Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Monday, May 15, 2017

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Pascha 2017

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is risen!

Have you ever wondered what intelligence agencies like the CIA do? We always hear “conspiracy theory” stories about the clandestine or super-secret activities of our nation’s various intelligence agencies and how they spy not only on foreign governments but even on the American people. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA is able to activate your smart TV’s internal microphone and record your conversations. They can even access your cell phone and listen into to your telephone conversation or access your computer and take it over, reading your emails or even sending emails from your account. You are probably thinking right about now, ‘I would hate to be the agent tasked with listening into my conversations.” “Hey! Why did you change the channel? I was watching that!” “Dad, Frankie took my baseball hat and won’t give it back.” Mom, this skirt is too long. I look like grandma!” “I am ten years old, Dad. I know all about the birds and the bees and protection.” No, I do not think I would want to eavesdrop on your conversations either.

Would it not be interesting, though, to eavesdrop on the conversations of someone famous? For example, would we not all like to know exactly what President Trump said about Prime Minister Trudeau after they met? Or what the President says about Hillary Clinton in conversations with his friends? I am sure there would be a lot more than raised eyebrows at some of what was said.

This morning, however, we are going to eavesdrop on a candid conversation Jesus had with a certain Samaritan woman. Let us pretend, for a few minutes, to be intelligence agents at a debriefing who are trying to make sense of this well-side, well-said conversation.

Ok people, let’s get to it. Here is what we have so far. At twelve noon yesterday, Agent Smith, who was assigned to monitor our listening device at Jacob’s well in Sychar, Samaria, picked up an interesting conversation between a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. Now, as you all know, those two peoples, the Jews and the Samaritans, never speak to each other if they can help it. But perhaps the Jewish man was desperate. It seems that he had been on the road all day and was tired and thirsty. So when the Samaritan woman approached the well, he asked her for a drink, to which she responded, “You are a Jew and I a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9)

Now, if the Jewish man was really thirsty, would you not expect him to beg and plead for a drink? Instead, this is what our microphones heard him saying, “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.” (John 4:10) Can any of you agents make any sense of that? What exactly does the Jewish man mean by “living water?” Obviously, the Samaritan woman could not make sense of it. She noted that the man had nothing to use with which to draw water from the well. She then seemed to sense that possibly the man was talking about a different kind of water, and so she asked the man, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” (John 4:12).

You have to admit, it was a good question. After all, in a dry land like that, it is impressive that the well was still pumping out water some two thousand years after Jacob had dug it. Now, you would think that after the woman gave such a profound response that the conversation would be over, that the Jewish man would have just up and left. But such was not the case. Instead, the man responds to the woman, saying, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14). What do you make of that; a water that quenches thirst forever? Can you imagine the implications of such a thing? If such water exists and we can get our hands on it then we can ensure that no one ever dies of thirst again.

The woman too was keen on getting her hands on some of the water about which the Jewish man spoke. But when she asked for some, the Jewish man told her to go get her husband and come back. Was there enough of this water for more than one person? Is that why the Jewish man told her to go get her husband? I do not think so because when the woman reported that she had no husband, the Jewish man said: ‘The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.” (John 4:18).

Where did the Jewish man get his intelligence because he was spot on with his information and the woman admitted it! While I would say that this man is some kind of undercover agent, the woman surmised that he was a prophet – you know, one of those religious fanatics through whom God supposedly speaks. Perhaps that is why she continued with a seemingly unrelated question. She wanted to know where the right place to worship God was: Samaria or Jerusalem? But the man said: “… a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23).

Now this response of the Jewish man may seem a little baffling to us but so it was as well for the woman at the well, for she said, “I know that the Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25). Now, I did a little investigating myself and learned that the Jews and the Samaritans were waiting for someone, the Messiah, to save them and deliver them from all their troubles. And here is the bombshell. That Jewish man we have been listening to on this tape, the one who was so tired from walking that he stopped at this well at Sychar? He said, “I, the one speaking to you am the Messiah (John 4:26). At this point in the recording you can hear others approaching. We assume that the woman left abruptly because we hear a voice calling out, “Hey, you forgot your water jar!”

Agent Smith thought that that was the end of the conversation between the Jewish man and the Samaritan woman, but as you hear now, there is a bit of commotion going on. Apparently, the woman came back and she brought some of her friends with her; other Samaritans we presume. After several minutes of conversation between them, it has been reported that they became convinced that this weary Jewish traveler was, in fact, the Messiah. What do you think?

