The Bishops Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent

3rd Sunday of Lent
Exod. 17:3-7
Rom. 5:1-2;5-8
John 4:5-42

INTRODUCTION: We continue our Lenten journey. Today, we have the story of the woman at the well where we have a great presentation of the dynamics of conversion and evangelization in the Bible. Look at how Jesus does it!

(1) As the woman seeks, she has already been found. The woman is a seeker as we all are. As she comes to the well, Jesus is already there (the primacy of grace). “It is not you who have chosen me but I have chosen you.” (Jn. 15:16) If only we would surrender to God who is always looking for us, we would be in the right spiritual space. The question is not how do I find God? Rather, how do I allow God to find me? The well is evocative of concupiscent or errant desires. We satisfy our deepest longings with something less than God. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ( vv. 13-14) The whole of spiritual life is in these words. If you drink from the well of power, sexual pleasure, approval, etc. you will thirst again. Why? All these are good in themselves but they fade away, wear off, or run out. Hunger or thirst is for the infinite Good. What is the one Good that never runs dry? The Divine Life which Jesus was offering to the woman–all the benefits the Church offers!

(2) Before grace can really flow into our life, one will have to clear the way. A good summary of John of the Cross’ teaching on spiritual life is how to make a helicopter land. The best way is to clear the way for it to land. So is the spiritual life clearing the way for the flow of grace. Jesus does this with the woman so discreetly: “Go call your husband.” The woman answered: “I have no husband.” Jesus answered: “You are right in saying you have no husband. For you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband.” (v. 16-18) The woman is a prostitute which is why she was drawing water at noontime and alone which is usually done early in the morning or in the evening and together with others. Notice too how Jesus did not begin his conversation with moral condemnation but with an offer of grace like Pope Francis does today. The issue is important for Jesus who was not indifferent to it. Certain moral issues are addressed that was blocking the flow of grace in the case of the woman. Jesus is being quite direct in naming what is disordered in her life was her sexual morality. Moral clarity is essential for successful evangelization.

(3) Once the offer of grace and moral clarity is answered, people like the woman become interested in God and engage in some theological discussion. Her concern was where does one worship right? “Our ancestors worshipped in this mountain but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” (v. 20) Jesus tells her: “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . But the hour is coming and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” (v. 23) In Jn. 2 during the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus himself declares that his body is the Temple. Jesus is telling the woman not to be fussing around on where the true temple is but where right praise happens which is the Body of Jesus! Now, the last step in conversion is: “The woman left her water jar (meaning her past way of life), and went into the town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I have done.’ “ (vv. 28-29) Once one is evangelized, he comes to tell others as hungry and thirsty as he where bread or water is to be found.

CONCLUSION: Do you want a master class on evangelization? Spend some time on the story of the woman at the well.
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches