Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 24, 2008
Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)
1st reading Ex 17:3-7; Psalm 94; 2nd reading Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Gospel: Jn 4:5-42
“At that time he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’. “Sir’, the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back’, “I have no husband’, she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true’. “Sir’, the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem’. “Woman’, Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth’. The woman said, “I know that Messiah called Christ is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us’. Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you - I am he’.
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?’ or “Why are you talking with her?’ Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something’. But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about’. Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?’ “My food,’ said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest?’ I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor’. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did’. So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world’.
This page of the Gospel is really beautiful, and I will dwell on it without going any further. You know because I've told you many times, that this is the Christ I love, he fascinates me, he takes all of me, the thirsty and tired Christ because I totally see myself in him. In no way I can think to resemble the Christ who is speaking, the miraculous Christ, the Christ of transfiguration, the Christ of resurrection and ascension, but the Christ sitting, tired and thirsty, on the edge of a well, yes, and I feel good in His company; then I place myself aside and watch the wonderful scene that has just been told. Jesus wants to be alone, He does not want observers, it is a meeting between him and a soul and, with the excuse that there is no food, sends all the apostles away. From this page of the Gospel it comes out an illuminating and breaking light that Christ wants to start from the well and pervade the whole world by filling all the centuries of human history. It is Christ awaiting and rejoicing in his heart because he knows that this is an opportunity not only for the conversion of the woman but, as we have read, also of many other people, many Samaritans who will say to the woman: "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world ". When it comes to saving souls Christ never draws back and comes to the point of forgetting, hunger and thirst, and begins this wonderful meeting. She certainly approached Christ warily, she realized He was a Jew and between Samaritans and Jews, you know it, there was deep division and its historic origin dates back several centuries earlier; there was absolutely no relationship between them, not only for historic reasons, but also because of the mentality of the Jews who could not have contacts with the Samaritans because they were considered unclean in the same way as the Gentiles. In case a Jew had had contact with one of them, he would have to do the work of personal purification. In fact, this is the woman’s first surprise: "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" And here's Christ’s beautiful response, "Si scires donum Dei", that is, "If you knew the gift of God" and we should stop here, just delighted for that.
Many times we men approach Christ without knowing the One talking to us, the person feeding our faith, the Eucharist nurturing us; today’s man, after two thousand years of Christianity is still approaching Christ by ignoring him as this woman did.
Another point on which I have reflected and which completely excited me is when she speaks of the mountain on which the town of Sychar stood, it corresponds more or less to the modern city of Nablus. Well, what I would like to highlight is what the woman says, "Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem" and Jesus gives an answer which, I think, maybe today we begin to slowly understand "believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth". Nobody understood it, perhaps we too did not understand it for the past two thousand years, but here Jesus prophesies the true and genuine sacrifice which is the Eucharist. We proclaim that the first time Christ spoke of the Eucharist is in chapter 6 of St. John, well, it's a mistake. Christ has spoken about it well before the miracle of the loaves, he spoke in a light that men have not been able to accommodate and did it right in this passage of the Gospel. The worship he is talking about takes place in Jerusalem and it is made by means of animal sacrifices, but these are replaced by such an exceptionally great sacrifice which is that of the cross. Why nobody ever thought of it? You see how sometimes we need the light of God to understand what He himself said. God has been patient for two thousand years, and now this truth is necessary, must be observed and must be accepted by the whole Church. "The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth". What is the highest worship that we can offer to God? The Eucharistic sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Mass. The answer is one and there are no other and was given by Jesus: "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children" (Mt 11:25).
How many times Our Lady told us that what was taught and preached in this place is greater than the teachings of great theologians. And today we have had a test. But why? Because God wanted it, for he needs nothing. Again he is upsetting some theological hypothesis by saying "I am the Truth", an infinite, immense and profound Truth that men are not able to understand, but they will be able to do so if and when God will make them understand what it is all about. So the credit does not go to man, but only to God. Remember when Jesus, during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, said to the Pharisees who complained of his disciples exalting Him, "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out" (Lk 19:40). Jesus has confused the scholars. God did not use the exegetes or great theologians who would not have given the explanation He wanted, but a simple creature beaten by everyone to whom He told to give an explanation. I could take pride, but I would be stupid and silly because it is the will of God and to Him goes gratitude and appreciation. We are aware of microphones when they do not work, otherwise we do not understand the importance of these devices. We priests must be just like microphones, no one needs to become aware of us, but what must emerge is only the greatness and beauty of being Christian and in union with Christ. If we priests do not do not work then you will perceive it.
In today’s Letter of God, Our Lady said: "Today and tomorrow pray, above all, for your Bishop’s confreres". Already last Friday I asked you to pray, Our Lady has asked it for today and tomorrow because my confreres are getting together, but they have not invited me, they sent me a notice just for information. This, I can assure you, made God very, very sorry to the point of withdrawing on some of them the promise he had made, and they were unaware of: in the future I should have ordained four bishops out of them, but God said: "Because of their attitude and their lack of charity and courage none of them will ever be ordained bishop". But the sad news God gave me, and believe me this has torn my heart apart, is that they regressed spiritually. Well, then pray for my confreres because so the enthusiasm may rekindle in them for the priestly mission, for the beauty of priesthood, for the love that must be addressed to God and to souls, for the courage it takes; no more tactics or opportunism, no more interested and selfish choices, but before our eyes the glory of God and salvation of souls. Christ came for this. The Eucharist lights up the true love, but you have to approach it with the simplicity of shepherds, of children, of the lowly and the humble; those who feel great will be cut down and I would not want that for them it will come true those words that Our Lady said some years ago: "They will fall like bowling pins". I hope that they can be reborn, resurrected and if not as bishops at least as good men, and why not, as holy priests. Thanks if today and tomorrow, forgetting any other intention, you pray exclusively for this.
Praised be Jesus Christ.