Ok, let me step back into the role of your bishop now so we can think through this well-side, well-said conversation between the weary Jewish traveler (Jesus) and the Samaritan woman. First of all, you need to know that Jesus was on a mission. In the verses before our text it says that Jesus “had to” go through Samaria on His way back to Galilee. The fact of the matter is that Jesus did not have to go through Samaria any more than you or I have to go through Watertown to get to Syracuse. There are other routes, some of them more direct. So why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? The reason is because He was on a mission. He wanted to speak with the woman at Jacob’s well. Likewise, God wants to speak to us, so He comes to meet us where we are. We are firmly in God’s sights as someone he wants to save and have as His own.

But let us go back to the woman at the well. Why did Jesus wait at the well? It was not because she had done anything to earn God’s love or special attention. Jesus did not make a beeline to Sychar to give her some humanitarian or community service award. Do you remember her life’s story? She had already been through five men, and now she was living with someone outside the bonds of marriage. But that was all the more reason Jesus had to go to Sychar. This woman was in trouble, in deep trouble; for if she continued on the path she was going, she would be condemned to eternal fire. Not a very appealing prospect.

Much like the woman at the well, we too need the interest of Christ. No matter what we have done, Jesus is interested in us and in our overall well-being. And, for whatever reasons we do not go to Him, He comes to us where we are in our lives and waits for us.

When Jesus shows interest in us we often think He just wants something from us. Is that not what the woman at the well concluded when Jesus asked her for a drink? She figured that the only reason the Jewish man “lowered” himself to speak to her was because she had something he wanted. Do we not sometimes feel that way when someone speaks to us? Do not some of you feel that way when I encourage you to attend Divine Liturgy regularly, or support the Church with your time, talent and treasure, or to go out and actively and regularly involved yourselves in works of charity and mercy? When I tell you to do these things, it is not because I want something from you but because I want you to be always in a position where you can receive and experience God’s love to the fullest. “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.” (John 4:10).

You see, when Jesus, through my unworthiness, asks for your attention or asks you to do something, it is because He wants to give you something! He wants to give you His love and manifest to you that he wants to share His life fully with you. You must remember, beloved, that when your bishop or priest speaks to you, he does so not on his own authority but with the authority of Jesus Christ. Thus, when we call you to fuller participation in the life of the Church, to a more regular participation in the Holy Mysteries, and to repentance and metanoia, it is because we, as vicars of Christ and in His person, want to invite you to experience and live in God’s love. Christ wants to give you the living water that forever quenches your thirst for happiness, contentment, peace and purpose.

In order for the water of which Jesus speaks to have its proper effect, however, we must first recognize the conditions we have that need healing and cleansing. At the top of the list is sin. Sin is a sickness which afflicts us all and it is one that can quickly become fatal if we do not take steps to eliminate it from our lives. What sin would Jesus expose if he was having a candid conversation with you? Do you, like the woman at the well, play fast and loose with relationships? Is the person you spend the night with or go on weekend getaways with someone who is not your spouse? Are you presenting yourself as an honorable and righteous person but in reality you selling drugs or doing something else illegal or immoral? Are you in some way living a double life?

How should we deal with our sin? Ignore it? Make excuses for it? Blame someone else for it? Certainly, the woman at the well did none of the foregoing. She admitted her sin, she acknowledged it and owned it and confessed to Jesus that He was right about what He said about her. But she also believed Jesus’ offer of living water that would put out the fires of her sin and, subsequently, of her guilty conscience.

Jesus offers us this morning that living giving water which washes away all sin and guilt in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist. By receiving Christ into yourself, He purges you of Your sins and refreshes your soul. But be beware, beloved, that you do not receive Christ unworthily for if you do, His precious Body and Blood will burn you unto condemnation. For the sake of your soul, seek to receive the Lord honorably and with all humility, acknowledging before Him true repentance and sorrow for your sins.

The Samaritan woman sets for us a goodly example. When Jesus announced: “I am the messiah,” she ran to town with the news. In her haste, she forgot her water jar, but she did not leave without water – living water was bubbling up inside of her just as Jesus said it would. Beloved, we, like the Samaritan woman, also have every reason to leave behind our water jars to run errands of mercy for the Savior. We must find time to do the work of the Lord and to proclaim His Word, the Gospel of Life. This must be our priority. If we make the work of the Lord our priority then everything else will fall into place and our joy and happiness will increase a hundredfold. Like Jesus, we will look beyond our own needs to the needs of others so that we pray for them, help them, serve them, and most importantly, have a well-said conversation with them by sharing this eternal life-giving water of God’s Word with a thirsty world.

Amen. Christ is risen!

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