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March 19, 2017
Homily of the Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu
Third Sunday of Lent, Year A – [St. Joseph Church, Hilo (with celebration of patronal feast of St. Joseph)]
When you pray, you do not always obtain what you want. Often God, in his mysterious way, gives you something even better.
The Samaritan woman was not just looking for water when she went to that well at noon. Most women were smart enough to draw their water from the well early in the morning before the heat of the noonday sun pounded down upon them. The men, however, were accustomed to taking their flocks to the well to refresh them at midday. So this Samaritan woman was probably cruising for yet another man to help her overcome her emptiness and loneliness. She had had five husbands and now was living with Number Six. But she was still thirsty for that one man who could satisfy her seemingly insatiable thirst. She did not find what she wanted, but when she found Jesus she found much more than she ever imagined. For the first time, here was a man who did not lust after her body and make her feel good so that he could have his way with her. Here instead was a man who thirsted for her soul, and who, in just a brief but honest conversation, read her like a book, understood her games, and still wanted to give her living water. Her pretence of going to the well at noon only to draw water was unmasked, and the unmasking revealed to her the goodness of her soul and that fact that only God could satisfy her longings. She wanted someone she thought might satisfy her, and instead she found someone else who quenched her thirst once for all with his respect and love.
Joseph of Nazareth also longed to settle down with a wonderful wife, and he must have felt blessed to have been betrothed to the young woman in town whom everyone admired and loved, a woman who was full of grace. He dreamed of the beautiful children that he and Mary might have together. But he did not obtain what he wanted. Instead he found that his supposedly innocent and holy bride-to-be was pregnant, and it obviously was not his child. He must have been terribly hurt and disappointed, but because he did not have a mean bone in his body, he decided to divorce her quietly and just end the relationship. But God revealed to him that what he thought was a disappointment was the greatest blessing he could imagine, and what he thought was a betrayal on the part of Mary was simply an act of obedience to God. Thus he took into his home the woman who was the well from which living water would flow to give life to the whole world. He thought he was going to receive from God the normal blessing of a wife and children, but God surprised him with something much greater, with the Messiah himself.
No one wants to be sick, and when we are we very often pray to the Lord to heal us. Sometimes, even if he does not heal us physically, he surrounds us with people we never realized loved and cared for us, so that what we think we are thirsty for, God satisfies with love that truly refreshes and heals. Our State Legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow physician assisted suicide, but it is called by euphemistic names such as Compassion in Choices or Death with Dignity. It is certainly understandable that a person who is suffering and dying might want to just put an end to pain and suffering right away, to satisfy a thirst for peace. Yet if one deliberately and willfully takes upon oneself a decision that belongs to God alone, violating the commandment of God, “You shall not kill,” one should not be surprised if on the other side there is even greater pain than one could imagine, from which there is no pill that will allow one to escape for all eternity. But if we submit to God’s will, as Joseph did, who is the patron saint of the dying, we can stay open to living waters that will ultimately refresh us forever, the waters that Jesus wants to give us when we are faithful to him, despite our sufferings.
How many try to satisfy their thirst for love through sexual addictions, especially through internet pornography, yet find that the more deeply they become involved with it, the emptier they feel. Here St. Joseph, the chaste husband of the ever-virgin Mary, can teach us that drinking from that well will never satisfy us, but only drinking from the well of conforming our whole lives to God’s will. God thirsts for our chaste dedication to him according to our own vocations, so that we may truly be satisfied.
When you pray, you do not always obtain what you want. Often God, in his mysterious way, gives you something even better. Such was the case with the Samaritan woman, who thought she could be quenched with a certain kind of human love, but learned that only a human love immersed in God’s own loving thirst for us can truly satisfy. Such was the case with St. Joseph, whose life did not go the way he had imagined, and who had to put up with many disappointments. Yet his thirst to do God’s will alone brought him blessings beyond his imagination, the blessing of being the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the foster father of the source of living water himself, and the patron of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ on earth. So it will be with us, when we turn away from sin and all we think will satisfy, and open ourselves to God’s way, so that his thirst for us can provide us with water that will well up within us to eternal life.