23 March 2014

God always makes the first move

3rd Sunday of Lent

Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Indeed: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth. . .” The hour is here and here we are, worshiping the Father in Spirit and in truth. How else can we worship the Father but through His Spirit and in His truth? “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” Hasn't “the love of God been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”? Of course! “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners. Not b/c we did something deserving. Not b/c we had achieved holiness w/o Christ. But even while we were sinning, Christ died for us. Moses, Paul, and Jesus himself testify to the Father's unbounded love for us. Despite their kvetching in the desert, He provides water for His wandering people. Despite our sin, He provides the Christ for our salvation. Despite our frequent infidelity, He sends His Holy Spirit so that we might worship Him and come back to Him in holiness. In every instance of our disobedience, God makes the first move to restore us. He takes the initiative and gives us everything we need to find our way home. He loves first, so that we might begin to love. 

What does love have to do with Lent? Well, if Lent is about finding and eliminating the sources of our disobedience, then the Sundays of Lent are all about paying attention to God's mercy. The Psalmist sings this evening, “Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord. . .Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us.” And we might rightly wonder why we should bother with all this singing and rejoicing and kneeling. We're two weeks into our Lenten desert and if we are doing it right, we know all too well how far we are from God. But if we wallow in that distance, if we cling to the length and depth of our sin, we will miss the Good News that Christ came to deliver. He says to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst. . .” And then we would miss our chance to say to Christ, “Lord, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty. . .” Yes, Lent is about identifying and tackling our sins. But while we are identifying and tackling our sins, Christ stands with us, pouring out for us the Waters of Eternal Life. This is why we pause during Lent – to pay attention when he says, “I am your Savior.” 

The Sundays of Lent all about hearing the GOOD News of Lent. So, here’s what we are supposed to hear from the gospel: the preaching of the Good News is to go out to everyone, excluding no one not even those with whom we have significant religious differences. The Living Water of God’s grace is immeasurably deep and awesomely wide. We receive this Water as a gift, given without price or debt, liberally handed-over in love, and dipped from the well of Christ Jesus himself. 

The Living Water of God’s saving grace flows easily and freely over the dirtiest feet, into the foulest mouths, through the most unclean hands, and washes away any and all afflictions. 

The Living Water of God’s grace waters the cruelest heart, softens the hardest head, and tames the most passionate stomach. No dam or pipe or bucket or cloud is strong enough, high enough, deep enough or empty enough to hold the gifts that our Father has to give us. 

The Living Water of God’s grace is the Bridge between blood enemies; the Way across all anger and pride; the Means of health and beauty; the only Gate to truth and goodness. Built on the confession of Peter and guarded against Hell itself, the Church floats on its ocean, unsinkable, unshakable, His Ark. 

The Living Water of God’s grace wets everything it touches, stains anything it falls upon, and indelibly marks for eternal life anyone who will say with the Samaritan woman, “Lord! Give me this water.”

We learn from the gospel that we cannot worship I AM THAT I AM on any single mountain; in one church building and not another; nor can we pray in Jerusalem alone, Rome alone, Paris alone, or New Orleans alone. We learn that we are to worship the LORD in Spirit and in Truth, not with spirits and lies, but in His Spirit and His Truth; alone with Him and all together, we pray where we are, when we are, and we ask for one gift: voices eager to praise His glory, voice set afire with the Word of God’s mercy.

Jesus says to the woman, “I am [the Christ], the one who is speaking with you.” When she tells her neighbors this truth, they come to Christ and listen to the Word. For two days they listen. When the time for him to leave comes, the Samaritans say to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” If she had held her tongue, quieted her voice and failed to speak the Truth, they would not have heard. Where then would they find hope?

Paul writes to the Romans: “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” If we are not disappointed in the grace we have received, how much more passionate are we then about speaking a simple truth, just one word to our neighbors about the gift of life we have received. There is no hope on the dry land of secular religion or science; no hope in the mouths of politicians or professors; there is no hope in test tubes or books. No hope that lasts. Our hope, our one hope is the depth, the breadth, the width of our Father’s immeasurable mercy – the sky-wide and valley-deep well of His free flowing and ever-living Water. Walking this desert of Lent to the Cross, let Paul remind you: “…only with difficulty [do you] die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person [you] might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners [still sinners!] Christ died for us.”

The first move in Love and Mercy belongs to God alone. The second move is ours alone. Do we drink from the saving well, or not? Do we rejoice with Christ, or grieve without him? Tomorrow you return to the desert. Will you go back thirsty, or filled with the water of Eternal life?

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----?


  1. I really wanted to like this homily - I liked the idea of the first and second paragraphs, but it kind of went downhill from there. Many good "sound bites" but they didn't seem to mesh well. Penultimate paragraph was quite good, and I appreciated your questions in the final paragraph . . . though I thought the second move was ours alone WITH grace to help us make that move. Yes?

    1. Our move towards God presumes His move towards us.

      Yea, this one was a mess. Lots of reasons, no excuses.