Saturday, March 18, 2017

Third Sunday of Lent Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Water That Lives

One of the earliest chemical formulas we learned was H2O. We learned this during our elementary grades. We were told by our teacher that H2O was the formula for water. He or she explained that H stands for the hydrogen atom and O stands for the oxygen atom. The 2 between the two letters stands for the number of hydrogen. Thus there are 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen in water. Sometimes we used this formula in referring to water. During meals we would ask our parents for H2O confident that our parents knew what we meant, water.

The Gospel reading today talks about water. But it is not the kind of water represented by H2O. It is a water very different from the ordinary water we see and drink at table or when washing or taking a bath. It was our Lord who talked about it to the Samaritan woman. He said, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." Later in that conversation Jesus elaborated about this water, He told the woman, "Everyone who drinks this water (in the well of Jacob) will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

To understand better this water that Jesus is offering us and to get its benefits let us compare it with our ordinary water, the one represented by the formula H2O. There are differences and similarities between Jesus’ water and ordinary water.

The first difference between this water of Jesus and our ordinary water is that Jesus' water is invisible while our water is visible. Our five senses can come in contact with ordinary water. We can taste it, hear its splash, touch it, see it, smell it. But we cannot see Jesus' water. There are times, though, when coming into contact with this water of Jesus, even if we do not see it, that we can feel it.

The second difference is that ordinary water evaporates and if a small amount, let's say, a spoonful of it, is left on its own for quite some time, it vanishes into the air around it. The water of Jesus does not evaporate, rather it is living; it stays the same forever. And it even grows and increases in growth and quantity because it lives. It is a water that lives.

The third difference is that it is not composed of atoms as in ordinary water. The reason is that this water has no parts, unlike ordinary water which has 3 parts, 2 parts hydrogen and 1 part oxygen. Jesus’ water is spiritual and a spirit has no parts. It has only faculties or functions or things it is able to do.

The fourth difference is that ordinary water is material, the water of Jesus is spiritual. Material water is subject to decay, impurity, and the cycle of gaseous, liquid and solid. It can become vapor, liquid and ice. The water of Jesus is always liquid, as it were. It does not turn to vapor nor solidify into ice. It is always flowing. It can always be poured.

A fifth difference between ordinary water and Jesus’ water is that too much of ordinary water drowns. Spiritual water does not drown. Water in the ocean and in swimming pools have drowned countless people. A superabundance of spiritual water does not drown. A person with too much of this spiritual water may be considered crazy by other people but it never drowns.

A sixth difference between ordinary water and spiritual water is that although the volume of ordinary water in our planet earth according to scientists is a staggering 1,386 million cubic kilometers it has a limit. The spiritual water of God is limitless. There are trillions of gallons of ordinary water but they are finite. Spiritual water is infinite. It cannot be counted. It cannot even be put in gallons or in the largest container.

The seventh difference between ordinary water and supernatural water is that natural water is getting more and more expensive. Before people used to drink from rivers and streams. With pollution these sources of water are no longer safe. More and more people buy drinking water and it is getting more and more expensive. Jesus' water is totally free. He says, "To anyone who thirsts I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water." (Revelation 21:6).

Seven is the complete number as the days of creation were only seven. But there is another difference between these two kinds of water. This is the eighth difference. The water of this earth has a beginning. It is temporal, time bound. The water of heaven has no beginning. It is eternal. It is not time bound.

There are also similarities between the water of Jesus and ordinary water. The first similarity is that both kinds of water are necessary for life. Without ordinary water there would be no life. Our body is 50 to 75 percent water. Our earth is 71 percent water. Without water we would die and our planet earth would not be able to support any life at all. In a similar way without this spiritual water of Jesus there would be no spiritual life. Our life in God, our divine life depends on this spiritual water.

The second similarity between these two kinds of water is that lack of water, whether ordinary water or spiritual water, causes in us a sensation of thirst. We become thirsty physically when we lack ordinary water. We become thirsty spiritually when we lack spiritual water in our soul. The Samaritan woman in the Gospel was thirsty both physically and spiritually. She went to the well of Jacob to satisfy her physical thirst. She was not aware of her spiritual thirst. But she was spiritually thirsty also. In her spiritual thirst she went from one man to another looking for something that could satisfy this thirst. But no man, not even five men, could satisfy this spiritual thirst. It was only Jesus with his living water who could satisfy this thirst. 

The first reading tells us about the ordinary water which the Israelites demanded of God to give them because they were thirsty. Surprisingly the water came out of the rock which Moses struck. But this ordinary water prefigured the spiritual water that Jesus would give. That rock prefigured Jesus who would give this spiritual water later.

The second reading tells us what this spiritual water is. This is the love of God poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. So, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit pours the heavenly water into our hearts.

Until we have this heavenly or spiritual water in our hearts we will forever be thirsty spiritually. Our souls will long for something which we cannot even describe but which we know is there. Life is meaningless. But once this love of God is poured into our hearts and freely accepted and relished and enjoyed by us it makes us satisfied most deeply in our souls.

This spiritual water was poured into our hearts when we were baptized. We were expected by the Church to grow and be aware of this water poured into our hearts. It was the job of our parents and godparents to make us aware of this spiritual water. 

Both the Church and Jesus invite us in Revelation 22 to drink of this water. "Let him who is thirsty come forward; let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water" (17)

During this Lent let us remember the water that gushed forth from the side of Jesus just after he died when a soldier pierced his side with a lance. That was ordinary water in the blood of Jesus. He gave out all the water in his body to the earth beneath him as a symbol of the spiritual water that he wanted to pour upon our thirsty souls. Let us not fail him. Let us partake of this spiritual water and drink deeply to the satisfaction of our souls.

Let us bow our heads in prayer.

Lord Jesus, you shed every drop of the water in your body to invite us to drink of the water of your Spirit. Help us to be aware of this water poured into our hearts. Make us drink of this spiritual water from the side of your wounded body. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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