” The waterman replied, “No! Watch carefully!” Then, he took the two pots back to the river, filled them, and told the cracked pot to look at the pathway on its side. The cracked pot was surprised to see beautiful flowers beneath it. “See that?” explained the waterman, “I knew you’re a cracked-pot, so I sowed seeds along the way. You’ve sprayed water on them and made the king’s pathway beautiful!” Like the king’s waterman, today’s readings describe water-bearers. Two of them, Moses and Jesus bring water to the thirsty. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) Lessons from Noah’s Ark: There’s an anonymous e-mail making the rounds that says “Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark…” 1. Don’t miss the boat. 2. Remember that we’re all in the same boat. 3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark. 4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big. 5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done. 6. Build your future on high ground. 7. For the sake of safety, travel in pairs. 8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs. 9. When you’re stressed, float a while. 10. Remember the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals. 11. No matter the storm, when you’re with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting. God promised Noah that there would never again be a world-devastating Divine deluge. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus offers the ultimate soul-saturating drink–a living, vital relationship with God made possible by Christ’s own sacrifice. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) “I hope you won’t lose sight of me in the crowd. Amen.” There was a cartoon I saw some time back, which showed a little boy kneeling by his bed saying his bedtime prayers. He prayed: “As you know, God, Monday is the first day of school. I hope you won’t lose sight of me in the crowd. Amen.” Then he climbs in bed, thinks for a minute, and then crawls out again and adds to his prayer: “Oh, and by the way God, I’ll be the one wearing the red shorts and a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt.” Like this little boy, the woman in the passage for today needed someone to see her. She had lost sight of her own life and was sure that God had, too. She was thirsty beyond measure and needed to drink deeply of what only God can offer. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) E. T. is one of the most successful movies of all time. It is about an extra-terrestrial creature who heals cuts with the touch of his finger, raises dead flowers to life, and who himself is raised from the dead before he departs from the earth, his spaceship leaving a rainbow in the sky. I would guess that millions of people who had never entered the door of a Church flocked to E.T. and were moved by it. They were searching for a source of hope. They were looking for a model of themselves as people who are loved by a Power that will not let them go even in their darkness. Today’s Gospel tells us about a Samaritan woman who was looking for God to quench her thirst.(Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) Ingrid Bergman on Ed Sullivan’s show: Some of you are old enough to remember when Ingrid Bergman was invited by Ed Sullivan to appear on his program, The Toast of the Town. This was around 1958. For our younger members, Ed Sullivan’s show was one of the leading programs on television in those days long ago. Bergman had left her husband and had borne a child to her lover. Now here is what is interesting: When it was announced that Bergman was going to be on the Sullivan show, such a public clamor arose that Sullivan had to rescind his invitation to her. Can you imagine that in light of what is allowed on television today? There has been a definite change in the moral climate in our society. Even in Evangelical Christian circles, it is not unusual to find young adults living together without benefit of wedlock. Meanwhile, the number of unwed mothers is soaring. We think we invented this new amorality. We did not. It has been around since recorded history. All we’ve done in our society today is to make it semi-respectable. But in Jesus’ time, things were a little different. There were still laws on the books that prescribed that the adulteress be stoned to death. So you can imagine how surprised this Samaritan woman was that a man of Jesus’ piety and stature had any dealing with her at all, not only because she was a woman but also because she was not a “nice” woman. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) “Some things are just too important not to share.” A Mercedes-Benz TV commercial shows one of their cars colliding with a concrete wall during a safety test. Someone then asks a Mercedes engineer why their company does not enforce their patent on their car’s energy-absorbing car body. The Mercedes’ design has been copied by almost every other car maker in the world in spite of the fact that Mercedes-Benz has an exclusive patent. The engineer replies in a clipped German accent, “Because in life, some things are just too important not to share.” [Jim Wideman, Illustration Digest, (Mar-Apr 1992).] As Christians we believe that the Good News of Jesus Christ is one of those things that is too important not to share. The work of sharing the news of Jesus Christ we call evangelization. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus shared the Good News of God’s forgiveness and love with a sinful woman. