Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – Lent 3A – 8 March 2015 – “Nursed With Living Water”

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3 Lent A – March 8, 2015 – Nursed With Living Water

Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

On this Third Sunday of Lent, March 8, 2015,  there is an amazing coincidence. Last week Jews celebrated the Festival of Purim. It is a joyful event honoring Queen Esther who saved the Jews from annihilation by the evil Haman. Jews today continue to rejoice in the promises of peace.

Today we Christians remember Photina, [1] the bold woman who bumped into Jesus at the well. Although Jews and Samaritans were enemies their meeting also gives us a story of promise and peace.

March is Women’s History month, this week is National Catholic Sisters’ Week and today is International Women’s Day. What a coincidence! We celebrate the accomplishments of women of all ages. Yet, we mourn how they continually are physically and mentally raped of their dignity and still robbed of equal status in both religious and secular cultures. We honor the women who have sustained us in good times and in bad. We commit ourselves to acknowledge and affirm them.

In the first reading from Exodus we are reminded of how God herself nursed the thirsty and impatient people of Israel with life giving water although they had given up on divine help. It is the story of a tender, motherly God nurturing her relationship with her children.

The gospel also focuses on the role a woman plays in revealing the presence of God. Both Jesus and Photina were cautious at first. Eventually they traded secrets. Neither was judgmental. Although we know Photina struggled in her relationships with others maybe she thought this stranger might be different.

Jesus — on his way to death in Jerusalem — was thirsty. Photina gave him a drink. He in turn offered her life giving water. Drinking deeply of his message of peace and justice she would not thirst again. This was a negotiated truce between enemies, an exchange of human respect and hope between strangers.

All of these women, Queen Esther, Photina, women religious, and the women in our homes and nations around the world, teach us that the ways in which we respect one another are pivotal for human well being.

Here in our midst Meg Bassinson and Jessica Burns [2] have made spirited decisions in their lives. Meg and Jessica are showing us that relationships with God and with one another can grow within a caring faith community.

As members of the priesthood of Christ we constitute a sacrament of unity. Baptized in living waters, we foster boundary-less relationships like Jesus did. During liturgy, which rehearses us for doing good the rest of the week, no one should feel like a stranger.

Liturgical theologian Nathan Mitchell wrote that we often forget liturgy is always an act of hospitality and pastoral care, where we make room for one another. Ours is a God who opens up space for the stranger, the other. [3]

In his Lenten message Pope Francis said in the Eucharist “we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this Body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts.” The next Bishop for San Diego Robert McElroy, an advocate of immigration reform, said last week, “It is important [for] the church be one of inclusion.”

Many of the problems in the world are caused not only by suspicion and hatred of those who are not like us but also a lack of respect and care for those who are like us. The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman offers another way. We who are nursed by God with living water are called to make space for others in our lives. Imagine such a world!

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1. The name of the woman is not mentioned in the biblical text. The Orthodox church knows her as Photina (Svetlana in Russian) “Equal to the Apostles.”

2. Jessica is a member of the elect. Meg is a candidate for full communion. Both will be welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

3.  Mitchell, Nathan. “The Amen Corner” in Worship 78, no. 2 (March 2004), 165-75

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “Homily – Lent 3A – 8 March 2015 – “Nursed With Living Water”

  1. Richard, thank you for a very insightful reflection on the need to recognize the accomplishment of women of the world, both past and present. In her interview with Oprah last week, Joan Chittister echoed your thoughts, saying that the most important justice issue of our day is a change in attitude toward women. She went on to say that we cannot continue to dismiss their thoughts, their gifts, their intellect, their needs, and that if we do not then only half the human race is at the table. As you indicated so well, it is about mutual respect and recognition that we are called to be “a sacrament of unity”.

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  2. I can imagine such a world. My husband and I are the sole Christians in our Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in NJ. Getting to know the other families and observe how they practice their faith has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. We have grown close with many of our neighbors who seem to be as curious about us as we are about them. Directly across the street from us lives a Rabbi, his beautiful wife and 5 wonderful children. We have shared many deep conversations (including the time the Rabbi blessed our family and home when we moved in), and I have taken the opportunity to learn more about Judaism and share some of my Catholic beliefs. Most striking is the Orthodox focus on caring for the poor and forgotten members of society. It is mentioned again and again. We have much in common. Although our non-kosher home precludes us from sharing gifts of food with them, we frequently benefit from their (delicious) generosity. On Purim the rabbi’s daughters came to the door with a package of home baked sweets and chocolates for us. Inside was a note inside that read “With a giving heart and love for one another we can achieve great things.” I often think if we Christians observed our faith traditions and celebrated our feast days with half the fervor of my Jewish Orthodox neighbors our world would be in a lot better shape.

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  3. As I sat at the Talk Back session between the two Masses at St. Vincent’s and listened in awe to the wisdom of the many women in the room, especially the women religious, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of loss. For much of the last two centuries the voices of ‘half the sky’ have been silent in our churches. Thank you for shining a spotlight on celebrating women and representing Photina as a three-dimensional woman whose exchange with Jesus was life giving in both directions. So often we have had to listen to an interpretation that focused on her 5 husbands and how Jesus ‘told her everything she ever did.’ Thank you.

    This afternoon some of us attended a wonderful celebration of women in honor or International Women’s Day at the Opalka Gallery at the Sage Colleges. Journalist Rosemary Armeo provided astounding stories and statistics and photographs about women globally. She claimed that she is not ready to truly celebrate until women everywhere have access to education and where they will not be punished for speaking out. She cited a statistic of the rising incidences of rape and violence that have occurred against Egyptian women since the Arab Spring. Apparently, some men are considering it payback for women being part of the uprising.

    Mayor Kathy Sheehan opened the event with fighting words. She is angry, as am I, at the Saratoga bar and those in the blogosphere who are denigrating the young Skidmore student who called this bar owner out for the offensive sign hanging over his bar: “Sexual Harrassment will not be reported. But it will be graded.” Kathy rightly pointed out that if that sign substituted the word racial for sexual, there would be people picketing the bar and calling for a halt to this offensive behavior. But because it has to do with women? People are defending the bar owner.

    It is time for women and men to change the conversation and speak out against any form of violence: cat calling, so-called humorous signs, assault, and rape.

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