Sunday, March 8, 2015


3rd Sunday Lent - Yr A Scrutinies - 2015
Whoever you are – whatever you do – whatever your background, education, profession or occupation – whatever your family situation, your age, your gender, or life experience – whoever we are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty. 

We’ll be following the readings from Year A for the next several weeks as a way of journeying and praying together with those who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter.  The readings in this cycle are required when a member of the community – when one of us – is preparing to receive the Sacraments, because they bring to focus the great themes of our Christian journey.  Lent is for each of us a time of journeying toward the fullness of joy and salvation in Christ that we celebrate at Easter, when we all renew our baptismal promises, and rise again (hopefully even more perfectly, even more freely) into the hope of eternal life.   We can do this by attending to the great images of these ‘Scrutiny’ readings that focus us on water, light and life.  Primordial, basic, elementary symbols in our Christian walk that become the stuff of our sacraments that restore us to eternity.  Water, light, and life.  And we start by admitting to one another that whoever we are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty.


Today’s readings lay out a powerful pattern – one that we often discuss in theory but overlook in practice.  A pattern based around thirst – desire – longing.  The pattern of our need and God’s response.  The children of Israel, wandering long in the desert, had grown thirsty.  So thirsty they thought they were going to die.  So thirsty they thought it might be better to return to the bondage and slavery they endured in Egypt rather than have their thirst go unquenched.  But notice what God does – He brings forth water to quench their thirst from the unlikeliest of places: a rock.  When we are thirsty – and we’re always thirsty – God quenches our thirst from the unlikeliest of places.  And whoever we are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty.

We thirst for love, for understanding, for justice and for peace.  We thirst for security, for acceptance and a sense of belonging.  We thirst for comfort and rest – for holiness, freedom from temptation, and distance from sin.  We thirst for a life of faith that means something – that makes a difference in our lives and the lives of others.  We thirst for a living relationship with God that gives us a lived experience of Jesus as our brother and friend that goes beyond the theoretical.

All of us are thirsty for something …many of us are so thirsty we think we might die…and most of us fall into the age-old pattern of the Israelites:  we’re willing to go back to old ways of living, old and familiar bondage because it didn't seem we were so thirsty there.  ‘Send us back to Egypt – sure we were prisoners there – but at least we weren't thirsty.’ 

You know what’s interesting?  Time and again, human experience has proven that we’re never really thirsty for what we think we’re thirsty for.  Talk to the recovering alcoholic or drug addict, listen to the testimony of one who found real freedom from pride, dishonesty, or envy.  Hear the story of someone who truly overcame their lack of faith or hope.  They all have the same thing to say in one way or another:  they discovered they had been going to the same old well over and over trying to quench their thirst, only to discover that what they could draw there never really satisfied. 


We thirst…that’s the first part of the pattern.  We thirst – and we return time and time again to old places, old habits, old ways of living only to discover that our old wells don’t satisfy.  But the good news today, friends, is that God is always there trying to quench our thirst for good.  We thirst – God provides.

‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst…’   It’s never quite where we expect it.  The thirsty Israelites found life-giving water in the dead dryness of a rock, and the woman at the well found lasting satisfaction for her thirst in the love, acceptance, and welcome of a rule-breaking, line crossing, strange-talking, haggard and weary man named Jesus Christ.  Day after day, she came back to the same old place, seeking to quench her thirst from the water at Jacob’s well, only to find that the satisfaction it provided was temporary – just like day after day we return to our old patterns of living – until one day, she finally encountered what she’d been thirsty for all her life:  the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.


Friends – here we are, you and I.  Here we are, journeying toward Easter, carrying our thirst around with us.  What are you thirsty for?  Life?  Love? Acceptance?  Discipleship?  Faith?  Freedom from sin?  Whatever it is – I can promise you two things:  1 – Whatever you think you’re thirsty for, your true and genuine thirst is for an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.  2 – That thirst will never be quenched apart from Him, and in the context of looking at Him face to face, holding nothing back, not even your sin.  (I don’t need to make explicit the need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation here, because you’re good Catholics, and you know there can be no genuine encounter with Christ that long avoids the routine, authentic, mask-free encounter with Him in the confessional.)


Whoever we are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty.  Thirsty for something that will give our hearts what we truly long for.  Like the woman at the well, we come seeking that which satisfies and fulfills our deepest longings.  Jesus is that living water – poured out from heaven – poured out in the honest confession of sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – poured out in the appearance of bread and wine on this altar.

The question is a simple one:  will we run back to our 'bondage' seeking that which will never satisfy, or will  we enter the confessional to admit our sins and proclaim faith in God’s love and then approach this altar to encounter the living Christ?

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