Homilies for Virtual Church, 3rd Sunday in Lent

Mary Magdala Community

The first Sunday of our virtual gathering in God’s corner known as Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles Community is upon us.  This is our new normal at least through the next two Sundays.  We need to keep laser focused on a prayer of hopefulness to be back together for Triduum/Easter.

In the meantime please reflect upon these two homilies prepared for us by our two members who were scheduled to preside at Eucharist this morning (had we had it!).  Your Comment/Reflection is most welcome which you can add at the end of this blog entry.  Please remember to refer to each homily by monogram (e.g. GM, JM) and not by first names.

GM – Third Sunday in Lent

The older I get the more I appreciate the season and rhythm of Lent.

Lent: derived from an old English word meaning springtime & a Latin word meaning slowly. Lent points to the coming of spring as we slow down our lives.

The Lenten season asks us to hear once again familiar stories; to view the world with a “beginner’s mind”.

Woman at the Well is one of those stories we hear over and over again and it continues to reward….

The story appears in the last of the four Gospels, that of John.

Mark: 1st gospel; 151 verbs

Matthew & Luke: plagiarize Mark but still are primarily summaries, or synoptic accounts.

Compared to the three earlier gospels, John’s contains rich stories filled with metaphor and wondrous signs. In John’s gospel setting is very important and the stories contain high drama…

John’s audience: the Jewish people of the area, still reeling from the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem. They were a people hungering for the Messiah.

In the Gospel of John Jesus doesn’t make an appearance until deep into the second chapter and the first words that he speaks are: “what are you looking for?” Certainly one of the fundamental questions anyone can ask in their lifetime.

Travel/Movement: Jesus and his disciples are on the move, they are leaving Judea (where his disciples were performing more baptisms than John the Baptist!) and returning to Galilee, but…

Although geographically central, Samaria was a place to be avoided by true Jews… yet  John states that “it was necessary” for Jesus to travel through this land.

Jesus’s people were descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; they were proud of their pure bloodlines; they worshiped in Jerusalem. The Hebrews of Samaria had been a conquered people and were forced to intermarry with their immigrant conquerors many centuries earlier. No self respecting (pure) Jew from Jerusalem would set foot in Samaria. But for Jesus, “beloved son of the God who loved the whole world” it was necessary that he go through (and to) Samaria.

Element of Danger: sending his disciples ahead, Jesus traveled solo into the town of Sychar (a town squarely in the middle of Samaria), an act that invited robbery and murder. Solo travel was rare and dangerous.

The stage is set.

High Noon.

The Well: Jacob’s Well, found on land given to the people of the region by Jacob, and near to the biblical site of Jacob’s Ladder (the passage to heaven!).

The Well: a place where women came to fill their water jars, not at high noon, but at the beginning and the end of the day—and usually accompanied by men

The Woman: an outcast, married five times and living with a man who is not her husband.

The Well was also a place where courtship happened, where men and women (from the same tribe) met. It was a place where women served men water. Yet…Jesus isn’t looking for a wife, the “woman” certainly isn’t looking for another husband; what are they looking for?

During their time together, unattended or supervised by their tribes, they have a conversation that opens “new” gates of heaven for the Samaritan Woman. We must imagine that for perhaps the first time in her life someone really knows her. She is seen, affirmed, and loved. She has found what she didn’t know she had  been looking for.

In this story EVERYTHING IS TURNED ON IT’S HEAD; sexism, racial superiority, personal safety…

“At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said “What are you looking for? or Why are you talking to her?”

The woman, for her part, leaves her water jar (her old life) behind and returns to her village to proclaim what she has heard, who she has met. She has become a disciple…and it works! The people of the village come to the well and affirm what the Woman has told them. They have met the Prophet, the Messiah. And Jesus stays with them for two days, in a place that no respecting Jew would spend two minutes. Imagine the conversations!

So what happens to the Woman?

Irony: After bringing the people of her village to Jesus, she is told “We no longer believe because of your word, for we have heard for ourselves…” Does that sound like a rebuke?  Does she return to her marginalized role in the village?

One can only imagine what her life was like after this divine encounter. In Eastern Orthodox & Eastern Catholic traditions the “Woman” is venerated as a saint and given the name Photine: “the luminous one”. In the stories of the Eastern Church she goes on to become a major disciple before being martyred by Nero.