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) “Would you read the 23rd Psalm?” Sociologist and evangelical Christian Tony Campolo tells a powerful story about a friend who’s a pastor of a Church in Brooklyn, in a run-down, beat-up area of the city. This friend got a telephone call one day from the local funeral director who said that he had a funeral that nobody wanted to take. None of the ministers in the area wanted anything to do with this funeral. The man had died of AIDS. This friend, Jim, took the funeral. Tony Campolo asked Jim, “What was it like?” Jim said that when he got there, there were about 30 homosexual men. They never looked up at him. Their heads were down and they stared at the floor the whole time he spoke. After the funeral service was over, they got into the waiting automobiles and went out to the cemetery. He stood on one side of the grave with the undertaker and the homosexual men stood on the other side. They were frozen in place like statues. They seemed to be motionless. Not a nerve or sinew moved as he read Scripture and prayed. They lowered the body into the grave and Jim pronounced the benediction. He turned to leave and then he realized that none of them were moving. He turned back and asked, “Is there anything more I can do?” One of the men said, “Yes. They always read the 23rd Psalm at these things and you didn’t do that. Would you read the 23rd Psalm?” Jim said, “Certainly.” And he did. Another man spoke up and he said, “There is a passage in the 3rd chapter of John which says that the spirit of God goeth where it leadeth and you cannot tell on whom the spirit of God falls. Could you read that passage?” And he did. And then one of the men said, “Would you read to me and to all of us that passage that talks about the love of God, that nothing can separate us from the love of God?” And Jim said, “I turned to these homosexual men and I said quite simply this, ‘Neither height nor depth nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, neither life nor death, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’” Jim said nothing was more thrilling than to say to these men, who had been so ostracized and hurt by the Church, that God still loved them and that nothing could separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (30 Good Minutes, Chicago Sunday Evening Club, 2006, http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/campolo_5001.htm) Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus reached out to a sinful Samaritan woman. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) “We are the Samaritan woman”: Rev. Randall D. Bell tells a powerful story about a pastor who stood in court beside a member of his congregation–an individual who had been “out with the boys,” and had had too much to drink. As he was driving home on the rain‑soaked streets and through the dense fog, he turned a corner and heard a sickening clash of metal and breaking glass. Two young people lay dead. They had been thrown from their motorcycle. He was charged with manslaughter and driving under the influence. He sat in court trembling after days of testimony. The judge was about to speak. It could mean years of prison, loss of job, and poverty for his family. The judge spoke: The test for drunkenness had not been properly done; the motorcycle had no proper lights; the jury was ordered to render a not guilty verdict. All that was ominous, and foreboding was now gone. He was a free man. The court declared him “not guilty.” His family kissed him–they could go on with their life, all because he had been declared innocent. Then Rev. Bell adds these words, “Now maybe this story and the way it ended angers you, because you hurt over those young people who were killed. But know this–you and I are that man. His story is our story. We are the sinner who finds himself in the presence of God the Eternal Judge.” (http://www.clcaugustamo.org/sermons/August%2021_2005.html.) You see, not only are we blinded by our prejudices against people like the Samaritan woman with her unseemly lifestyle, we are also blinded to the fact that we are the Samaritan woman. We, too, have fallen short of the grace of God, but the Hand of Grace is reached out to us as well. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) Dare to be different: Dare to be different in all walks of your life. Dare to stand-alone. Dare to stand up for your convictions, even if the crowd around you may move in another way. Dare to be a fool for the sake of Christ. With the Word of God and power of the Spirit, dare to be a Crusader for Christ. Dare to follow the footsteps of our Heavenly Father. Dare to take up the cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads you. Dare to be a real Christian with a strong backbone. Dare to say “no” to momentary pleasures that the world has to offer. Dare to tell others about your Heavenly Dad. Dare to stand for holiness, purity, and sanctity as a dove, no matter what it takes (Judy Sara Mathew). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) Doing the impossible: An incredible story of determination and success is reported about Musa Alami, an Arab gentleman educated at Cambridge. He made the Judean desert to blossom like a rose. He went beyond Jordan to the edge of Jericho to the great, bleak, arid desert of Jordan Valley. With the exception of few oases, nothing had been cultivated in this hot and weary land. Everyone said that nothing could be cultivated because no water could be brought to this place. “What about tapping the underground water,” asked Musa. Everyone laughed aloud and said, “Has anyone heard of such a thing in this desert?” There was no water under that hot desert and for ages it was covered by the Dead Sea water; and now the sand was full of salt, which further added to its aridity. Musa Alami decided that he could find water there. A few poverty-stricken refugees from the nearby Jericho refugee Camp helped him in the digging. They dug, not with any drilling-equipment, but with pickaxe and shovels. Day after day, month after month they dug. For six months they dug, then one day the sand beneath was wet, and finally sweet water gushed forth. The Arabs who had gathered there, did not cheer, but wept. Water had been found in the ancient desert! (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Finding our own well: Once, there was a woman who had to make a daily trip of a mile to draw water from a public well. Over the years she grew weary of the journey. No matter how much water she brought home, she always ended up with an empty container. Then one day she was doing some work in her own garden when in a remote corner she came upon a large flagstone lying on the ground. The flagstone was completely covered with moss. Her curiosity flared up. She cleared away the moss then removed the flagstone to discover a lovely well. She was thrilled. Never again would she have to make that tiresome journey to the public well. She now had an unfailing source of water of her own. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holyday Liturgies).
