(Homily for Third Sunday of Lent, Year A)

Bottom line: As we enter into these more intense weeks of Lent, we recognize a longing in our hearts - a thirst that has its source in God's thirst for us.

We have just listened to John, chapter 4 - Jesus and the woman thirsting for living water. This Gospel brings to mind a conversation between a young man and a priest.

The young man came to the priest with tears in his eyes. His girlfriend had left him. The priest knew her and was not surprised by her capriciousness. Still, he tried to show as much sympathy as he could for the brokenhearted boy. At one point the young man stated she was "the most perfect girl" he had ever met.

The priest stopped him, "Was she really all that perfect?"

"Well," he admitted, "she did have her faults." For example, she always got him to do things for her but never reciprocated. But that only made him more crazy for her. And, yes, she did criticize a lot of things about him, the way he dressed, his friends, his job, how he ate, his driving... Once again that habit bonded him even closer to her.

The priest was going to point out that those traits might not be so endearing in ten or twenty years, but what he said was, "Um." The young man continued. Talking about her put him in a kind of melancholy trance. The thing that most tore him apart was how she flirted with other guys in his presence. Jealousy now stabbed him as he thought about her with someone else.

Unable to restrain himself, the priest asked him, "Do you think you would have been happy with her?"

The young man was silent. He then answered honestly, "No." Then he quickly added, " But I would rather be miserable with her than happy without her."

"John," the priest said, "she is not the one you want."

Puzzled, he asked, "Who?"

"The one you want," the priest said, "is God."

All of us have this longing - not for pleasure or comfort or tranquillity. We would gladly sacrifice those things - and more - if we could only have that for which our heart yearns. Like the woman in today's Gospel, we thirst.

St. Theresa of Avila wrote, "Thirst expresses the desire for something, but a desire so intense that we would die if we lacked it."*

Our problem is that we think something in this world will satisfy our thirst. It will not.** The woman in today's Gospel had five husbands. None of them filled her longing. None of them could.

No person, place, thing or combination of circumstances can satisfy man's inner longing. The reason is this: Our thirst comes not from ourselves, but because Someone thirsts for us. One of the early Christian preachers, Gregory of Nazianzus, exclaimed, "God thirsts for the one who thirsts for Him!"

It is hard for people today to imagine God thirsting for us. We are used to hearing about the hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. The universe is so enormous: How could God concern himself with beings so small and insignificant as us?***

We are small, of course, not only in relation to the cosmos, but even in relation to the nearest mountain range - or even the nearest tree. But size is not everything. Some scientists speak about the "anthropic principle." The universe gives the appearance of being fine-tuned to produce humans. It seems to need all those galaxies and stars to make possible the blue dot that we live on.

However all that be about the universe, we know from the Bible that God goes to great lengths for our salvation. In Jesus we see how much God thirsts for souls. In the Creed we say, "For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven."

As we enter into these more intense weeks of Lent, we recognize a longing in our hearts - a thirst that has its source in God's thirst for us.


*Quoted by Gianfranco Ravasi, Segun las Escrituras. p. 70.

**The Buddha saw this clearly - that insight is the basis of his enlightenment and his continuing appeal. Jesus and the Buddha both identify the human dilemma, but they offer very different solutions. Or to put it a different way, the Buddhist insight could prepare a person for Jesus.

***St. Augustine wrote:

There are those who consider that only the world itself was made by God, and that other things come into being through the world itself, just as He ordained and commanded, but without God's doing the work Himself. The statement of the Lord, however, is proposed against them: "My Father is working even until now.

Thus let us believe, or if we are able, let us even understand that God is working even to the present in such a way that if He were to withdraw His operation from the things He created, the would fall apart.

(Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume III #1694 by William A Jurgen)

In a footnote, Fr. Jurgen writes dryly: "Deus autem ipsum nihil operari. Apparently, then, the theory of evolution is not really a new idea in modern times."

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

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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)

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