ALWAYS HESITATE to take the shorter version of the Scripture readings when that is given as an option. I think it is better to shorten the sermon or homily rather than to take the shorter reading from the Bible. Now I realize this reasoning may not always be valid or even the best choice, but it is a thought that does influence my choice. I didn’t pay attention to which parts would be omitted in the shorter version of today’s Gospel. But today’s event is very memorable in the life of our Lord. It has inspired some great paintings. It brings out qualities and characteristics of our Lord that perhaps are not so clearly seen in other events.
To me this event shows that our Lord came for sinners. We have no way of knowing if this woman was a notorious sinner, that is, everyone knew that by now she had had five husbands. Was that possibly the reason she was coming to the well by herself at noon to get water? Had the other women all come earlier when it was cooler? Who knows how some of those husbands might have treated her? Of course Jesus knew. I have always been amused by this woman’s use of what some would call a ‘mental’ reservation when she said she had no husband. Was she really meaning that she knew she was in an ‘invalid’ marriage, and that the man she was now with was not really her husband? Or did she think she might strike up something with this nice looking young man? Well Jesus soon put the damper on that!
It just all goes to show us that human nature doesn’t change. I often think of that when we meet that Gospel passage which has the Pharisees asking, “Master, Is it ever lawful for a man to divorce his wife and marry another?” I often think, “They were asking that question back then and they are still asking that question.” And the answer is still the same. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” has been, is, and will always be true. Or as the elderly Illinois farmer once put it to me, “What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong, and you can’t change it!”
And the nature of marriage can’t change. I have often said that I thought there were some truths that were self evident, like the Constitution of the United States speaks about. All men are created equal; the right to the pursuit of happiness, etc. They are so self-evident; we don’t have to prove them. I used to think that marriage was the union or joining for life of one man and one woman for the begetting of children and their mutual help and support. This was a self evident truth and didn’t need any proof. But apparently lots of people no longer think this way.
Sin has been going on a long time, ever since the time of Adam and Eve. It seems the characteristic of our time is that now we want to call sin something good; we want to say we have a right to things that are sinful; we think others should even support and promote sinful ways of life. And if you are unwilling to do that, you are being unfair and unjust. I think we are becoming worse than the ancient pagan Romans and Greeks. I never heard of them approving same-sex marriages. And even uneducated and uncivilized people didn’t kill their own children or approve abortion.
When the Blessed Mother gave us the ‘Fatima‘ prayer to be prayed after each decade of the Rosary, I’m referring mainly to the words “especially those who have most need of thy mercy,” I think she must have been thinking of those who aren’t even aware of sin and God anymore. The Bible speaks of not ‘hardening’ your hearts. I’ve heard that some psychologists say that guilt feelings are bad for us. I don’t know that I agree. If I do something wrong, I should feel guilty, and it is good to feel guilty, so that I will do something about it. The tragic situation is to do wrong, but to have such a hardened heart as to not feel guilty. One can easily die unrepentant in that state. Hopefully we will meet this lady at the well in heaven some day and learn ‘the rest of the story’.
We hope you enjoyed this homily by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.