Saturday, March 7, 2015

HOMILY - Third Sunday in Lent (Year B) (2015)

I recently completed a good book. It was a memoir of a guy who went to Wittenberg University in the early 70’s, about 20 years before I did, and it tells his experiences playing football, being in a fraternity, and generally about life on a small, liberal arts campus. Our experiences are remarkably similar. While the book recalled for me many great memories and friendships from college, it was also a reminder of how distant I was from God (not God from me) during my college years – and how truly restless, really empty at times, I felt amidst all the worldly pleasures of college life. To be clear: I had/have a great family life growing up, a strong Catholic education before college, and while at college I rarely missed Sunday Mass and even regularly prayed the Rosary. So, I knew God and was not intentionally rejecting Him - it was just that I was too often consumed in the worldly pleasures and pursuits of college that I did not know, understand or maybe even care to be in relationship with God. Even now, I can recall the distance between me and God that left me restless and longing for more – I just did not know then what. I now know that we were made to be in relationship with God, and that we will always be restless and longing for more until we are at rest with God. We can say as much about the Israelites in today’s First Reading and the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel. Physical thirst and hunger intensify a spiritual hunger that the Israelites have for God. Certainly, the God who did all those incredible things for them in Egypt, would also care for them in the desert. But, when we are distant from God – when we don’t trust in God – it is easy to not have hope, and to even grumble, as the Israelites did. In a similar way, the Samaritan woman, for all intensive purposes is considered an outcast and has distanced herself from God and her own community. She has cycled through relationships and she is still restless and longing for more. So, it is no coincidence that she sits alone next to a well of water. But, here is the good news amidst our own restlessness and longing: we are loved by God. And as St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading: God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us in order to restore us in relationship with Him – in fact, Jesus gives us the example of how to love God. Even more, as St. Paul states: the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. The living water of the Sacraments of Baptism, foreshadowed in today’s readings, transforms us. As St. Paul states: we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have access to his grace in which we stand, and we can boast in hope of the glory of God. In other words, we can be like the Samaritan woman who is transformed after her encounter with Christ. And what did she do? She was so filled with joy and peace that she immediately shared that joy and peace with others. I get that – for lots of reasons and too often – we remain distant from God, still restless and longing – not filled with God’s joy and peace, let alone eager to share it with others. Last Saturday, I attended the Men’s Conference with me two older sons – it was a great event. One thing that struck me, especially in the presentation by Chris Spielman, was the call to honesty. Chris Spielman said several times in sharing his faith journey that he needed to be honest with us and speak the truth. I was struck by this, because it was not until I was honest with myself about my actions, thoughts, intentions, motives that I slowly and gradually closed that gap between me and God. Truthfully, it remains a work in progress, but the more I am able to be honest with myself and God about my sinfulness, the closer I am to God: the greater joy and peace I experience, and the less restlessness I feel. This Sunday and the next two Sunday’s during the 10:00 a.m. Mass, we will celebrate the “Scrutinies,” as part of the R.C.I.A. process. These scrutinities encourage a spirit of repentance among our elect preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil – and today’s readings reinforce for them (and us) the power of the waters of Baptism. Father John will pray that as they continue their preparation for Baptism, that they will embrace a spirit of self-searching and repentance – in other words, that they will be honest with themselves and God about what separates them from God and be willing to conform their lives more and more to the example of Christ. My challenge to you is FIRST to be inspired by our elect preparing for Baptism. Embrace the same spirit of self-searching and repentance – be honest with yourself and God about what separates you from God. SECOND, set aside time every day this week to pray over that question: what truly separates you from God. And THIRD bring whatever it is to the Sacrament of Reconciliation next Monday, during our parish penance service. If you need help discerning what keeps you from God’s love, Google “examination of conscience” or read the partial list in this week’s Catholic Times from Pope Francis. I challenge you to be HONEST. If you are truly honest, it will be difficult, maybe even embarrassing, and you may not like what you find. So, ask the Holy Spirit to enter into your heart and mind to help you know and speak to Christ whatever it is that is most pressing in your life. Seek forgiveness and God’s help to avoid whatever it is that separates you from God, so that you be at rest with God now and eternally!