March 19, 2017 Third Sunday of Lent Fr. Jim Miller

Second Sunday of Lent
March 19, 2017

Reading 1GN 12:1-4A

Responsorial PsalmPS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.

  1. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
  2. Reading 22 TM 1:8B-10

GospelMT 17:1-9

Homily— March 18 & 19, 2017

            This has been an interesting week for me.   On Wednesday I drove to Marshalltown to concelebrate the Funeral Mass for 12 year old Derek Cisneros.   He attended the Catholic School.  He liked to draw pictures of crosses and of Jesus.   He told one of his teachers that if he didn’t get married he might dedicate his life to God.   He was killed in a car accident in which he was in the back seat and his parents in the front when a pickup truck pulled out in front them.   The family donated his organs and five people were helped.   His heart went to another 12 year old child.

            On Wednesday I went to the funeral of Fr. J. David Pepper in Lawler.   He was an associate pastor at Nativity in 1971.   He is remembered by some for telling parishioners to not use expletives on their neighbors after Mass in the parking lot!!   When people would ask him how to spell his last name, Pepper, he would say with 3 p’s, 2 e’s and an r!!   He was known for short, to the point, homilies!

   Water is life. We have to have water to live.  A person can live up to three weeks without food but only three days without water.  Water is all around us; seventy-one percent of the earth is covered with water. However, safe, clean, running water in homes throughout the world is not readily available to all.

   Millions of families live without it.  The not for profit organization,, reported that worldwide one in ten people do not have access to safe, clean water.  That number is equal to twice the population of the United States, approximately seven hundred million people. For those millions, it means spending many hours each day carrying water from sources with no assurance that it is safe for drinking, cooking and bathing.  Often the heavy physical work of carrying water for the home is done by women today.

   A woman encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well while drawing water for her household.   The time?  The sixth hour, the same time of day at which he would eventually be crucified, indicating that this is his hour, the hour of salvation.  “Jesus said to her, Give me a drink.”  This is a complicated request.  The Samaritans now owned Jacob’s well, a symbol of the common roots and tradition they shared with the Jews. But how could a Jew ask a Samaritan for anything?  The Jews had destroyed the Samaritans’ temple on Mount Gerizim, they disdained the Samaritans for being backwoods idolaters whose intermarriage with non-chosen people had contaminated the bloodlines.   Despite this complicated situation Jesus and the Samaritan woman begin a dialogue of listening to and responding to each other.   She wants to drink water that will satisfy her so that she doesn’t have to haul water every day.   Jesus now asks her to call her husband and she says she does not have one to which Jesus responds she has had five but the one that she is with is not her husband.

  The explanations of this interchange include the simple suggestion that the woman was a serial adulteress and therefore a known sinner to the idea that she represented Samaria as a whole who had historically worshipped multiple deities along with the God of Israel.

   Recognizing him as a prophet, her response led to the theological question underneath their peoples’ mutual animosity.  She asked about the place of true worship:  was it where the Israelites destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem’s still standing Temple?  In reply, Jesus went right back to what he had originally said, but presented it in a new way.  He wasn’t concerned about water or temples, but “Spirit and truth.”  The hour was coming, in fact had arrived, when outward manifestations would lose their meaning and God’s Spirit would well up inside believers.

   So far, she had gone from animosity to curiosity, to genuine questioning.  Now, having heard more, she explained her belief:  “When the Messiah comes, he will tell us everything.”  Jesus simply replied, “I am he, the one speaking to you.”

   The arrival of the disciples gave her the motive to return to town to tell her people what she had encountered.  When it came time to put it into words, she didn’t talk about temples or wells or even the Sprit and truth.  She said “He told me everything I have done.

  Like the first disciples who went to tell their friends about Jesus, what she told her people sparked enough faith to get them to go see for themselves.       

  John shows us a lonely woman.  She is living with a man who has no permanent obligations to her.  She scurries to the well in the heat of the day; others go at dawn and dusk.  Most Christians can understand why Christ would desire to save such a person.  

 In his love, Jesus sees things in us that we do not see in ourselves.  Jesus calls his disciples to a life they cannot imagine for themselves.  The woman in today’s Gospel has a complicated and tragic past but becomes a wellspring of hope for her village.  She experiences a foretaste of her own resurrection.   It is only as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection that we can have similar encounters today.  I leave you with these questions, “Did the Samaritan woman ever give Jesus the drink that he asked for?”   “Did Jesus give the Samaritan woman the ‘living water’ she asked for?