March 19, 2017 – Third Sunday of Lent
Readings: Exodus 17:3-7, Romans 5:1-2, 5-8, John 4:5-42
The following homily was originally delivered at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis, IN in 2014.
When I am driving in the car, I often listen to sports talk radio. The day after the Colts or Pacers win, the callers are singing the praises of the coaches and players. The players are awesome! Best team we’ve had in years. The coach should be Coach of the Year.
The day after a loss, the coach doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s running the wrong offense. He’s the worst coach we’ve ever had and he should be fired. The day after a loss, the players stink and they all need to be traded.
How quickly these sports fans forget. We live in a world that asks, “What have you done for me lately?”
It appears as though this same sense of entitlement was alive and well as far back as 1500 BC. In the first reading from the Book of Exodus we hear that the Israelites were thirsty. It reads: “The people grumbled against Moses, saying, Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?”
Make them leave Egypt? Really?
In the time leading up to this grumbling, God, working through Moses, had delivered the Israelites from over 400 years of slavery, spared the lives of their firstborn sons, parted the Red Sea to allow them safe passage, destroyed the Egyptian soldiers who were pursuing them, made quail available for them to eat in the desert, and dropped manna from the sky.
Each time God saved them, the Israelites sang His praises.
But how quickly they forgot these many blessings from God. Now, when they were thirsty, their praises quickly became, “But what have you done for me lately?” Just like the fickle sports fan, they grumbled and said God should be traded or fired.
The mistake the Israelites made, and that we often still make today, was in thinking that God was only involved in the extremes of their lives. They only recognized His presence in the highest of highs, and considered Him absent in the lowest of lows. They praised Him for the highs and cursed Him for the lows.
They paid Him little attention otherwise. Why should they? After all, God is really only a factor in our time of need. When those times pop up, we call on Him for help. Sometimes He delivers and sometimes He doesn’t.
Is that how we view our relationship with God? He is only with us in the highs of our lives and abandons us in the lows? Where does He go in-between? Where is He hiding?
What we often lose sight of is that God is always with us. There are countless moments in our lives when God reveals Himself to us and is truly present.
On the morning of the Israelites’ grumbling, God had already revealed His presence in the form of many gifts: The fact that they woke up at all – God had given them the gift of another day. The gift of the earth upon which they walked. The gift of time with their family. God was present to the Israelites through these gifts.
We are given these same types of gifts daily. Unfortunately, these everyday gifts from God often get lost in the chaos and messiness of our lives. They are gifts that should be cherished, but are all too often missed.
What exactly are we expecting when we think of God’s presence in our lives? To see a burning bush? To experience a flash of light? To hear a voice from the clouds? These would all be really cool, but it is unlikely to happen that way for us.
God is much more likely to present Himself to us disguised as our spouse, our children, a friend, or even a passerby on the street. We are much more likely to experience Him in the breeze, in a whisper, or in the silence. He is right there in the middle of all of the chaos and messiness.
He is present in the everyday events – in the simple, yet powerful moments he inspires. God is there when I watch my children hold their own children, and I am witness to the genuine love between them. When I am fishing on a calm lake at 5:00 in the morning, God is there. When a student looks at me, smiles, and says “Good morning,” God is there.
Dinner with friends, praying with Carol, watching my granddaughter fall asleep in my arms, family game night, a long run, and in the silence that rarely comes – God is there.
And in sickness, and death, and financial struggles, and relationship problems, and when experiencing the pain of feeling that no one loves us – God is there too. In the big blessings and the small blessings, in the challenges and the suffering, God is there.
God doesn’t make happenstance appearances in our lives and then abandon us. He is in it for the long haul, every step of the way. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Romans, saying: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts.” What a beautiful image.
This love is the living water, the gift of God, which Jesus describes to the woman at the well.
Maybe it was not a physical thirst that the Israelites were experiencing, but a spiritual one. Perhaps they were afflicted with a thirsty heart. The Israelites were not open to experiencing God all around them. Their hearts were not open to the love God was pouring out, and so had dried up and hardened over time.
Most of us won’t have the opportunity to hear God speak directly to us like He did to Moses and the prophets, or be able to walk side-by-side with Jesus and hear Him teach like His disciples; but that does not mean He is not with us.
If our hearts are open, we will experience His presence in the gifts He gives us daily and in the sacramental moments He inspires. Then we will receive the love that God is pouring out into our hearts.
That is what He has done for us lately.