19 March 20173 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: We Can Be Better

The Third Sunday of Lent presents the long Gospel account of the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan Woman at a well. I usually have to prepare a homily based on this Gospel every year since this is the Gospel for Masses with catechumens and candidates coming into the Church in the RCIA experience. But this is such a rich Gospel that I am still finding new aspects of it that preach to me. Then again, all scripture is alive, the Living Word of God.

I am struck this year by two questions that are new to me: the first is, "Why did this woman make such a radical change so quickly" The second question is, "Why did the townsfolk emphasize that their reason for faith had shifted from what the woman said to what Jesus was saying"

The first question. When Jesus encountered the woman, He broke the normal practice of Jews and ask her, a Samaritan, for assistance. A conversation follows between the two which seems to have a lot of give and take:

"I am shocked that you are asking me for water."
"If you knew who was asking you, you would ask him for water that would quench your thirst for eternity"

There's even a discussion on who's correct in the theology department: the Jews who worship in Jerusalem or the Samaritans who worship on the Holy Mountain. And so forth.

In the middle of all this, Jesus says something to the woman that causes her to allow him to change her life. He told her that He knew she was living with a man outside of marriage, and that she had been married five times before this. He told her that He knew she had been immoral and was continuing her sinful ways.

This caused the woman to change her life. Why? It doesn't make sense that a Samaritan woman would be so impressed with the accusations of a Jewish man. There must be more to this. Jesus' tone must have conveyed His concern for her. She must have felt that she was being addressed as a person, not as an object of scorn by Jews or even by men in general. Jesus' tone must have said to her, "My dear woman, you can be better than this.â?? He speaks to her heart and her heart turns to Him.

You can be better than this. Recently that phrase has been bouncing inside my head, not just as something I say to others, but as something I say to myself. I can be better this. I can be better than an immoral society that sees sex as a recreation and morality as a trite vestige of the past. I can be better than a society that seeks fulfillment in material possessions and condemns itself to the meaningless acquisition of stuff.

Perhaps, the problem is that I (and you) tend to see sin as either mortal or superficial fluff. So, if we haven't committed a mortal sin, we think that we are not that bad and we don't see the weight our behavior lays on ourselves, or on others. We don't see the pain we are inflicting on the Body of Christ because, after all we just stubbed its toe; we didn't amputate its foot. Maybe some of the reasons why I am not better is that I have not really tried hard to be better. Maybe, it's the same with you. Perhaps that temper, that lack of patience, that bad language on the road, etc, that we bring to reconciliation quickly pops up again because we are not convinced that we can be better than we have been. Perhaps, if we are involved in serious sin, we don't go to confession because we have given up the fight and feel that we will not be able to avoid the sin in the future. Maybe we are selling ourselves short.

Jesus transformed the woman at the well because He was concerned about her. He wanted her to be the best person she could be. He told her that she could do it. And she heard His message screaming to her in her heart. She determined to change her life and then wanted to shout out to the world that she had an experience of the Messiah.

That is why we seek penance during Lent. That's why we go to confession throughout the year. We know that Jesus loves us. We know that He cares for each of us individually. We know that He sees the bumps and bruises of our lives that we impose upon ourselves and others. He doesn't condone our sins, be they big or little. He hurts for us. He wants us to be better. And His Love transforms us. We want to be better because we also want to have a constant experience of the Messiah's love.

That brings me to the second question: Why did the townsfolk switch their reasons for faith from the woman they knew to this Jew? They saw that the woman had changed, and for the first time that she was happy. They wanted a share in this happiness themselves and thought that she must be right in what she was saying about this Jew. But then they experienced Jesus. Now the woman became secondary to them. Jesus was all that mattered. They allowed the words of the Word of God to change their lives. They believed and followed not because of what someone had said about Jesus, but because of Jesus.

It is not what the preacher says about Jesus that matters. It is not what the writer writes about Jesus that matters. All that matters is Jesus Christ. We are not followers of Apollos, or Paul, or this priest, or that deacon. We are followers of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ tells us that we can be better than we are.

He makes us want to be better than we are. His overpowering love gives us the courage to change our lives and to embrace His Life. The blood that poured from his wounds on the cross has ignited our bodies with the fire of his Love.

"You can be better than this." He says to us in the tender, warm voice of Love.
And we will be better.
Happy Lent.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Lent
Best Lent Ever Week 3: A Good Listener
(March 19, 2017)
Message: As human beings we thirst for a good listener: someone to whom we can reveal our true self - a thirst only God can satisfy.
We just heard the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. It ties in with what we've learned so far this Lent - the Best Lent Ever: prayer, fasting and almsgiving; conversation with God and life-changing habits. We saw how 10 minutes of silence with God - listening to him - can make all the difference. Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman teaches something profound about listening.

That's the question for this week: What does it mean to be a good listener - with loved ones and with God? As Matthew Kelly observes in Resisting Happiness, "Most people think they are good listeners...But compared to what?" He then gives 6 ways to become a better listener. I'll let you read them - in chapter 20. Today we see the best listener - Jesus! Of course, Jesus is God, but in his humanity he models focused listening - so much so that the Samaritan woman exclaims, "He told me everything I have done."