21) Barriers erected to prevent abuse: Some of you may be familiar with George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. It’s a bit like a fairy tale but it’s really a comment about a certain political regime. It contains a story of how the animals on a farm oust Farmer Jones and his family and take over the farm. They want a better life and start off with the grand vision that all animals are equal, and that all property is shared. Soon the pigs take control and one of them, Napoleon, becomes the leader of all the animals. He is tyrant. Equality amongst the animals is out, and the pigs use and abuse the rest of the animals on the farm. The pigs use the other animals for their own purposes and discard them if they are no longer useful. Most of us know what it’s like to feel used and abused by others. We have the best intentions and try our best to be helpful but all we have done is taken for granted and we are discarded like a used Kleenex. It is a well-known fact that when people feel they have been used and abused and their good nature exploited they become suspicious, bitter and cautious for fear of being hurt again. Barriers are erected, relationships shunned, because they never want to be used and abused again. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus lifts such a barrier of prejudice to save a sinful woman. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) Cornea donated transformed a child’s life: Their daughter sees today because of a cornea transplant. Their joy is tempered by the realization that the cornea belonged to another nine-year old killed in an auto accident. The deceased child’s family finds some peace in knowing that a part of their daughter will live on — and the recipient family is transformed by what they have received. Not only a physical piece but the deceased child’s generosity and selflessness live on, as well, in the recipient’s family’s new dedication to advocacy work on behalf of organ donation. For the evangelist John, today’s Gospel is not just about a sinful woman reconciled to God by Jesus, but about a woman who is so transformed by her encounter with Jesus that she becomes a witness for his reconciling presence in the midst of her people. We have all experienced such grace, such generosity, such compassion that changes our perspective and approach to life — we embrace the Goodness that has embraced us; we become vehicles of the Compassion and Grace that has blessed our lives. (Connection). (Fr. Tony-http://frtonyshomilies.com/(L/20)
23) What is water? What am I thirsting for? In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller wrote of the ways in which her teacher, Annie Sullivan, led her as a child out of the dark world in which her deafness and blindness had imprisoned her. “I remember the morning that I first asked the meaning of the word, Love. This was before I knew many words… (My Teacher) tried to kiss me but at that time I did not like to have anyone kiss me except my mother. Miss Sullivan put her arm gently round me and spelled into my hand, I LOVE Helen. ‘What is love?’ I asked. She drew me closer to her and said, ‘It is here,’ pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious of for the first time…’You cannot touch love, but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy.’…” (J. Maurus in Source Book of Inspiration; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
24) He came cursing: The former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once described a visit he had made to a part of the Moslem world that segregates women much as was done in Judea 2,000 years ago. One evening as Douglas was talking with two Moslem women, the husband of one of the women arrived on the scene. He came cursing. “His face was livid,” said Douglas. “He lunged at his wife with closed fist, hit her on the side of the face, and knocked her to the ground.” Later the husband came to apologize to Mr. Douglas, but not for his own behavior. Amazingly he apologized for his wife’s conduct. He hoped Mr. Douglas would not think too badly of his wife for what she had done. What was his wife’s “disgraceful” conduct? She had spoken to Douglas. [Henri Cormier, The Humor of Jesus (New York: Alba House, 1977).] It’s no wonder that when the woman in today’s Gospel met Jesus, she was shocked that he would talk to her. (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
25) “MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR GOD, THE LIVING GOD!” It is said that some years ago a vessel sailing on the northern coast of the South American continent was observed to make signals of distress. When hailed by another vessel, they reported themselves as “Dying for water!” “Dip it up then,” was the response. “You are in the mouth of Amazon river.” There was fresh water all around them, and they had nothing to do but to dip it up, and yet they were dying of thirst because they thought themselves surrounded by sea water. — People are often ignorant of God and without His Word. How sad that they should perish for lack of knowledge! During this Lenten Season, we are challenged to come to the well and meet Jesus there. He will give us living water, which is water that does not run out because it grows from within, and it quenches our deepest thirst – the thirst for God – “My soul thirsts for God, the living God!” And this is the Good News of today. (Fr. Lakra). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
26) Jesus the source of “Living Water.” It never ceases to amaze me that my body is composed of seventy percent water. It is hard to imagine that seventy percent of the flesh standing before you today is water. That means about 154 pounds of water is standing before you right now. I am not going to tell you what I weigh but I can guarantee you that 70% of my body weight and your body weight is composed of water. There are two and a half quarts of water in my blood. There are fifteen quarts of water in the extra plasma in my body. There are thirty quarts of water in the cells of my body, allowing all those little cells to grow. It always amazes me that 154 pounds of water are standing before you today at this moment. Truly, I am living water. Some people say that I am a bag of wind. Others say that I am a bag of hot air. But I am really a bag of water. I am a great big bag of water. Standing before you today is walking, breathing, living water. I am truly living water. Water is important to my diet It amazes me that I cannot live without water, that water is more important to my diet than food. It amazes me that I can exist for thirty days without food, but I can exist only one to four days without water. I cannot live without water. It amazes me how absolutely necessary water is for by body to exist. Likewise, it always amazes me that during my first nine months of life, I was in the water of my mother’s womb. I began in a bag of living water. I lived as a fetus for nine months in my mother’s womb. I could not live without that water surrounding me and in me. Truly, as a fetus, I was surrounded by living water. The water around me was truly the water of life. The bag of water around you as a fetus and me as a fetus was living water. Water is part of our everyday life. Water is part of our essential life. It is with these images that we hear the great words of Jesus when he says, “The water I give is living water. Whoever drinks of the water I give will never thirst. He who believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. The rivers of living water I give will become a spring of living water, welling up into eternal life.” (Rev. Edward F. Markquart). (Fr. Tony– http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 22) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604