3RD SUNDAY OF LENT HOMILY (YEAR A)
HOMILY THEME: THE THEOLOGY OF THE LIVING WATER : THERAPY FOR THE AFRICAN CHURCH!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * Ex 17 : 3 – 7, Rom 5 : 1 – 8, Jn 4 : 5 – 42.
We have in today’s gospel a long story of how Jesus built the faith of a Samaritan harlot. Every harlot is a caricature of womanhood. But it’s not as simple as that. According to St Augustine in today’s Office of the readings, the Woman of Samaria symbolizes the Gentile Church – the Church that was not yet justified but was about to be justified – ‘the intention that the whole creation might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as children of God’, Rom 8 : 21. This woman was a type of the Gentile Church (now I want to talk about the African Church). St Paul says : ‘Now in Christ Jesus you that used to be far away has been brought close, by the blood of Christ. He is the peace between us and has broken down the barrier… We both in the one spirit now have free access to the father’, Eph 2 : 14.
We must see ourselves in her. She came to draw water and met Christ, the giver who now gives by begging her for a drink. An intermarriage (between Divinity and Paganism) happens through a spiritual conversation and the call to charity (agape love) unites us. Although Jesus asks for a drink, his real thirst was for this woman’s soul. He enters into her heart as the teaching goes on with the theme/theology of the living water.
B. THE THEOLOGY OF THE LIVING WATER
The universal curse for unbelievers is : ‘Never shall they enter my rest’, Ps 95 : 8 – 10. Because the story has it that when the Isrealites were set free from over 40 years bondage in Egypt, they embarked on a 40 years tiresome journey through the desert to the promised land. At Massah and Meribah, tormented by thirst, the people complained and rebelled against Moses : ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt… Was it so that we should die of thirst?
Thirst is more dangerous than hunger because while hunger is mere lack of nutrients, thirst is exaution /lack of life. The hungry man is an angry man but the thirsty man is a dying man. In today’s gospel, for instance, Jesus was in need of water as a human being, but not food. When the disciples brought him food he said : ‘I have food to eat which you do not know… My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’.
The Word of God made several promises about the living water both in Old and New Testament times ;
– Is 58 : 11 says ‘Yahweh will always guide you and will satisfy your needs in the scorched land… And you will be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never run dry (promise of both spiritual and physical provision).
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– Rev 7 : 16 – ‘They will never hunger or thirst again ; sun and scorching wind will never plague them because the lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their Shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water ‘.
– Jesus himself said : ‘Out of the believer’ s heart shall flow rivers of living water ‘.
– Is 40 : 31 says that ‘those who wait upon the Lord shall have their strength renewed and not suffer exhausion’…. Those who do not wait upon the Lord will suffer exhausion and they will grow weary. That has been the plight of unbelievers since time immemorial. The woman of Samaria in today’s gospel, was driven by her temporal need to Christ but finally she got her permanent need satisfied – she got rest fromO her labours, Matt 11 : 29.
C. THE HYPOCRISY OF THE GENTILE (AFRICAN) CHURCH!
I do not in any way intend here to place the African Church as synonymous to the Gentile Church but by the tag ‘Gentile’ I mean those churches where the culture of paganism and idolatry have eaten so deep in the fabric of the people’s life that they find it difficult to accept Christianity in its pure and spiritual form. In a Parish in Aku in Nsukka diocese for example, a zealous new priest came and was preaching against the ‘Odo masquerade cult’. After few days, some concerned parishioners (many of them elites) came to him with this request : ‘We promise to make life comfortable for you and provide everything for you but please don’t talk against our ‘Odo masquerade’.
I think it is more in Africa that we see Knights of the Church who sit in the front seats at morning mass and receive Holy Communion every day but will go to the ‘dibia shrine’ afterwards. I think it is more in Africa that we see Christian professors and elites who want to combine Christianity with idolatry in the name of preserving their traditional culture. I think it is more in Africa where we see pastors and priests who take vows of chastity yet live in concubinage and indulge in illicit sexual reveries even more than the married people themselves.
The irony of fake Christianity is wanting to drink the living water without the assignment of true repentance : ‘Go and call your husband’…
We want to drink the living water without the requisite dialogue with Christ – without a sufficient colloquium with the Word of God that should lead to the required radical transformation.
Why is it that among the majority of Catholics in Africa are people who don’t have/read the Bible – People who don’t have the habit of ‘Sunday School’ / Sunday evening service of the Word of God and Benediction?
D. THE NEW THEOLOGY OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
Christ said that the time was coming and is here already when true believers will worship the father in spirit and truth – When true believers will be the husband of one wife – When our Christian ladies will know only one man carnally and our Christian men will be faithful to only their partners.. Not a lady having had 6, 7 or countless number of ‘boy – friends’. Is that not the same as harlotry?
We are in an era of the dictatorship of sexual immorality and idolatry and unless children of God put up a strong battle in opposition, we cannot worship the father in Spirit and truth and when our body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit is defiled, the rest of what we do in christendom is hypocrisy.
The time is coming and is here already when true prophesy will come back to the Church – When believers will come into the Church and after listening to the preacher will go out and say like the Samaritan woman : ‘Come see a man who told me all that I have ever done..Can this not be the Christ?’ Of course, every ordained priest acts ‘in Persona Christi’. The time is coming and is here already when true believers will sing and praise God in the Church with their whole mind and spirit not dull lifeless Liturgy.
In the gospel, we meet a giver who gives by begging. For example, when the Church begs a community for a land to build a Church or Parish house, it is like Christ begging the Samaritan woman for water. Refusal to comply is the rejection of the gospel in that land : ‘For my people have abandoned me the fountain of living water only to dig cisterns (water tanks) for themselves, leaky cisterns that hold no water’, Jer 2 : 13.
The tragedy of pagan insatiability is the repeat of the Moses – Israelite experience of today’s 1st reading. Rejection of God must be avoided by all means. 5 noun descriptions of God found in the New Testament are as follows : (i) God as spirit, Jn 4 : 24, (ii) God as light, 1 Jn 1 : 5, (iii) God as love, 1 Jn 4 : 8, (iv) God as consuming fire, Heb 12 : 29 and (v) God as living water, Jn 4 : 5 – 42.
We need this divine water for the sustenance of our spiritual lives. Many of us have suffered exhausion spiritually and physically (through immorality, idolatry, fighting and quarreling, alcoholism, etc). Can this be brought to an end in this 3rd Sunday of Lent? Can you allow Jesus to minister his Word to your heart now? Do you want the living water now? The only price you have to pay is to ‘go and call your husband’ – drop your life of immorality and idolatry. You cannot worship God in ‘the flesh and spirit’ at the same time – what Watchman Nee calls ‘fleshly believers’. You cannot serve both God and mammon!
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