Homily reflections for 3rd Sunday of Lent 2005
Those of you who use wordprocessors on your computer may have come across a font called “Gill Sans”. It is named after its designer, Eric Gill. He was an English religious sculptor and engraver, who died 1940. He became well know in religious circles because of his writings and lectures on workers' rights and community living. He was born of Noncomformist parents but became a Catholic. Gill and his artistic associates banded together not only to work together on creative projects, but to live together as a community of faith. One of Gill's early mentors was Fr. Vincent McNabb, the prior of the Dominican house of theological studies. After his conversion to Catholicism he made this comment on his faith:
“I would not have anyone think that I became a Catholic because I was convinced of the truth. I became a Catholic because I fell in love with the truth.”
Those words could describe the woman at the well in John's Gospel we have heard today (John 4:5-42). It has been suggested that coming after the marriage feast at Cana this episode has a nuptial flavour. And really Jesus does wooe the woman of Samaria and she came to love the truth, namely, Jesus. The excitement in her voice is not just because he told her things about herself. She was excited more so because Jesus went out of his way to get to know this woman in her need. He dared to speak with a woman who was also a despised Samaritan. For Jesus she was not just a loose woman to be denigrated. Their long dialogue woos her to true worship and to a mission.
Every where I go I become aware of angry people. I see it in the newspapers, on TV, on the streets, in homes. Resentment abounds. There are frantic efforts to rid city streets of violent behaviour. You read and hear dreadful stories by victims of crime of the total disregared human life and well being that they have endured. Believing the media one has to conclude that we do live in violent times. Even though the economy is boyant and unemployment is at its lowest for years many are unhappy. It all reveals, for me anyway, a loss of a sense of beauty, a loss of an ability to love and be loved. There is a deep black hole in the hearts of many people.
The grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness is a great story telling of our human inadequacy (Exodus 17:3-7). They were apathetic and sullen toward God even though he rescued them from Egypt. Now they complain bitterly to Moses that there is no water. This material problem becomes a crisis of faith for them. Why should they follow Moses who has led them into this desperate situation? They are unwilling to trust God but ready to challenge God instead. Many of us are content to remain in our anger against all the troubles and perils of life rather than commit ourselves to anyone let alone God. It reveals then our need of salvation. Sometimes our anger is justified when we are confronted by evil and injustice. Sometimes our anger stems from that emptyness, that darkness within.
St Paul grapples with this question in his letter to the Romans. How can we be put right with God? His answer is not easy. We are saved through the grace of Christ and it comes through faith in Christ on our side.
The Samaritan woman became a disciple and then an apostle telling others her good news. She turns out to be a gracious person. Someone open to the truth and eager to be shown a better way. The resentment and hatred which characterised Jewish – Samaritan relations could be turned around. We too, then, have great reasons to hope. While we are are still sinners, still at a loss, Christ died for us, the ungodly. For St Paul, this is the clearest proof of God's love for sinful humanity. In Jesus we like the Samaritan woman have a faithful friend. Have we come to love the truth like Eric Gill, or do we just give him lip service?