Jesus fulfills her deepest desire - to open her heart and not hold back anything. For sure she thirsts for ordinary water but much more for living water - acceptance by one who knows everything she has done.

You and I should bring that thirst to our prayer. In Jesus the Bridegroom, Brant Pitre says, "like the Samaritan woman, we've got to come clean about our past. We have to own up to our sin, to be truthful about who we are and tell him how many gods we have chased."

Why can God alone satisfy our thirst? Here's the reason: the thirst we bring to prayer is nothing compared with the thirst God has for us. St. Augustine says that the woman could not thirst for God unless he was already thirsting for her faith. Mother Teresa - St. Teresa of Calcutta - told her sisters to place next to the chapel crucifix these two words: I thirst.

That's the message for the third week of the Best Lent Ever. As human beings we thirst for a good listener - someone to whom we can reveal our true self. In the end only God can satisfy that thirst - because he thirsts for your salvation and mine. Use your Mass Journal now to write one idea that will help you in your daily 10 minutes of silence with God. I conclude with these words from the Catechism. "Prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent, Classic
John 4: 5-42

Gospel Summary
It is high noon when Jesus stops to rest by the well of Jacob. His revelation about life-giving water will provide a light that challenges the sun. When he asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is amazed that he seems so unaware of how things really are. Does he not know about the human conventions that have condemned her to social invisibility? After all, women were supposed to be ignored in public and she was also a despised Samaritan. How can Jesus be so out of touch? When Jesus answers her, we discover that it is she who is out of touch. For she does not know about the "gift of God" that Jesus offers a gift that is as refreshing and enlivening as bubbling, cool spring water, and thus so much better than the stale, stagnant well water on which she has been trying to survive. The woman's eyes must have sparkled as Jesus awakened in her the dream of a life of freedom and dignity. "Sir, give me this water." We learn about the nature of this "living water" a bit later when the woman asks Jesus whether it is better to worship in Jerusalem or on the Samaritan Mt. Gerizim. Jesus defers to Jerusalem but adds immediately that such considerations are no longer relevant. What counts now is to welcome the Spirit who can transform the hearts of people by enabling them to experience the ultimate truth of God's love for them. Religious places and rituals remain important but only insofar as they lead to this experience of God's love made manifest in one's personal union with Christ.

Life Implications
It is all too easy for most of us to identify with the Samaritan woman when she experienced life as often unfair and unjust, that is, as stale well water. Many powerful human institutions conceal systemic injustice in the sense that opportunities and rewards are too often provided on the basis of connections rather than of ability or merit. Even those who benefit from such arrangements will sense the lack of that joy that comes from a life where love is more important then security. To shrug off injustice as simply "the way things are" is to be condemned to the half-life of stagnant well water. Today's gospel invites us to dream about the possibility of a world where opportunity and hope replace the bondage of fear and despair. God really does not want us to live a life of quiet desperation. Jesus has come to reveal the Father's love and the Spirit is ready to convince us of that fact. The Spirit of Jesus whispers constantly to us: "If you only knew the gift of God" Our eyes too can sparkle as we dare to imagine a world, at least within our hearts, where the experience of God's invincible love becomes a source of refreshing, life-giving water to quench our thirst for goodness and justice. In order to avoid a cynical attitude toward life, we need to realize that the Holy Spirit wants us to redeem our own little corner of the world. We do not need to be a Messiah, but we do need to inject some messianic hope into the area of life that we can influence. The conversion of the world begins with the conversion of a kitchen or a dining room or a workplace. If each one of us would do that, the larger world would soon become what God intended it to be a place where justice blossoms and where love bears wonderful fruit.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Third Sunday of Lent, Modern
Sunday, March 19, 2017
John 4: 5 - 42

Very often we go to God the Father seeking help in our various needs. In the Gospel today we learn what the Father is seeking. This revelation takes place during a very unlikely encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well. It is unlikely because of the deep animosity that existed between the Jews and Samaritans. In Matthew's Gospel there is the account of the Samaritan Village that would not even permit Jesus and his Apostles to stay there because they were on their way to Jerusalem. In this Gospel Jesus and his apostles stop at the well and the only one there is a woman getting water. It is commonly thought that the reason why she was there alone is that because of having been married five times she was despised by the village, and would go at a time when no one would be there to harass her. This particular day she encounters Jesus, and she notices that he is a Jew and no doubt expects him to speak disrespectfully to her because she is a Samaritan. Instead he humbles himself and asks her for water. She is amazed at this and she and Jesus enter into a conversation in which Jesus tells her of the life-giving water that God desires her to drink. It is at this point that Jesus tells her about true worshipping, and that it is such people who the Father seeks to Worship Him.

