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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 3rd Sunday of Lent

3rd Sunday of Lent

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

12th March 2023

“Tormented by thirst”

My friends,

“Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses” so began our 1st Reading from the book of Exodus. “Tormented by thirst” is a very concise and accurate description of the human experience – because it’s a fact that we are not easily satisfied, and we have a strong tendency to give out about the failure of others for the plight in which we find ourselves.

The season of Lent is grace and opportunity for us to confront our “torment” or “dissatisfaction”. Today it is St. John’s account of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the Well that is offered to us to reflect on. The thirst which is satiated by fresh water from a well serves as a rich symbol of the “living water” of the person of Jesus that ”wells up to eternal life”. The meeting has quite a bit of dialogue and conversation before the woman understood what Jesus was offering by his person and presence and when she did grasp that new understanding of life, she shared it generously and it was accepted on her word.

Lent, I suggest, is an opportunity to confront the “torment” or “dissatisfaction” in our hearts. There is a natural yearning in the human heart and spirit for wholeness, for right living and for truth. St Augustine spoke of the heart being restless.

The encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well is a truly profound narrative of how we can grow in understanding, like the woman, through a sincere, authentic personal rapport with the Lord Jesus in prayer. Thankfully many of you are on that deeper journey of faith by virtue of your long-life experience which has been something of a “refiner’s fire” – through which you’ve been purified. Others may be taking early steps on this path of purification. It’s a source of grace and encouragement for one another that we gather for Mass regularly. It enables us to come to the well – to ease our thirst, indeed sometimes, our torment. Like the woman’s encounter with Jesus, we find ourselves asking “Sir, give me some of that water so that I might never get thirsty”.

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