God has a Plan that we find our identity in Christ

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

“It shouldn’t have been like this.” As the Hebrews left slavery in Egypt we can imagine they thought they would have a great future ahead of them. They trusted Moses’ leadership and that God was finally freeing them. But now in the first reading (Ex 17:3-7) we see that all is not going well. We can imagine them saying, “It shouldn’t have been like this.” They are tormented by thirst and they are complaining. Now that they have run out of water they feel that God is distant. They no longer trust God. They complained about why they were in the desert. Moses was afraid that they might even stone him. Instead of trusting in God they did the very opposite, they put God to the test. We know what they earned for themselves by testing God instead of trusting in God; they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land, it was their children who entered Canaan. Elsewhere Scripture tells us that what happened to them in the desert is a warning to us (1 Cor 10:11). Maybe sometimes we murmur because we focus on what we don’t have or what we think we should have, rather than focusing on what God has already done for us. The Hebrews in the desert forgot one fundamental point; God had a plan for them and would see that plan through. Do we forget God has a plan for us and will provide for us? The first reading is not just about the Hebrews in the desert. The first reading is also about us. So when things are not as we think they should be, “Keep calm and carry on.” (World War II Poster) God knows what we really need, not what we think we need, and God knows what will best prepare us for our future. God is to be first in our lives. God is the one who will make us happy. When things are not as we thought they would be, remember God has a plan.

Therefore we want to make our own the sentiments of the Psalm (Ps 95). Even when we are thirsty let us ring out our joy to the Lord and come before him giving thanks. Our whole body can praise God; the Psalm invites us to bow, bend low, kneel, and sing. So when we worship we can trust and obey with our whole body. Today we have a choice, murmur like the Hebrews in the desert or trust in God’s plan for us.

O that today you would listen to his voice!
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah. (Ps 95:7-8)

We cannot do this on our own, we need the grace of Christ. Therefore in our second reading (Rom 5) we heard,

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…(Rom 5:1-2)

Christ is the one who drowns out the noise of our murmuring. Christ is the source of the trusting worship of the Psalm, trusting worship even when we are thirsty. We worship in trust even when thirsty because we know God has a plan. As the reading states, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

God also had a plan for the woman of Samaria (John 4:5-42). It seemed just like any other day. She was coming to the well on her own instead of with the women of the town probably because she may have felt excluded due to her sinful past. There she met Jesus and he knew everything about her, about her past and her marriages. But Jesus also had a plan for her, and that plan was to lead her to him. Instead of the water of her plans Jesus offered himself as the water to sustain. Jesus uncovered her past so that what was sinful could be healed. She came to the well bringing a water jar but she found much more than water, so she left her jar by the well and hurried back to the townspeople whom she had been avoiding to tell them that she may have found the Messiah. Just as the Hebrews in the desert in the first reading are a warning to us, the woman of Samaria is an example to us. By sheer grace, like her, we have heard Jesus offer us living water. Jesus knows all about us, even what we do not want to face. But Jesus wants to give us a new identity in himself, to transform us. Of course this happens above all in baptism which is why the readings today are so appropriate for catechumens and the first scrutiny. But Jesus continues to hold out that offer of grace to us,

...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Yes God does understand, yes God does have a plan. All we need is to give ourselves completely to God, to trust completely in God, to allow God be the source of all our existence.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote the following about Jesus asking the Samaritan woman for water,

…when He said: “Give me to drink” it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love. Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for He meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among His disciples in the world, and among His own disciples, alas, He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love. (Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition p189)

Yes, God does have a plan. Instead of murmuring like the Hebrews in the desert, “It shouldn’t have been like this” the Psalm invites us

O that today you would listen to his voice!
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah. (Ps 95:7-8)

All we need is to give ourselves completely to God, to trust completely in God, to allow God be the source of all our existence.

...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

...when Jesus said: “Give me to drink” it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love… Jesus is parched… He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love. (Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition p189)

(Some ideas in this homily were inspired by Pamela E. Jackson Journeybread for the Shadowlands: The Readings for the Rites of the Catechumenate, RCIA )

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2011

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Third Sunday of Lent Year A

Drink the Living Water of Jesus and You Will Never again Thirst

Putting the Picture of Jesus back together again during Lent 2008

Gospel Related: new worship promised by Jesus: Purification of the Old Testament Priesthood - Christ the High Priest of the New Covenant and his Priests 2010

stories about conversion