The Scent of Water

(Homily for Third Sunday of Lent, Year A)

Some of you have probably read Lonesome Dove. It is basically a story about a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. At one point they have to cross a vast, arid plain; the lack of water causes the cattle to slow down and even die. The men on horseback do what they can to urge the cattle forward. All of a sudden things change. The animals' nostrils expand and they begin snorting. Long before the men sense it, the cattle smell water in the distance and they start to stampede. Now the cowhands have to race to keep up with them.

Our lives are like that. Sometimes we begin to slow down, we know not why. We perhaps even feel a desire to stop entirely. We could keep going if we had a sense that somewhere, not too far away, is what we most want – cool, drinkable water. The sad thing is that although water is coming down in cascades very near to us, we cannot pick up the scent. We say that water is odorless, but the beasts know better. Our problem is that we have manufactured so many syrupy substitutes that we cannot recognize the real thing.* Water is at hand, but we remain thirsty.

Today Jesus meets a woman who epitomizes our human condition. She sought desperately to find something which would quench her thirst. She tried everything – including five husbands! Then Jesus offers her “living water,” that is, flowing water. She had good reason to be cynical and at first it seems like she mocks Jesus: “Sir, you do not even have a bucket…”

Usually we picture the Samaritan woman as young. Considering her marital history, she was probably no spring chicken. Over the years, she had developed a shell, thicker than a football helmet. Jesus gently lifted it from her. She experienced the scent of water and began running toward its source.

Like us the Samaritan woman, without knowing it, was thirsting for God. Still, as St. Augustine points out, she could not have thirsted for God unless he was thirsting for her soul. He who was asking drink was thirsting for the faith of the woman herself.

What a profound insight! Back in the forties, a nun working in Calcutta was struck by the thought of God thirsting for human souls. Meditating of Jesus words, "I thirst," she heard a call to serve the poorest of the poor. Her biographer expressed it this way: "In the silence of contemplation, Mother Teresa of Calcutta heard the echo of Jesus' cry on the Cross: 'I thirst.' This cry, received in the depths of her heart, spurred her to seek out Jesus in the poor."

Because of that experience, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta instructed that the words "I thirst!" should appear next to the cross in all her communities around the world. Jesus thirsts for our faith. He desires that we come to him, the only one who can fill our hearts, quench our thirst.

Some people in our parish are in the last lap toward the source of living water. Two weeks ago Archbishop Brunett welcomed our parish catechumens in the Rite of Election. Today the elect will receive the first “Scrutiny.” It is an ancient prayer of exorcism, based on the Gospel we just listened to. I would like to conclude with a couple of selections the First Scrutiny:

Grant that these catechumens,
who, like the woman of Samaria, thirst for living water,
may turn to the Lord as they hear his word
and acknowledge the sins and weaknesses that weigh them down.
Protect them from vain reliance on self
and defend them from the power of Satan…

They open their hearts to you in faith,
they confess their faults
and lay bare their hidden wounds.
In your love free them from their infirmities,
heal their sickness,
quench their thirst and give them peace.


*An early Christian writer identified the source of our misery:

If we possess any strong attachment to the things of this earth, we cannot possess true charity. For anyone who really loves God prefers to know and experience God rather than creatures. The whole set and longing of such a person's mind is ever directed toward God. For God is far superior to all his creation, since everything which exists has been made by God and for God. And so, in deserting God, who is beyond compare, for inferior works of creation, we show that we value God, the author of creation, less than creation itself. (from Five Hundred Chapters by Maximus the Confessor)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Year A homilies for Third Sunday of Lent):

Best Lent Ever Week 3: A Good Listener (2017)
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 3 (2014)
Thirst (2011)
Why So Dissatisfied? (2008)
The Scent of Water (2005)
What She Desired (2002)
The One You Want (1999)

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies

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Bishop Bob Barron's Homilies

Fr. Brad's Homilies

Fr. Jim's Homilies

Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")

Parish Picture Album

Parish Picture Album

(March 2014)

Parish Picture Album

(March 2011)

my bulletin column (2011)

40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)

Archbishop Dolan An Airport Encounter

“I was raised a Catholic,” he replied, almost always a hint of a cut to come, but I was not prepared for the razor sharpness of the stiletto, as he went on, “and now, as a father of two boys, I can’t look at you or any other priest without thinking of a sexual abuser.”

From ND Bishops: Guidance on Charitable Giving (explains why Catholics should not give to organizations such as March of Dimes, Amnesty International and Susan G. Komen for the Cure)

Bulletin (St Rose & Burkes; How pornography affects our families, marriages and children - Review of Pornified)


For Your Marriage (What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?)

"Separate But Equal" in Colorado

Times for Lenten Confessions

Bulletin (Fruits of Fr. Corapi Retreat, Walk to Cathedral, Good Friday Service)


Good Friday Service for Life

U.S. Breast Cancer Foundation Funding Abortion Provider Planned Parenthood

Terri's Fight is dedicated to keeping you up to date on Terri's situation and how you can help to save the life of an innocent, disabled woman

Prioress of Convent Remembers Sister Lucia

Jimmy Akin on Why the Third Secret of Fatima Was Not Opened in 1960

Vatican Official Pleads for Terri

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru