Homily for March 23

Woman at the Well: Sieger Koder

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

(Audio for homily)

Jesus met a woman at the well...
Well... perhaps if St. John had any notion
of how famous this woman would become,
he might have done her the courtesy of including her name.
But he didn’t.  
So, rather than simply refer to her as “the woman,”
let’s name her Rachel.

Back in the day, Jesus met Rachel at the well;
today, Jesus might have met her at the water cooler at work;
or at Crosby’s, picking up a case of Poland Springs or Perrier;
or Rachel might be a server at Vincenzo’s,
and Jesus a customer, looking for some ice water.

The place of their meeting is important here:
Jesus meets Rachel --  not in a temple, not on a holy mountain --
but at the town well,
in the middle of an ordinary day,
as she’s going about her ordinary chores.
She wasn’t  praying – much less was she looking for the Messiah!
She was just getting water for her thirsty family.

It’s not much different for us.
Of course, we do come here looking for Jesus,
hoping to hear his voice in the word of scripture
and hungry for the life he shares with us in the Eucharist.
We set aside an hour each week, just for this.

But before we come back next weekend,
Jesus will have 167 more hours to seek us out and meet us
in the middle of our ordinary days,
in the midst of our ordinary lives and work.

Jesus took Rachel by surprise.
And who knows how many times this past week,
how many times in the week ahead of us,
how many times does Jesus approach you and me
and ask us for something, looking for a way to meet us,
to engage with us: looking for a way to change our hearts.

In the gospel here, it quickly becomes apparent
that Rachel has some personal history to conceal
and it’s equally evident that Jesus knows her story.
It seems Rachel has been looking for love in all the wrong places
-- and she hasn’t found it yet.
She’s made some mistakes along the way:  mistakes she’d rather hide.

What Jesus does is to help her face her own truth, the whole of it,
and in response she acknowledges Jesus as a prophet.

Jesus meets Rachel in the middle of her day,
in the context of her work-a-day world,
in the nitty-gritty truth of her life’s circumstances.
And that’s just how Jesus will meet you and me
in the 167 hours between now and when we meet again next week.

Jesus knows everything that Rachel has ever done --
even what she tries to hide from him – and still he seeks her out
to offer her the living waters of his mercy.

And Jesus knows everything that you and I have ever done --
even what we try to hide from him, and from ourselves,
and still he seeks us out and offers us his pardon.

We don’t so much need to go out and look for Jesus.
What we need to do is open our eyes and recognize him
looking for us and finding us –
24-7, 168 hours a week.

Or as one writer has put it:
As acute... as our thirst for God might be,
as exhausting... as our journeys to God might seem,
the yearning, the thirst... God has for us
and the journey God makes into our hearts
surpass it all -- infinitely.  Drink it in!     
(John Kavanagh, SJ)

Drink in the presence, the love, the mercy God pours out for us.

In the week just past, you and I, all of us, bumped into Jesus
at home, at work, at school, in the neighborhood, in our town,
in our parish – and in the hidden corners of our hearts’ stories.
Did I see him in all those places?  Did you?
Did I recognize him?
Were there things about me I tried to hide from him?
hide from him who knows me better than I know myself?
Or did I ask for and accept the gift of his living water,
to wash me in his mercy  and slake my heart’s deepest thirst?

We gather here on the Lord’s Day to learn to recognize
the voice and word of Jesus in the scriptures
and to receive his life in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.           
All this, that when he comes to meet us
in the middle of our week and work,
and in the midst of all our circumstances and relationships,
we’ll recognize him there, too
and welcome him who welcomes us
to drink deeply of the living water he offers us.

We come here, like Rachel, to worship in spirit in truth,
because, like her, we have all met Jesus
who can tell us everything we’ve ever done
-- and who seeks us out nonetheless, and forgives and loves us still.


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