Monday, March 24, 2014

Homily - "Life-changing encounter"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Tonight’s Gospel (Jn 4:5-42) is one of my favorites: the Samaritan woman at the well.  It is all about an encounter with Christ. The Church puts this Gospel strategically on the 3rd Sunday of Lent which is also the first scrutiny for those coming into the Church at Easter.  It is to emphasize that to be Catholic is to focus on this personal encounter.  The Church herself has said that it’s not about a religion; it’s about a person, Jesus Christ.  I can relate to this Gospel story because it’s one conversation that changes her life.  It was one conversation in college with a priest that changed my life.  We were talking about the Eucharist and he said, “Greg, this is my body means this is my body”.  I don’t know if it was just one line that changed her life, but it was one encounter that changed her heart and life forever.

We see it in the way she addresses the Lord.  First, it’s “Jew”.  Then, it’s “Sir”.  Then, “prophet”.  And then, “Christ”.  She goes from this conversation to tell others that she has met the Christ and they come to believe.  She is seen as the first Christian evangelizer…she converts a whole town!  It may have been what Jesus said about her personally that changed her heart about who he is.  She could see that he was a prophet; then told others what he told her about herself. 

The encounter begins with and is centered on water.  She comes to Jacob’s Well which has great significance in the Old Testament.  Water symbolized the life God has given us.  When she comes with her water jar to draw from the well, Jesus offers her greater water…”living water”.  She basically asks him, ‘who do you think you are! Are you greater than our father Jacob?’  He replied by saying that whoever drinks the water from that well will be thirsty; whoever drinks the water from his well will never thirst.  She begins to be attracted to what he is offering (as anybody would), and asks for that water.

The living water He is offering is the Holy Spirit.  We can see clearly an allusion to Baptism.  For it is in the waters of Baptism that we first receive the Holy Spirit.  Again, this amazing Gospel is given for those who are preparing to be baptized at Easter.  He is offering them what he offered the Samaritan woman: the water that wells up to eternal life!  She wants this water, and seems to drink from it during their conversation.  That is, she gets a taste of the life in the Spirit. 

If you noticed, she left her water jar at the well and went off to tell others about Christ.  That was the very reason she came to the well!  This might be the experience of many of you in coming to GW.  You brought your water jar looking for all of the natural benefits that GW offers with a major, career, or internships.  These are all good like the water of Jacob’s Well.  But, you have had an encounter with Christ, and have left your water jar at the well.  In other words, you have seen what the woman saw: that the supernatural transcends the natural.  That what you are really looking for is found in Christ and through His Spirit (for it is only in the Spirit that we know and live Christ).  The living water that He offers is truly satisfying.  It’s on another level.  Life in the Spirit is supernatural.  It transcends the natural.  Just like with her, the natural leads to the supernatural and is fulfilled by it.  This is what Christ offers her.  He heroically crosses the lines of gender and culture to reach her; he wants her soul and heart that much.

I am offering you an experience with the Holy Spirit this coming Saturday at St. Stephen’s from 1 to 4 pm.  This is for GW Catholic students and their friends.  It’s called the “Healing of Families” seminar.  An African priest has written a book with the same title and brought this to the United States.  Over the past  couples of years, many, many people have experienced healing of family wounds.  We all have family problems.  They are intense.  This will be intense in looking at the wounds that are there from childhood trauma, unforgiveness, unhealthy relationships with friends, involvement with the occult, and family tree issues.  The first two hours we will understand where problems come from in families, and then identify them in our own.  The last hour will be to bring all of our family wounds to the Holy Spirit for him to heal them.  I know this might sound hokey to some of you; it did to me in college.  But, it’s like the Healing Masses we started here years ago: at first people were wondering, ‘what is this?’.  But, now they are very popular.  Basically, people see it’s the Holy Spirit and it’s awesome and helpful. 

Please be open to coming on Saturday to experience the power and healing of the Holy Spirit.  It really is the same opportunity that the woman at the well had: an encounter with Christ and the living water He offers: life in the Spirit that wells up to eternal life.



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