YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT
HOMILY THEME: FAITH SHOULD BE PROGRESSIVE, NOT STATIC
BY: Fr. A. Ntembula
HOMILY: (Exodus 17:3-7, Romans 5:1-2.5-8, John 4:5-42)
This Sunday’s homily is slightly longer but kindly exercise some patience to go through it.
Faith is not static. It is progressive. Our encounters with Christ in different experiences of life are meant to help us experience this progression of faith. It is properly called spiritual growth. Those who meet Christ are never the same. Their life is transformed, and they take it upon themselves to go and share what they have seen, heard and learnt with others. Thus, our prayer in this particular liturgy is to ask Christ to increase our faith, to transform our life and to give us the zeal to go to others and share with them the Christ we have experienced.
What is happening in the gospel? Let us begin by mentioning that Samaritans and Jews were not best of friends. They differed on the fact that Samaritans didn’t favor the rebuilding of the temple when it was destroyed by the Babylonians. In addition, they also rejected the prophetic books but only adopted the torah (5 books of the Law). So, for these and other reasons, the two tribes were at loggerheads. In fact, Jesus is not even supposed to be having a conversation with the Samaritan woman, he himself being a Jew. Even worse, a married woman was not supposed to be conversing with other men in public without the consent of her husband. So, when Jesus initiates the conversation, asking her for water, he crosses ‘sacred’ boundaries. It explains why the disciples are shocked when they come back to find him talking to this woman at the well. In their minds and of course culturally, this is not supposed to be happening.
The Samaritan woman reminds Jesus that he knows the relationship that exists between the two tribes, and so he cannot ask for water from her. But Jesus overturns the conversation by challenging her to have asked for living water from him herself. The woman responds by telling him that he doesn’t even have the vessel with which to draw water. Jesus, at this point, realizes that she doesn’t know who it is that is talking to her. So, he tries to explain what he means by “living water” that whoever drinks this water shall have eternal life. The woman’s attitude, even with this explanation, still demonstrates to Jesus that she does not know him. Now his task is to help her move from thinking in the physical way to having a spiritual disposition for her faith to mature.
To help her understand the kind of person he is, Jesus begins to talk about her private life. She is mesmerized by this. How does he know about her life? He must be the messiah or a prophet. The way he articulates issues of eternal life helps the woman to begin to move from the physical to the spiritual. “Are you the prophet?” “Are you the messiah?” So she asks. You may want to know that Samaritans were expecting a messiah but different from the one Jews were expecting. They were looking forward to a messiah who would explain the truth and help them understand eternal life, not a political messiah as in the case of the Jews. And Jesus identifies himself with the messiah Samaritans expected when he says, “I am he.” Immediately, the woman leaves the jar because she is not in need of physical water of the well anymore. She has discovered the true water that doesn’t need a jar. Her faith has matured. She has moved from understanding Jesus as “sir” to “prophet” and finally, to “messiah,” if you follow her conversation with him. And since she has had this encounter with Jesus, and her faith has grown, she has to go home and share her experience with the others so that they too may come to see the messiah. Jesus stays with the Samaritans for more days, and as we are told, they too believe in him. In fact, the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman symbolizes bringing Samaritans and Jews together. Jesus, therefore, becomes the bridge that reconciles the two groups.
Those who encounter Jesus are never the same. And since they burn with the fire of faith, they go out to share their experience so that many others should come to the knowledge of the truth, Christ himself. Faithlessness can be very detrimental to Christian life. Because of this the Israelites rose against God by complaining about water in the desert. The action of God through Moses reminds them that even if the going gets tough, God never abandons them. On our journey of faith, we are always with God and his presence is our strength, it is the grace that gives us courage to face life as it presents itself to us.
St. Paul helps us to understand the living water in terms of the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts. This Spirit helps us seek to understand God even more and strengthens us especially when our desert journey gets tough. We are never alone; God moves with us and what he desires is that our faith in him will progressively grow from strength to strength like the Samaritan woman at the well. We need to allow our faith to be increased because when faith is static or worse still, begins to retrogress, even the smallest problem we may encounter is enough to knock us down.
ENJOY YOUR LITURGY
Fr. A. Ntembula
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