Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent 03/12/2023

By guest celebrant Father Hoffmann:

We have now entered into the heart of Lent, the third fourth and fifth weeks, the very center of the season. And in the next (and today and the next) two Sundays we focus in on these longer gospels. (But we) And surprisingly they’re not from Matthew – we’re in the year of Matthew – but this time they’re all from John, and they tell stories about
different parts of life, in a sense. And they have different focuses (or foci) in the old days.

And today we hear the story of the Samaritan woman. And the focus is on water, that’s the image that’s used here that Jesus focuses in on. Next week we’ll hear the story of the man who was born blind, who was cured by Jesus, and the images are all about light and sight. And then the fifth Sunday, which will be the week before Palm Sunday, we’ll hear the story of the raising of Lazarus and the focus on life, and what it means.

But here we have this focus on water. And we all know how important water is, and we know that we probably all learned when we were like in grammar school, that if you pumped out all the water of any one of us, there’d be a little pile – this big – of almost nothing. We’re composed of water. It’s part of what makes us who we are and (it is something we) it has utility. We use it for things. We use it to wash ourselves, our clothes, our houses, our anything. We use it in cooking, we use it to drink, to help us to stay alive.

We like to look at it. (Let’s) You know, we all know that if you buy a house, that there’s a water view, it’s going to cost you more money because people like to look at the ocean or the river or the sea or the lake or whatever it might be. I was always intrigued when I was a kid and we’d take rides, whenever we’d pass a a little brook, that always caught my attention.

We use it for for entertainment, in a sense. We play in water. We swim in it. We go to water parks and enjoy it. So it’s very much part of who we are.

But here (here) in (in) the United States, we are very fortunate because a tank getting water is simple. We walk into a room and we turn a little (a little) faucet and in it comes. But for many people in many parts of the world, that’s not how it works. It’s still very much like the story that we hear of this woman in Samaria 2,000 years ago. People have to walk some distance with large containers. Now they’re not, you know, water jugs like in the old days. They’re great big plastic containers. And the job, which falls mostly to women, in those cultures every day, might have to walk a mile to get the water they need for the day.

But in this story we have this odd thing happening. (No) there’s no women drawing water. It’s just this woman. It’s the middle of the day. What’s up with that? Why?

Well, because most people would come when it was quiet and cool early in the morning. (In) in the Holy Land we all know it’s warm. And so at noon time would be the last time you’d want to go when it’s hot.

But it’s probably because this woman’s interesting status. Her five husbands, the husband that isn’t her husband, she’s someone on the edge. She’s someone that – she doesn’t want to get the dirty looks from other people.

So she comes in the middle day. And she has this surprise happen to her. Not only is Jesus there – there’s somebody sitting at the well – but amazingly He speaks to her. Now, we don’t think – what’s the big deal? Of course, Jesus would speak to her. But in the culture there are two things she had going against her. She was a Samaritan, and we all know that there was a certain animosity between Jews and Samaritans. But she’s also a woman. A man would not speak to a woman he didn’t know that way. It just wouldn’t happen in that culture.

But He does. He breaks through that kind of bond, those bonds of prejudice, and He begins to engage her because clearly He’s looking for something from her that’s not water. Just as He has food, He tells the apostles “I have food you do not know about”. (He) He’d be okay without her drawing him water, but He’s thirsting for something else. What is he really thirsting for? Her faith.

And so He speaks to her about the water that He has to give. And it’s different in some translations, that there’s two different words that are used, because in Greek it can mean ‘living’ or ‘flowing’. And she’s thinking of it, the water that’s at the bottom of the well. But He’s thinking about it as something different. He’s talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit. The life-giving water that He wants to give her, that will be within her. She thinks of it when He says that. She says, “oh give it to me so I won’t have to come here every day. It’s so hard. Now I won’t be thirsty, I’ll be all set.”

But he’s looking for in something interior, inside. He’s aware of, He’s making clear the limits of what’s material. It’s never going to be enough. It’s never going to satisfy. It’s never going to be lasting.

On the other hand there’s the eternal, the spiritual. The things of God which always satisfy and always last forever. He promises to give her this fountain leaping up to give her eternal life, which is His presence in her, in us, always.

During Lent we are trying to do our best to make ready the way for the Lord to give us His life in an even more and intense way, to push away those things that keep us from Him, that disconnect us from Him. And when we do that we look into our Spirits, our souls, we see some things that are good and some things that not not so good. And what we’re trying to do is to work on those things, is to grow the good things and pull out, or weed out, the bad.

So He promises us through His life to give us the Living Water that will enable us to do this. And (we) we’ve all been baptized. But we also have that opportunity to enhance our lives through the the giving of the sacrament of penance.

So it’s not just self-reprisal that does the trick. We have to go one (state) step further, and that’s faith. And what also?

Once we have that faith, the idea is that we have to share it. You notice she goes back into the town and she starts talking to people. If any of you watched, are watching The Chosen, there’s of this program that’s basically on an app, but sometimes it’s on other things too. But the story of those Samaritan woman (the woman literally), she goes back into town and it’s so, it’s really funny, like every person she walks up “He told me everything I did. He told me everything I did. Come here He told me everything I did.” She’s telling everyone.

And what happens? We have this whole route of people that come out to see Him. When he talks about “the Harvest is ripe”, He’s looking out at all these people that are coming – and not only just coming – but they invite Him to stay. He’s a Jew, they want him to stay and He does. And it changes their lives. He wants to share this life-giving water not just with them, but with all of us. (He this) he promises us that He will give it to us, and has given it to us. And the tree for us too, the next step like the woman, is that we must share it with those around us.