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Because He Had To

Third Sunday of Lent, with Scrutiny

[There are several options for which readings you will hear this weekend. This homily uses the Year A Gospel that is read when there is a scrutiny at the Mass, a ritual for those preparing to be baptized at Easter. Please pray for Gary as he approaches baptism.]

The woman of the gospel is restless. Physically she is restless – she has a need for water that is drawing her out of her home and to the well, even in the noonday sun. Emotionally she is restless – she’s had five husbands and is living with a man who isn’t her husband. And in dialog with Jesus she is restless – how can a Jew ask a Samaritan woman for a drink? You don’t even have a bucket. Are you greater than Jacob? Why do Jews say we can only worship in Jerusalem?

The woman is restless, but Jesus doesn’t stop pursuing her heart. He remains with her and patiently removes layer after layer from her eyes until she can rest in who he is: first she sees him as a casual encounter, then she sees him as a prophet, and finally she sees him as the Christ. Her heart finds what it has been lacking, and she goes to draw others into the life and presence that every human heart seeks.

I think it’s worth mentioning that the verse right before the start of today’s gospel says that Jesus was going from Judea to Galilee, and that he had to pass through Samaria. That is an interesting choice of words because Jesus didn’t actually have to pass through Samaria. Most Jews going from Judea to Galilee would avoid Samaria by traveling east of the Jordan River. It took a little bit longer, but it was the preferred route. Jesus had to pass through there, not from lack of choice, but because he had to encounter this restless woman and set her heart at peace.

We are the woman. We are the ones with the restless hearts. We worry about giving meaning and purpose to our lives, we seek happiness that will not fade with time, we grasp for security and comfort… and do often we try to achieve those things by our own power, but our hearts will not find rest in the things of this world. Christ knows our restlessness, just as he knew the sins of the woman at the well, and that is the very reason why he comes to us, why he must pass through our lives just as he had to pass through that town of Samaria. Christ is the living water that takes away that restlessness and that unending thirst, a water that washes away our sin and brings us to eternal life.

Today as the People of God, as the baptized, we have a very special responsibility in this particular liturgy. We have Gary with us those who is seeking to become Catholic this Easter through the sacred mysteries of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist. His initiation and reception into the Church is the responsibility of all the baptized – not just his sponsor, or Briana who has been catechizing him, or myself who has been praying for him – but all of us. A little over a year ago we accepted him as a catechumen and at that mass the assembly was asked, “are you ready to help this catechumen find and follow Christ?” and in the name of the parish everyone responded “we are.” Now with the Easter mysteries approaching, we recently called him forth in the name of the bishop, and again the community was asked if we were ready to include him in our prayer and affection and we responded “we are.”

Those are not empty responses. Each one of us is supposed to be praying fervently for Gary, who are seeking not only to become Catholic but to receive baptism. I old him when he became a catechumen that he is the most important person in this parish. Now we call him “the elect”, and as part of our responsibility to welcome him into the life of the Church and desiring to support and pray for him, we celebrate the first scrutiny. For him this season of Lent and especially these scrutinies are times of self-searching and repentance, meant to uncover whatever is weak in his heart that it may be strengthened, to recognize that he is restless and yearn all the more for living waters of Christ. In our care for him as a community, let us now pray for the peace of Christ to be with him as he journeys towards the Easter sacraments.

[Also, my blog website was giving me some difficulties again. Let’s hope the duct tape holds together until after Easter, when I’ll have time to switch to a new platform maybe. But don’t be startled if you eventually see some cosmetic changes.]


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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.

Published inHomilies