At a mental health facility near here sits a small woman at a small table. She is trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle. She is extremely tense. Her hands are shaking. She tries to force the pieces together that do not fit. Some of the pieces fall off the table, and she becomes more and more agitated.

Finally, she looks up and says poignantly, “The pieces do not fit. The pieces do not fit.” For this poot woman, the pieces of the puzzle do not fit. Nor do the pieces of her life. I thought of this woman when I read today’s Gospel. It is a story of a conversation between Jesus and a woman with five husbands. A setting bizarre enough for a soap opera.

We are told Jesus is on a journey with his disciples. And he stops to take a rest by a well. A lone woman comes to draw water. This one line tells us a great deal about the woman. First, she is alone and it is noon. Women always went to the well in a group. It was unheard of for a woman to go alone.

Secondly, they would always go early in the morning or in the evening. Never at mid-day. The sun was too hot. So, we can tell this woman is an outcast. The respectable women of the town would not want to be seen with her.

Then, there is Jesus. He is acting strange. First, even stopping at a Samaritan town. The Jews and the Samaritans hated one another for over 500 years. Then He askes the woman for a drink. By doing so, He is breaking the law. It was not acceptable for a man to speak to a woman alone, and he would become ritually impure by drinking from her cup.

Once again, He puts the person before religion and love above the law. Even the woman asks how a Jew can ask a Samaritan for water. And Jesus responds, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you give me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

The story of living water is a drama about faith. And we see how an individual and a community come to believe in Christ. As always, the Lord takes the initiative. He speaks, and a woman begins to sip living water without knowing it.

Yes, the pieces of her life start to fit. She knows only that the Messiah is coming. And Jesus tells her, “I who speak to you am He.” He even uses of Himself the title of Divinity: “I am He.”

Still unsure of who Jesus is, the woman rushes from the well to the city crying breathlessly to all she meets, “Come see a Man who told me all that I ever did! Can this be the Christ?” Not certainty, but a touch of hope. “Can this be the Christ?” And the drama of belief expands.

Someone who knows everything this much-married woman ever did. This, they have to see. They rush out to see the Prodigy for themselves. Once they see Him, they ask Him to stay for two days. Many of the Samaritans have already believed in Him, on the woman’s witness. Many more believe because of His words. They say, “We have heard for ourselves and we know that this, indeed, the Savior of the World.”

What does this beautiful story say to us? Does it occur to you that it is not only Samaritans who should recognize Jesus and ask Him for living water? Every man and woman must. You and I must. Yes, we have already tasted it, otherwise we would not be here.  We have been touched by God’s words and the Holy Spirit lives in us.

So, what more do we have to do? Lots more. You see, most of us have only sipped God’s living water. Few thirst for it the way they thirst for a cold drink on a hot day. Let’s all ask ourselves the question: what are you thirsty for? So many things claim our attention, from sports, health, work. So often, Christ takes a backseat. We only think of Him on a Sunday or during a crisis. Somehow, the Christ who mesmerized the woman at the well must grab us.

It is not a matter of academic knowledge – you must know Him. Not only know about Him. But really know Him as you know your closest friend. The Samaritan woman did not hide her living water, like a bottle of Perrier in the fridge. She left her water jar, jetted back to the town, grabbed everyone she saw and said, “Come! See this amazing Man! Could He be the One we’ve been waiting for?”

She became an apostle. She brought the message of Jesus to the people she knew. She shared with them her experience of Him. She urged them to go see for themselves. They went. They brought Him back with them and spent two days in His company. They heard the Word from Him very lips and many believed because of her.

That fallen woman became an apostle because she spent time with the Lord and all the pieces of her life came together.

This woman with five husbands had all the excitement, all the glow of someone who has fallen in love for the first time. My friends, when you ask for living water you are taking a giant risk. You are asking God to change you, to transform you in the image of His Christ. To redirect your tomorrow onto roads you cannot map, or even control.

And, there is a great risk, because it means we start to change. Start to put the pieces back together again. But, we might feel we are beyond our depth. In one of Graham Green’s novels, there is a dialogue between an American professor and a Trappist Monk.

The professor asks the monk, “Father, why did you become a Trappist? The life is so hard, there are so many easier ways of following the Lord.” The monk replies, “I think you know, professor, that when one has to jump it is so much safer to jump into deep water.”

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3 thoughts on “Fr. Bob’s Homily – Third Sunday of Lent

  1. Your sermons are a highlight of my week. I get so much from them to feel closer to our loving God and Jesus, his son who is out brother, redeemer, and savior.

  2. JMJ+ That is very true, Father Bob, the deep end is much safer than the shallow. I wondered why I was here…….now I remember, it is Good, and I am not alone, left floundering in the deep end of an undertow. I can rise above and float with JESUS holding my hand.

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