Homily: 3rd Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
So here we are at the end of the second full week of Lent. In many ways, if we have been engaging the work of Lent well, we are settling into this season and perhaps even starting to see the fruits of what this season calls us to do. Nevertheless, perhaps many of you have been struggling to “get into” what Lent is all about and are ready to disengage from the whole project (or perhaps you already have). Thus, a word of reminder might be good here.
Lent is a time of preparation. Did you hear that? I said “a time of preparation.” I know most of you heard me say “a time of penance”, but I didn’t say that. Lent is a time of preparation. And preparation for what? Well, for the celebration of Easter, of course! And why do we need to prepare to celebrate Easter? Why can’t we just celebrate it? Well, because celebrating the greatest mystery of our salvation is something much deeper and more profound than, say, celebrating somebody’s birthday (though we do prepare to celebrate those, don’t we?). Easter is not just a day of remembrance, but it is also a day of renewal: the remembrance of our definitive rebirth in Christ at our baptism and the renewal of our commitment to live that life to its fullest.
You know that the word “renew” is synonymous with the word “renovate”, right? And we all know that to renovate something is to take something that is old and used and to make it like new again. We do this with houses and cars, churches and office buildings, and perhaps even our wardrobes from time to time. What’s the first thing that any renovation project has to tackle? Cleaning out the old junk, of course! In other words, the first part of any renovation project is to prepare the space by cleaning out the old, useless stuff.
Thus, if we are to be renewed—that is, renovated—by our celebration of Easter, then we need first to take some time to prepare our space by cleaning out the old junk from our hearts. Lent is our time of preparation. By fasting we detach ourselves from the things that keep us from living the new life that we have received in Christ through baptism. By almsgiving we take up the practice of sharing the fruits of that new life with others. And by prayer, we deeply reconnect with the one who called us out of our darkness and into his perfect light.
It is in prayer, then, that we also remember. Each of our journeys is unique. Each of us, at some point in our lives, has had to come to terms with where it was that we were and where it is that God wanted us to be. And each of us had to make a decision about whether we would follow Jesus towards where God wanted us to be or remain where we were. My guess is that, since you are here, all of you have decided to follow Jesus to where God wants you to be. If so, then part of our preparation for the renovating celebration of Easter is our remembrance of that experience of God meeting us where we were and inviting us to where he wants us to be: for part of our celebration is the renovation of our commitment to arrive at that place where God is leading us.
If not, then perhaps this time of preparation could be a time for you to experience that encounter with God that will help you to come to terms with your life: that is, to see clearly where it is that you are and to experience God meeting you there and inviting you to journey towards the place where he wants you to be. This is exactly what the Samaritan woman experienced in our Gospel reading. From the place where she was—a life full of broken relationships which left her marginalized even among her own people—Jesus meets her and invites her to come to terms with her life. He then invites her to move from where she is to where it is that he wants her to be: a place where her thirsts no longer find only temporary satisfaction, but rather become infinitely satisfied.
At first, she tries to deflect this invitation: introducing a debate about the proper place of worship and then declaring her belief in the coming Messiah. When Jesus, however, reveals himself to her completely (“I am he, the one speaking with you”) something in her changes. She drops her guard, recognizes him for who he is, and… what? She leaves her water jar to announce to all the townspeople who it is that she has encountered. She left the water jar—representative of her life—that could be filled at one moment but would always become empty again, because she had found the spring of living water—Jesus—and so she no longer needed it.
My brothers and sisters, 12 of our brothers and sisters in this community are on a journey towards their definitive rebirth in Christ through baptism at the Easter Vigil. Lent, at its core, is for them as they make their final preparations for this “ultimate” renovation of their lives at Easter. In these three weeks we will intentionally scrutinize them, asking them to come to terms with their lives, to recognize in Jesus the spring of living water, and thus to leave their water jars behind. We, as their brothers and sisters in faith, journey with them so as to be renewed in our baptism at the Easter celebration.
Let us, then, scrutinize our lives during this Lenten season so as to come to terms with them. And let us seek to remember (or discover for the first time) how Jesus has shown us to be the only source that can satisfy our deepest thirsts. Then, renewed in the grace of our baptism, we, too, will be inspired—like the Samaritan woman at the well—to take this great message out to the world and to invite all those around us to “come and see”, and to be filled by Jesus’ life-giving water.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 22nd & 23rd, 2014