Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on March 22 and 23 on the 3rd Sunday in Lent Cycle A at the 6:00PM (Vigil), 8:00AM, and 10:30AM Masses
As we listen to this gospel today it may seem too long. We live in a world of instant messages and instant gratification; a world of sound bites and 140-character tweets. In fact if Pope Francis tweeted today’s gospel it would take him about 40 tweets to do so. We’re just so busy and our lives have so much going on in them that we have little time or patience for things that take time. We may be thinking, “Just get to the point already. It’s been a long day. I have stuff to do.”
But that is why Lent is so important for us. As Father John has been saying the last several weeks, Lent is a time to take a break from all that is happening in our lives and refocus on what is truly important, to get away from all of the busy-ness so that we can relax and spiritually recharge ourselves. Today’s gospel is certainly long, but it is important because each one of us is the Woman at the Well.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is at the local watering hole, not the bar or restaurant that we think of, but literally a hole with water in it. Because there were no faucets, the only way to get water was to raise and lower a long rope one bucket at a time, and since this was a time-consuming process, they usually spent a good deal of time waiting. So the well was also a gathering place to relax, to meet with family and friends, to hear the latest news and gossip, and to share the joys and sorrows of births, marriages, sicknesses, and deaths.
So today Jesus is at the well. Not for water, because he does not have a bucket with him. Not to meet with friends or family, because he is in Samaria, far from his home in Galilee. Not to spread the Good News, because he is there at noon when it was too hot to draw water and so the well would have been deserted. Jesus is at the well simply to have a one-on-one conversation with the Samaritan woman. She draws water for Jesus and yet she is the one who is renewed and refreshed. She had no idea that her encounter with Jesus was about to change her life.
Lent is also our time to gather at the well and have a one-on-one conversation with Jesus. Just like the Samaritan woman, He knows us and He is ready to renew us and refresh us. As we open up to Him and share our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and struggles and difficulties with Him, He guides us on our journey through life and through Lent. Every encounter we have with Christ, whether in prayer, in the Gospel, or in the Eucharist, changes our lives, and Lent gives us a special opportunity to have a very special life-changing encounter with Jesus.
You will notice in the gospel that it takes the Samaritan woman a long time to figure out what Jesus is trying to explain to her. It takes her a long time to realize that Jesus is not talking about water, but is in fact talking about himself. We are often like the Samaritan woman. It can be hard to figure out what Jesus is trying to tell us or ask of us. That is why the forty days of Lent are so important for us, so that we can spend quality time with our Lord, to deepen our relationship with Him, to better understand Him, ourselves, and what God is calling us to do.
We live in a society that is constantly looking for the magic pill, the secret formula, or (as is the case for the Samaritan woman) the special drink that is going to fix whatever is wrong with our lives. Today’s gospel reveals to us that the special something that we are looking for is actually a special someone, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we learned last week in the gospel on the Transfiguration, we just need to take the time to “Listen to him.”
Today’s gospel is about our thirst, a thirst that we often try to quench by gathering stuff (money, wealth, and possessions), by filling our lives with busy-ness (work, school, hobbies, activities, events, and parties); and sometimes even through our addictions (like drugs and alcohol), all in the search for happiness and fulfillment. But no matter how much we accumulate or how much we are able to do, we always want more and we are never completely happy or fulfilled because our thirst and desire is unlimited and can only be satisfied by the infinite God.
When I was growing up we had a sandbox and I used to have a bucket with tiny holes in the bottom of it that I was supposed to use to sift the sand to find all the plastic army men that I had buried as I reenacted the Allies storming the beaches of Normandy. No matter how hard I tried, the bucket would never hold the sand. The more sand I put in, the faster it would run out the bottom. Our lives are like that, buckets with holes in the bottom. All the stuff and activities we try to fill our lives with are the grains of sand that are spilling out the bottom of the buckets of our lives as fast as we can put them in. I discovered that I could get the bucket to hold sand if I first took the time to fill the bucket with rocks which prevented the sand from running out the bottom. God is the rock foundation that supports us and allows us to properly fill the buckets of our lives.
When we put God first in our buckets, we can fill our buckets and drink the life-giving waters of Jesus and quench our unlimited thirst, we are then able to fill the buckets of our lives so that we are happy and fulfilled, and we are able to do so with less stuff and busy-ness so that we can live more relaxed and peaceful.
During Lent each one of us is the Woman at the Well. Lent is the well where we come to be renewed and refreshed; to encounter Jesus and have our lives changed. Lent is our opportunity to fill the buckets of our lives with what truly matters, the infinite and Almighty God, and to quench our thirst with the life-giving waters of Jesus. Lent is our opportunity to get rid of all the stuff and busy-ness in our lives and replace them with happiness, fulfillment, relaxation, and peace. Lent is our time to discover what will truly make us rejoice and be glad.