Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Mar 19, 2017 Views 337 Listen 7 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Exodus (17:3-7)

In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!"

The Lord answered Moses, "Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink." This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.

The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord in our midst or not?"

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9)


(R) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him. (R)

Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides. (R)

Oh, that today you would hear His voice: "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works." (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (5:1-2, 5-8)

Brothers and sisters: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still helpless, Christ died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (4:5-42)

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift to God and who is saying to you, "Give me a drink", you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst again; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty, or have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go call your husband and come back." The woman answered and said to him, "I do not have a husband." Jesus answered her, "You are right in saying, "I do not have a husband." For you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true."

The woman said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth."

The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking with you."

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, "What are you looking for?" or "Why are you talking with her?"

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?" They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat." Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, "In four months the harvest will be here? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that "One sows and another reaps." I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work."

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me everything I have done." When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

There are many wonderful stories in the Bible. Some are factual stories, and some are fiction stories, like the parables. They all convey a moral or spiritual lesson and some insight. The story of the Samaritan woman in today's gospel is one of the most fascinating stories in the Scriptures, and it reveals many truths and has a powerful lesson for us.

According to the story, one mid-day under the hot sun, Jesus was sitting by a well outside a Samarian village breaking a journey between Judea and Galilee, while His disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. When a woman showed up to draw water from the well Jesus asked her for some water. Jesus' simple request for water led to a long conversation with the woman. Now the woman was a Samaritan. In Jesus' time the Samaritans were considered of "a mixed race" and "half Jews", and were looked upon, religiously speaking, as unclean by the Jews.

Many other conflicts existed between the Jews and the Samaritans, and the hatred between them was intense and longstanding. So, the woman was not only surprised when Jesus spoke to her, but in fact she appeared to be a little on the defensive and was even suspicious. She perhaps, in an angry tone, asked him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" Of course, at that moment, she had no idea who Jesus really was, aside from the fact that He was a Jew. Despite her indifference, Jesus turned to something far more important, and offered her "living water".

What is "living water"? From John's gospel we learn that "living water" refers to "eternal life" or "participating in God's life" which can be obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. Besides this, living water may also be a symbol of God's gifts of unconditional love, supernatural grace, salvation and the Holy Spirit with its seven gifts - wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, Isaiah (11:2-3). So, Jesus offered her the gift of living water that would quench and satisfy her inner thirst. But she took His offer of the living water literally, and began steering the conversation in another direction. Jesus' offer of giving her the living water provoked her to challenge him as to how He could draw water from a deep well without a bucket, and whether He was greater than her forefather Jacob who had given the well as a gift to his son Joseph. In other words, the woman questioned Jesus' ability to provide such living water.

Knowing that she lacked the intelligence to understand His words, Jesus told the woman that anyone who would drink of this living water would never thirst again. Soon she began to show some interest even though she did not fully grasp the spiritual dimensions of Jesus' offer. She changed her tone, and perhaps with a bit of excitement addressed the friendly stranger "Sir", and asked Him to give her the living water thinking that Jesus would quench her physical thirst, and she would have no need to come back to the well. But Jesus before giving her the water, told her to call her husband and then come back, John (4:16).

Why do you think Jesus asked her to call her husband? Jesus wanted to confront her about her personal sins. He consciously raised the issue of her relationship with men, to challenge her to look into herself, her personal and private life, and to remove all obstacles preventing her from receiving the living water he had to offer. She was certainly startled by this request from Jesus. She immediately thought about the wrong things that she had done. However, instead of admitting her sinfulness, she tried to cover up her guilt by denying that she had a husband, John (4:17). She had already had five "husbands", and was living with the sixth one. That's to say, she was an unmarried woman openly living with the sixth man, and was marked as immoral and looked down upon by her own people. This is evidenced by the fact that she came alone to draw water from the community well when, during biblical times, drawing water and chatting at the well was the social highpoint of a woman's day.

Even though she did recognize Jesus as a prophet who knew many things about her, she further tried to dodge the whole issue of her private life by engaging in a religious debate with Jesus about the real worship of God, John (4:20). By this, she revealed her spiritual ignorance. The woman was talking about the worship of her forefathers. What was it? Since the Samaritans were a mixed race of people - half Jewish and half Gentile - they had been excluded from the Temple of Jerusalem even before the time of Jesus. Angered by this, they went to Samaria where they built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. In this temple, they placed a copy of the Bible but only the Torah or Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, which they had brought from Jerusalem. In time, they became a new people, called the Samaritans. They rejected all other Old Testament books including the writings of the prophets and regarded their temple as the center of legitimate worship as opposed to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and this caused constant hostilities between the Samaritans and the Jews.

But Jesus directed her to the worship of God the Father. Jesus told her that worshipping God does not merely mean performing rituals and devotions, reading books and being in places but also to have a very personal relationship with God. He reminded her that the time was near for true worshippers to worship God the "Father in Spirit and truth", and referred to Himself as the new temple that would replace the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Finally, her eyes were opened to the faith when Jesus admitted that "the One who is speaking" to her is the promised Messiah, John (4:25-26). In her excitement, she forgot all about her physical thirst and left her water pot at the well, and ran back to the village, and told others about her experience. They then invited Jesus to stay with them, and many more people began to believe in Him. And they told the woman that they believed in Jesus not because of what she had said about Him but because they had heard for themselves His teaching.

What is the message for us?

First, the story teaches us that God loves us in spite of our sinfulness. He values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us to intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. Even if no one cares for us, and neither do we, God sees us as very precious and valuable to Him. He sees our sin but is ready to forgive us because Jesus fully took our sin on Himself and paid for our sin with His death on the cross.

Secondly, the story teaches that every so often, like the Samaritan woman, we too are preoccupied with worldly affairs, material and temporal goods. Sometimes in our worship of God, we give more importance to norms, rituals, traditions and visible and tangible objects rather than be concerned with the internal disposition of the person and our personal relationship with God. We try mostly to quench our physical thirst. We fill our everyday life with superficial conversation and routines. We seldom stop and examine our personal life or give a serious thought to our private life for we are afraid to look at ourselves. We are also often prejudiced to God's commandments and His Church's teachings. We dodge issues affecting us, our families and relationships by engaging in debates and arguments. We alienate ourselves more and more from God and others due to our sins. We fill our empty jar again and again with the same deceitful riches.

Thirdly, this story reminds us of the spiritual thirst of human life. Even though on the surface, we are thirsty for material things, deep down we are thirsty for the meaning and purpose of life. Ultimately, our thirst is a thirst for God Himself. Jesus says that He alone can satisfy that thirst with living water. But to receive the living water that Jesus offers, we must believe in this supernatural gift - the gift of the living water. We must establish a real, intimate personal relationship with Him. We must courageously admit how thirsty we are for His love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, salvation and divine life. We must sincerely and confidently converse with Him during our worship. We must renounce any preoccupation with worldly concerns, over-attachment to material things and all our sinful ways. We must prevent ritualistic ceremonies, doctrines and teachings of the Church, rules and regulations of a community from getting in the way of our worshipping God genuinely or building an intimate relationship with Him. Finally, we must humbly ask Jesus to give us the living water so that we may never thirst again.

Fourthly, this story motivates us to tell others of our faith experience so they also may believe in Jesus Christ and His power, not because others have told us about Him but because we have heard and experienced Him ourselves.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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