Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A | March 22/23, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
There once was a farmer who traveled into the village square each morning to draw water from the well.
He would bring two jars each day, filling them to the brim. But one of these jars was broken. With each step, the farmer would lose a little water from the jar. By the time the farmer returned to his farm, that broken jar had lost over ½ of its water.
One day, on his return from the well, the jar spoke to the farmer.
Why do you keep wasting your time with me? You must have noticed that I am broken.
The farmer gently smiled and asked the jar to look at the path ahead.
The jar noticed that there were vibrant flowers in bloom all along his side of the path. But the other side of the path was empty, barren.
Curious, the jar asked . . . why are there only flowers on my side of the path.
The farmer smiled. I have known for years about your broken cracks. So I planted seeds all along your side of the path. Every day you have been watering these seeds. You have brought forth new life and have brought me joy and beauty on my journey each day. See I didn’t need a perfect jar. I just needed you.
I couldn’t help but think of this story as I was reading the Gospel for today . . .
Because in many ways, the woman at the well was a cracked jar.
See it is not coincidence that this woman was alone at the well in the middle of the day.
The reality is, no one went to the well during the day. You went during the morning.
But for this woman, to do so would invite the judgment and scorn of her neighbors. For the life that she has lived. The mistakes that she has made. The circumstances that were out of her control.
So instead she chose to fill her jar with lukewarm water in the heat of the day rather than deal with the accusing glares of her fellow villagers.
When I hear this woman’s story, I can’t help but see my own life reflected in hers.
Because if we are honest with ourselves, we all know that we are broken.
Whether because of the mistakes we’ve made. The decisions we regret. The reputation that we wish we could escape . . . she sleeps around, he is a cheater, she has a drinking problem, he can’t be trusted.
Or because of the times in our life when others have broken us . . . by their failure to love us, by their indifference, by their malice, by their neglect.
We hear the internal tapes that play inside our heads that tell us that we are not perfect enough. That we will never be good enough . . . as a parent or as a child, as a spouse or as a friend, as a Catholic or as a co-worker.
And like the woman at the well, Instead of facing our emptiness, we attempt to fill it with lukewarm water . . .
We attempt to cover our brokenness by worrying about the exterior. How many pounds we have lost. How much muscle we have gained. How high our GPA is. How much money we have in our bank account. How many social engagements fill our calendars.
We try to pretend that our brokenness doesn’t exist. Putting on a mask to the world. Refusing to let people in. Living a safe, sterile existence.
We try to escape our brokenness through busyness, mindless entertainment, alcohol, sex, work . . . whatever allows us to stop thinking about the cracks.
But it ultimately fails. The water seeps away. And we are left once more with the reality of our brokenness, our emptiness.
But that is not where the story ends. See, Jesus does not deny the woman’s brokenness. In fact, he names it, bringing it out from the shadows and into the light.
But in so doing, he chooses to embrace her, brokenness and all. And then he sends her back into the world to be his light to others. Not as a perfect person. But as she was. A broken, beloved child of God.
This is the message that we are given this day.
That our God embraces us as we are, with every one of our cracks.
We no longer need to hide
We no longer need to pretend
We no longer need to escape
He says to each one of us, you are my beloved, broken jar. And I choose you. And you. And you.
I don’t want a perfect vessel. I want you.
I want you to go out into the world and bring life, light, joy and beauty
I want you to be the voice that whispers to another . . . I believe in you. I forgive you. I love you.
I want you to be the embodiment of compassion . . . Standing up for the one who is excluded, outcasted. Gently peeling away the mask of another and embracing him or her as they are.
And as you do my work, I will be right there. Mending those cracks. Making you whole!
We are God’s chosen, broken vessels. Let us go forth to carry his living water to the world.
Image courtesy of http://www.cruzblanca.org/hermanoleon/