The question we are compelled to ask ourselves is, "are we true worshippers?" Jesus amplifies the statement by telling us that true worshippers worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. The gift of the Spirit is one that enables us to pray, but worshipping in Spirit is much more than this. It is the Spirit of God dwelling within us, and not our own spirit. It is the Spirit of God that brings truth into our lives so that our worship is in the Holy Spirit and the Truth of Christ. We are transformed and see Jesus in a different light. He is our Lord and Savior, the one who gives us life-giving water, and eternal life. When we live in Spirit and Truth it is difficult to contain within us the joy of God's love and presence. It comes forth from us in numerous ways, both intentional and unintentional. The woman Jesus met at the well was transformed from the sinner who was an outcast to a missionary who wasted no time in telling the rest of the village about her encounter with Jesus. This happened very quickly and the Spirit and Truth were so evident that those who despised her came to follow her to meet Jesus. The hearts of the Samaritans were changed and they went from being people who did not welcome Jesus, to a village that begged him to stay. He did, and more and more of the people came to believe that Jesus is Savior of the World.

When we live Worship in Spirit and Truth our lives are transformed. We might go out with the intention of inviting others to experience the Lord. Our personal testimonies do not have to be long and complex, but can be simple sharing of how blessed we are by God. When we are living in Spirit and Truth even our regular everyday conversations reveal to those around us that there is something different about us. Maybe, it is a new sense of peace, an inner joy that others notice, or a confidence in speaking about God. May we become what the Father desires us to be, worshippers in Spirit and Truth, and may we allow him to transform us.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Lent
Third Sunday of Lent Homily
by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The Gospel today is the wonderful account of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well as recorded in the Gospel of John. It is a well-crafted story with multiple layers of meaning. Several times in it there are misunderstandings and double meanings from which unfold many different layers of relevance.

Let us take the theme of thirst since it is also what the first reading is about. We read there how Moses struck the rock at Massah and Meribah and of the miraculous flow of water that resulted.

The Samaritan woman is at Jacob's Well presumably looking for water, and so we understand that she is thirsty; but it is soon revealed that she thirsts not just for water but for knowledge. She wants to know the deeper meaning of life; she wants insight too into the life of faith.

But it was rather unusual for a lone woman to be at such a well in the middle of the day and even more unusual for her to engage a single man in conversation. These circumstances suggest that she might be at the well for another purpose; perhaps for an assignation. The likelihood of her bad reputation is underlined when we eventually hear that she has had five husbands.

Here at the well on that auspicious day she meets a man, yes, but more than a man, for she meets the Lord of Life himself. She meets the only one who can forgive her sins, in fact she meets someone who knows her motives and actions better than she does herself. But he does not sit in judgement on her, he does not condemn; instead he teaches her that salvation is at hand and that it is available to all whether they are saint or sinner, man or woman, Jew or Samaritan.

Going back to the beginning of the story, this woman comes to the well because she is thirsty but it is Jesus who asks her for a drink. He then proceeds to talk about the gift of living water that will well up to everlasting life.

The word he uses for gift, in Greek area' exclusively refers to divine bounty which means that this living water that he is talking about has a very special character indeed. We Christians understand without being told that he is referring to the waters of Baptism.

The woman then asks for this living water but still she is confused and thinks that this living water is for the slaking of a merely physical thirst. When Jesus refers to her five husbands she realises that he is a prophet but then he reveals himself to be not just a prophet but the Messiah in person.

Before she can even express her amazement the Disciples of Jesus return and express their surprise that he is talking to a woman of questionable virtue at that hour of the day. The misunderstandings continue when the Disciples offer Jesus food and he talks about the food that they do not know about and goes into a kind of poem about the readiness of the world for the arrival of the Messiah.

The villagers then appear and believe in him firstly on the strength of the woman's testimony, but then because they experience for themselves that he is indeed the one true Saviour of the World.

The Samaritan Woman is in fact the first missionary in the Gospel of John. For all their faithfulness and their presence at the miracles and teaching of Jesus the Apostles lag well behind. Here in one conversation, even though it is full of misunderstandings, she gets the message and comes to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. And it is through her witness that the other villagers come also to believe in him.

The lesson for us here is that we must understand that this is our role too: to be a missionary, a witness to others that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour of the World. We must never neglect this task, we must realise that when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation we were specifically commissioned to bring the Good News of salvation to the whole world.

We know these things, we realise that this is our task and yet so often we fall down on the job. We frequently fail to ever speak about Jesus or his message that is so vital for the world.

Even in our own families matters of faith can be taboo. We might go to mass every Sunday but as soon as a religious topic comes up it is as if we were struck dumb. We fail to discuss matters of religion in our families, in a safe environment, and so it inevitably becomes that much more difficult to do so in a more hostile situation.

The problem is that because we don't talk about the faith at home we find that over a period of time we have lost the vocabulary. Then when we are put on the spot at work or in a social situation we find that we don't have the right words and so we just clam up and keep our mouths shut. We find that we are afraid to speak out because we don't have the right words to say.

So, I strongly encourage you to talk about the faith at home. Even if like that Woman at the Well there are many misunderstandings please do persevere because only then will you have the right words when you really need them.

On Friday mornings after mass we have a group that gets together to discuss the Sunday readings. It could be that coming along to that meeting might be something that you could find useful. It might help you to find the right vocabulary to discuss the scriptures and to explore matters of religion.

I'm not here to advertise but joining this group could be very helpful. I know that those few who do come find it to be something which enriches their faith.
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