Lent; a time to slow down, anticipate the Resurrection, and ask What am I looking for?

 JM Homily           Third Sunday in Lent    March 15, 2020

We are very blessed living in the Midwest, on the Great Lakes, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. We take the presence of water for granted.

So we have to imagine what it feels like traveling through the desert.

It’s hot, it’s brown, it’s dusty, it’s dry.

And the Israelites find themselves in the desert, without water, which one needs to live!

A person can only survive about 3 days without water.

So God’s chosen people begin quarreling with each other, complaining to Moses that they are going to die of thirst.

They are angry enough  that Moses thinks they might stone him.

They are angry enough  that the place where this happened is memorialized by the names Massah and Meribah.  Which translate as “the place of the test” and “the place of quarreling.”

But it’s only human to start questioning one’s faith in God under the circumstances.

Moses has led these people out of slavery in Egypt.

With God’s power, he parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the people could cross on dry land—with the Pharaoh’s chariots close behind them!

In the previous chapter of Exodus, they have no food to eat in the desert, and they’re complaining to Moses that they will die of famine!

Each time, God saves the Israelites:

by providing protection from their enemies,

by raining down manna for food,

and this time, by breaking open a rock for water.

To me, this Old Testament story is about people rebelling against the difficulty of their journey.     They are having doubts:

“Is the Lord in our midst or not?”

So what is our takeaway from this?

We are living in challenging times ourselves.   There’s a worldwide viral pandemic, a climate crisis,the stock market’s falling,

not to mention the daily political chaos.

I’m not sure that I’m having a crisis of faith, but it certainly feels like a dry period.

Here are my questions for us to reflect upon:

Can you identify with the feeling of being tested?

When have you been thirsty,  in a desert,  feeling despair,  or anger?

And when have you been saved by the water of Life?

5 Responses

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  2. Connie Byrne says:

    Thanks, everyone. These are wonderful and weighty thoughts. I’m feeling God’s presence most powerfully right now: in the loving kindness of people helping one another to ‘get through’ this virus crisis; in the springing up of new buds and life in my garden; in the connections people are purposefully making with one another like they actually count in our lives. But there is still a nagging darkness to it all as the greedy and selfish continue denying others the support to live, much of it done unnoticed and underground. So I think what I’m looking for is renewed and deepened trust that God’s love will have its way in the world. Right now if course would be great, but I know I need to wait for God to unfold, just like the buds on my lilac tree.

  3. Susan Adrians says:


    What if you thought of it
    as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
    the most sacred of times?
    Cease from travel.
    Cease from buying and selling.
    Give up, just for now,
    on trying to make the world
    different than it is.
    Sing. Pray. Touch only those
    to whom you commit your life.
    Center down.

    And when your body has become still,
    reach out with your heart.
    Know that we are connected
    in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
    (You could hardly deny it now.)
    Know that our lives
    are in one another’s hands.
    (Surely, that has come clear.)
    Do not reach out your hands.
    Reach out your heart.
    Reach out your words.
    Reach out all the tendrils
    of compassion that move, invisibly,
    where we cannot touch.

    Promise this world your love–
    for better or for worse,
    in sickness and in health,
    so long as we all shall live.

    –Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

  4. Beverly Wendling says:

    GM, what a great rendition of a wonderful scripture. (even though you didn’t get to one of my all time favorites, “God is Spirit and those who worship God must worship and Spirit and Truth.” GM, run with that one some time. You do such a good job.
    Thank you for pointing out, “Although geographically central, Samaria was a place to be avoided by true Jews… yet John states that “it was necessary” for Jesus to travel through this land.” It was necessary. Love it. How so often we struggle on our way, yet, perhaps “it is necessary.” What was she looking for? Seems to me she was just drawing water. Yet maybe she was ready. Maybe she was looking and didn’t realize it. And when she hesitatingly found it – Jesus, Grace, God salvation; she brought the Good News to town. She lived and shared her new-found understanding.
    Great stuff, and great sharing. Thanks.

  5. Joe Burke says:

    Thank you GM & JM. The eternal question of mankind – what are we looking for?
    We have the built in urge to move forward, but then we lose TRUST. The water is there, can we believe in a God whose flow of abundant love never ceases? JB

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