Third Sunday of Lent
March 4, 2018 – Year A Readings
Readings: Ez 17:3-7 / Ps 95 / Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 / Jn 4:5-42
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of the season of Lent, which is also the first scrutiny for our four catechumens here at Holy Name, who will be receiving the sacrament of Baptism at the Easter Vigil. We also have catechumens in our sister parish, and this is the first time that both parishes will be welcoming new members to the Church. For those of you using your own missal, we use the readings for Year A when we have scrutinies for the catechumens.
A week ago, and for the first time since I came to Bedford nine years ago, I saw a mouse in the rectory. That’s pretty good, one mouse in nine years. I mentioned this during a meeting, and one of the men in the parish suggested I get a mouse trap, bait it with peanut butter, and the mouse would not feel any pain: it would be killed instantly. I told him I have a Franciscan spirit; I don’t kill even an ant, let alone a mouse.
What I did was ask the help of a professional exterminator. He went to the rectory with his truck, and he gave me the impression that killing mice is serious business and that he was there for all-out war with the mice. But before he did his thing I told him “Let me make this clear, I don’t want to see a dead mouse inside the house. Whatever you do, make sure that won’t happen,” and he promised me that it wouldn’t.
I asked him how he planned to do it. He pulled out a pail of a special kind of bread that he would put in all of the places that the mouse could possibly go. Up until this time I had not found any holes where the mouse could possibly get into the house. This bread is gourmet for mice. They can’t resist it; it is better than peanut butter or nuts.
When the mouse eats this bread, it becomes very thirsty and it will go out of the house to look for water to drink. That will be the beginning of the end of his earthly existence; he will rest in peace. He will realize that he went to the wrong house and ate the wrong food. I called the exterminator back and told him he had the job.
The reason I told you that story is that every human being thirsts for love. We thirst for peace and joy. Everybody would like to be happy. That is normal, and that is perfectly fine. The problem is that some people look for peace, joy, and happiness in all the wrong places, on all the wrong websites, and in the company of the wrong people and using the wrong method. They forget that there is only one source of true joy and peace: our Lord and our God, who is Himself the author of life.
In today’s gospel Jesus offers the Samaritan woman this living water, because He knows that she thirsts not only for water. She doesn’t only experience physical thirst, but also psychological, emotional, and spiritual thirst. He promised her that He is going to give her living water. Our Lord didn’t explain what this living water is and how He is going to give her this living water to drink. But He does so in chapter seven of the same gospel of John, verse thirty-seven:
“On the last day, the greatest day of the feast. Jesus stood up and exclaimed, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” John said this in reference to the Holy Spirit, that those who came to believe in Him were to receive.
When our Lord Jesus was talking about “living water” to the Samaritan woman, He was talking about the Holy Spirit that we all receive in the sacrament of Baptism. He was talking about the same Spirit that the catechumens will be receiving this Easter Vigil. And this reminds us who we are and whose we are.
How can this living water quench our thirst? One answer is in the letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians. Saint Paul was telling the Christians there about the fruits of the spirit. When you were baptized and you received the living water, you were given an enormous gift. These are just three of the fruits of the spirit: love, joy and peace (along with six other fruits.)
Love. Who among us doesn’t like to love and be loved? Everyone does. The second fruit is joy. Who doesn’t like to be happy? That’s our goal in this world, to be happy. Not only in this world, but for all eternity. And the third, peace, we want peace. When we go to bed at night, we want to sleep in peace and wake up in the morning in peace and live a life in all its fullness.
These are the virtues that our Lord gives us when we receive the living water, the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of baptism. We all have this with us until the end of our life here on earth and until we cross the door which we call death. This is great news.
One last story. This story is told about a sales person who is trying to make a good sales pitch to a very important client. He tried but failed. When he went back to his office, he told his sales manager, “Sir, I’m sorry. I tried my best, but apparently my best is not good enough. There is really truth in the saying, ‘You can lead the horse to the river, but you can’t make him drink.’” But the boss answered him, “It is not your job to make him drink. All you have to do is make him thirsty.”
Now my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this homily is not so much for you. The reason why you are all here is because you thirst for the sacrament that the Lord God has given us in this Eucharistic celebration. This homily is for those who are not here.
So when you go forth after this Mass, you have an obligation to tell your friends, acquaintances, relatives who are not here with us, who are not even planning to be with us, that we have a God who would quench their thirst for love, for peace. By the way you live your life in all its fullness, it will make them thirsty for God’s words. It will make the people around you thirsty for what you have, which we all get from praying constantly and receiving the sacraments. In the meantime, while doing our evangelizing, with our lives and our words we will all experience a life that is full of peace, love, and joy.