“Is the Lord in our midst or not?” that was the very last line from our Old Testament reading today. Over 3,000 years ago after the Jews had just experienced the Exodus -which was a defining moment in their lives individually as well as a people. Here they had been freed from slavery in Egypt by mighty deeds, miraculous acts through God the Father’s loving, guiding hand. I’ll give you the cliffs notes version: – first with a pillar of cloud and fire, then the parting of the red sea (followed by the remarkable protection of God then drowning their enemies, the Egyptians who had pursued them). Then the Lord had purified their water (seriously, they complained the water didn’t taste right, so God fixed that for them), they had heavenly sustenance called Manna to feed on – in countless ways, every day, the Lord had proven that He was with them. Every day He was caring for them. Yet on this particular day, when they get to the next stage of their journey towards freedom – which is where we picked up today’s reading there’s a set back. They had gone where the Lord had directed them to set up camp. And there wasn’t water there. What was their response? Not to remember all the ways that the Lord had protected, provided and guided them. Not to recall the big and little miracles that had been utterly amazing. Not to remember how faithful God had been. No they’re grumbling, complaining, questioning. They make it seem like it’s directed at Moses, but in reality they are grumbling, complaining, questioning God.

Hi everyone here’s my homily for MARCH 15, 2020- THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even ore for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again – I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim

At the first sign of difficulty, as they encounter what was a minor tribulation or trial (considering what they had just experienced)- what is their reaction? What is their thought? What is their cry: Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Think about what they are saying at this first sign of trial – they would rather return to being slaves rather than being free. To being owned by the Egyptians, considered property rather than to live as God’s chosen people.

It’s a temptation we continue to face. The devil is constantly lying, continuing to deceive, continuing to tempt us to choose to be enslaved no longer to the Egyptians but to fear, anxiety, and dread rather than to live as not just God’s chosen people – but as His beloved Sons and Daughters. That’s not to deny the coronavirus or saying that people don’t need to take reasonable precautions. But you see it, especially if you turn on your television (and can’t watch any sports because they’ve all been cancelled for the time being… can’t even watch a comedy without a commercial or a ticker at the bottom all the time) speaking words, conveying emotions and feelings that feed into those fears, anxieties and dread – which is causing widespread anger… suspicion… worry… full on panic as stores are depleted of toilet paper (not quite sure what it is people think will happen to them should they contract what has been described as a respiratory infection that they need that much toilet paper… then again, I never understood the run on bread, milk and eggs before a snow storm either, but I digress)

Is the Lord in our midst or not?

The Jews needed to answer that question for themselves – and decide whether they were going to continue to journey forward to the destiny God had for them or not… And if they weren’t choosing God – then they were choosing either death or slavery. Rationally, logically we would think what the obvious choice would be. Who would want to choose death or slavery? In reality, people struggle with this choice though. But to be fair, when people choose death or slavery – it’s usually not a rational or logical decision – nor is it rooted in faith (remember, Catholics believe in Faith and Reason). When people choose death or slavery it’s a reaction or an overreaction. It’s an emotional response. “Oh my God” someone utters as they encounter whatever it is that overwhelms, that discourages, that causes them to question or despair, not in prayer, but inadvertently using God’s name as an exclamation point to express their despair. For too many in the world around us, for whatever reason, they’ve felt or been misled to believe God’s not in out midst. And truth be told, we may find ourselves at times wavering in our belief that He has remained.

The scriptures remind us that God sees what we’re suffering from, what obstacles we face. He knows the deep fears and worries – and yes, how easy it is to zero in on those realities that we’re facing (some of which are being amplified or magnified to look bigger and scarier). He knows that when we do keep our eyes focused on those realities, it is easy to join in with those who grumble, complain, question one another, “officials” even God Himself. Which is why, like the Jews, we have to make a choice. If we believe the Lord is in our midst, then we have to double down on our faith which calls us to live differently. To choose to live in Faith, Hope and Love…

Brothers and sisters… we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand and we boast in hope of the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” That’s not my words – that was St. Paul to the Romans in our second reading. It was worth hearing them again. St. Paul is reminding us our lives are in His hands – both in the here and now, and what too many seem to forget for all eternity – our lives are in His hands. Even when we fail, even when we fall, even when we’ve felt distant or isolated from God – St. Paul reminds us God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He loves us – imperfect, sinners as we are – because more than imperfect, more than sinners, we are and always will be His beloved sons and daughters.

That is what is so moving about the story of the Samaritan Woman. She doesn’t believe that… or maybe doesn’t know that. She has been used, and manipulated. She has been told lies and let them take root deep within her about who she is: “divorced” “unfaithful” “promiscuous” “adulterous.” Those are just some of the labels attached to her that she’s believed. Is the Lord in our midst or not – for her, even if He was, she didn’t feel she could be in His midst or anyone elses presence for that matter – which is why she’s going to this well at the hottest point in the day where there’d be the fewest of people around. That’s what isolation does to us (good thing for us to remember) we can zero in all that’s wrong with the world and all that’s wrong with us and our worlds.

But the Gospel beautifully tells us what our hope is, where our hope is, who our hope is. We believe in a God who doesn’t just lead, guide and protect us… provides and cares for us… The amazing, the good news today – He comes looking for us. He waits for us. Being God, He lowers Himself and doesn’t demand our obedience like slaves or servants; He doesn’t speak into our sins and faults which have distorted our image of ourselves and our identities and then shame or guilt us into following Him. He waits for the woman at the well, gently engages her in conversation, and lovingly restores her hope – that her past mistakes don’t have to limit or define her today – and that she has a future. That’s what Jesus has given her. Hope. That’s the Good News. Pope Benedict once beautifully put it: Whoever has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life. For the Samaritan woman, the effect is immediate. Her isolation, her fears, all the lies that she heard about herself and told herself are wiped away and she goes and shares this good news with the very people she was avoiding. She becomes a missionary bringing people to meet Christ.

Now more than ever, we need to follow her example. Not allow ourselves to shut off, isolate and retreat. Not to give into fear, panic and anxiety, and instead look and see how Jesus seeks and waits for us… praying – which means speaking and listening to Him, and renewing our decision – being confident in our choice, our decision our answers and share His good news that:

Yes – the Lord is in our midst.

Yes – the love of God has been poured into our hearts.

Yes – we boast in hope of the glory of God

…and Hope does not disappoint.