Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday word, 23 Mar 14

Visiting Wells
Lenten Sunday3 A (23 Mar 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A woman came to draw water from her neighborhood well.
We came to draw nearer to Jesus and to one another as a parish community.

Hers was a simple task, and it wasn’t. Simple because drawing water is straightforward: hard work but not complex; not simple because like every person in every age, the woman was a fusion of emotions, experiences, failures, successes and longings.
In our life-tasks we are no different.

Jesus sat down about noon. He was tired by his journey. We pause here awaiting any number of things: midday; midyear; warm weather; sharing faith; welcoming a word; acknowledging our weariness and how our hearts thirst. The woman came, puzzled to see a man resting where women worked. She didn’t need another puzzle to complicate her life. “By heaven above, and Jacob’s well too,” she thought, “he’s no one I know, and he isn’t one of us!”

Jesus sits down among us everyday, every moment. If we ask him, Jesus joins us; we often leave disappointed. More often we stumble on him. As the woman at the well did, we often don’t recognize him. And if we do—isn’t this true?—we dread how he might complicate our already complicated lives.

Jesus spoke to the woman. Shocked, she conversed with him—interrogating him first (how do you do what I wouldn’t do? who do you think you are?). Jesus joined her at every turn. He poured questions of his own into her thirsty heart: God’s freeing questions.

Jesus communicates with us: as the Word; in his Sacraments; by his cross; in images and colors; in music and song. Jesus longs for us. Do we converse with him? Not put him on trial: we’re too good at that. Do we ask him for his heart? Do we speak to him as to absent friends; departed parents; a loved one we recall fondly; that person we dream of meeting?

When the woman left Jesus, she left her water jar and was not disappointed, no longer puzzled. She left on a mission! Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! No shame but full of joy and unburdened peace. Her joy flowed from visiting her well to perform a routine task. She rejoiced over Jacob’s well in a way she never dreamed.

Do such wells exist for us? They do. Now we can meet Jesus anywhere. First we had to come or be brought here to the well of baptism. Its living water poured God’s love into us through Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Jesus’ Spirit creates us new everyday! Do we let Jesus’ abiding Spirit turn our thirsts for meaning and fulfillment into our mission as well as his?

From the well of baptism flows the other privileged ways we meet Jesus, the sacraments. In them Jesus joins our humanity. Our regular celebration of the sacraments nourishes, strengthens, heals and focuses us as witnesses on mission to make Jesus known. To celebrate sacraments is more than to receive them. To our Elect, who will be fully joined to the Catholic Church, I offer this encouragement: to celebrate sacraments is more than to receive them. I celebrate when I give myself to what I receive. Catholic vocabulary has long put it, I cooperate with the grace I receive.1 Only to receive a sacrament makes no use of God’s life given me. To cooperate with God’s life given us in the sacraments affects us. When we collaborate with God’s life we affect others we know and meet.2 To affect others with his life Jesus infuses in us is to worship…in spirit and in truth.

The woman of Samaria is a Christian’s personal icon. She engaged Jesus vigorously and honestly. She withheld nothing from him. She expressed to him her deep desires. She did not keep for herself what Jesus had given, awakened and liberated in her. She shared Jesus’ gifts to her with others: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! How could this man not be the Messiah?” If you desire a patron saint to help you live Christian discipleship, visit her and well of the sacraments often.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the life of our triune God.
  • Ask the woman of Samaria to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise him for giving you in various ways his Spirit, his life. Consider how you live your baptism, and how you can live it with more gusto. Chat with Jesus about that.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to live his life in deeper friendship and with greater conviction.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The more we live his words which we pray, the more Jesus slakes our thirst for him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 2002 details humans’ “free response.”
  2. “Grace includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with [the Spirit’s] work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ.” CCC 2003.


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