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3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A – Homily

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A
Exodus 17:3-7
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 (8)
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42
March 15, 2020

After God set them free from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites found themselves in the desert thirsting for water.  Water is not just a want, it is a need.  They grumbled to Moses, who in turn “cried out to the LORD.”

God answered their need by having water flow from a rock struck by Moses.  God did this not just to provide for his people in their physical needs but also for their spiritual needs, showing that He was in their midst.

Our gospel reading picks up the theme of water as an earthly drink but then Jesus takes it to a spiritual level. 

Jesus finds himself alone at the well about noon.  While He is there, a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  “Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.””

She is astounded He would ask for a drink.  She recognizes him as a Jew and knows the “Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.”  She also knew that in those days, men did not talk with a woman alone.

Jesus responds by beginning to take the conversation to a spiritual level.  He said, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked and he would have giving you living water.” 

In offering her “living water”, He speaks of more than physical water but she hasn’t realized that.  She is still thinking in terms of physical water.  So, when Jesus says those who drink the living water “will never thirst”, she thinks this is great because she won’t have to come to the well anymore.

To help her understand who He is, He tells her something that He would not know if He were just an ordinary human.  He speaks of how many husbands she has had.  From this she comes to see him as a “prophet.”  She has taken the first step.

He speaks of the true worship that will come.  She speaks of knowing that a “Messiah is coming.”  He tells her, “I am he.”

She’s puzzled by this and goes to the town.  At this point, she knows little about Jesus but that doesn’t stop her from telling others about Jesus (we can learn from her example).  When she tells the towns people, many came to believe in Jesus because of her proclamation.  They began to know Jesus because of her words but then come to a fuller faith because they came to hear Jesus for themselves.

She was a Samaritan, despised by the Jews.  Yet, when she encountered Jesus, she did not harden her heart.  Rather, she was open to his words.  Jesus poured the living waters through the Holy Spirit into her heart.  From this, she grew in faith and led others to faith in Jesus.

Growth is something we should always be open to.  It can be in our individual relationships with Jesus.  We need to come to Mass.  We need to read the Bible.  We should do spiritual reading, watch good Catholic programming, or attend presentations to help us know more about our faith.

We might also think about growth in relationships with others.  For example, think of the Sacrament of Marriage.  A couple can become complacent in their marriage.  Here you might consider attending a marriage encounter weekend.  You can find more about that in this week’s bulletin.

Why do we need to grow?  To always keep our trust in God strong!  To help us know that the Lord is always in our midst.

Then, when we face times of difficulty, we can find peace in the Lord.  It doesn’t mean we don’t face difficulties, just that we know Jesus is with us.

For instance, the world is in distress concerning the Coronavirus.  We turn to the Lord seeking peace.  This is based on our trust in him.  However, trusting in the Lord does not mean we don’t take precautions.  Remember what Jesus said when He was tempted by Satan?  “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (1st Sunday of Lent, Matthew 4:7, cf. Deuteronomy 6:16). 

We are to take proper human precautions but then to trust that the Lord is with us.

So, we are not cancelling Masses now but we are taking precautions.

Last week, we suspended distributing the Precious Blood in the Cup.  That will continue.  Here, I assure you that our Catholic faith teaches that if when we receive just the consecrated host, we receive the whole Jesus, Body and Blood.  We receive all the grace we need.

We also encourage you to be mindful of how you receive the host.  It is permissible to receive on the tongue or the hand but in terms of illness, the hand is preferred to help prevent spreading any illness. 

Here, I want to remind everyone that receiving on the hand, was not a new invention from the Second Vatican Council.  In the early church, Communion was normally received in the hand.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth century saint, wrote instructions to the catechumens joining the Church on how to receive Communion.  He said to “receive Communion by making a throne, one hand over the other, ready to receive our great king.”

Last week, we also said to not shake hands at the Sign of Peace to avoid spreading viruses.  This week, Bishop Matano has directed (you can find his memo online at https://catholiccourier.com/sites/default/files/DioceseCoronavirusPrecautions.pdf) that we suspend the Sign of Peace.  So, I will say the words leading up to the Sign of Peace but not call for the Sign of Peace to be exchanged. 

Likewise, Bishop Matano has said not to hold hands “during the Lord’s Prayer or at any other time during Mass.”

Bishop Matano also reminds us that when we are sick, we should stay home to care for ourselves and to protect others.  When we are sick, we are not obligated to attend Mass.  He adds, “Anyone with concern for his or her health is not obligated to attend Mass.”  You know your health history.  Please make wise choices.

We, and the diocese, continue to monitor the situation with the Coronavirus.  We will continue to implement human precautions as appropriate.  We do this to be wise, but we also do so trusting in the Lord, that knowing we have done our part and that the Lord is with us, calming our fears in the midst of distress.

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