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2018-04-29 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "A Transforming Conversation with our Savior"

A Transforming Conversation with our Savior. Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Sunday, April 24, 2018.
Fifth Sunday after Easter. Sunday of the Samaritan Woman.

PROKIMENON (Tone 4) Ps. 103: 24,1
How great are your works O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all.
Stichon: Bless the Lord, O my soul! You are very great indeed, O Lord my God!

A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (11:19-30).
In those days when the disciples were dispersed by the persecution that had broken out over Stephen, they went all the way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none but the Jews. But some of them were Cypriots and Cyreneans, and as they reached Antioch, they were speaking to the Greeks, announcing the Good News of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. And word concerning them came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch. And when he got there and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to stay in the Lord with steadfast hearts: for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great multitude was added to the Lord. And Barnabas traveled to Tarsus, looking for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. And it happened that for a whole year they took part in the church meetings and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” Now in those days some prophets from Jerusalem came down to Antioch, and one of them named Agabus got up and revealed through the Spirit that a dire famine was threatening the whole world — and it occurred during the reign of Emperor Claudius. And so, the disciples decided to send relief to the brethren living in Judea — each one as much as he could afford — and this they did, sending it to the presbyters by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

ALLELUIA (Tone 4) Ps.44: 5, 8
String your bow, go forth, reign for the sake of truth, meekness and righteousness, and your right hand shall lead you wonderfully. Stichon: You loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of joy above your companions.

Gospel of the Feast: John 4:5-42.
At that time Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sichar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, wearied as he was from the journey, was sitting at the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a Samaritan woman to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me to drink,” for his disciples had gone away into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman therefore said to him, “How is it that you, although you are a Jew, ask drink of me, who am a Samaritan woman?” For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to , her. “If you only knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you perhaps would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no pail, and the well is deep. Where can you get living water from? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well, and drank from it, himself, and his sons, and his flocks?” In answer Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. He, however, who drinks of the water I will give him shall never thirst; but the water I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst, or come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have said well, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. In this you have spoken truly. “The woman said to him, “Sir, I see you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you say Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming (who is called Christ), and when he comes he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak with you am he.” And at this point his disciples came; and they wondered that he was speaking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do you seek?” or “Why do you speak with her?” The woman therefore left her water-jar and went away into the town, and said to the people, “Come and see a man who has told me all I have ever done. Can he be the Christ?” They went out from the town and came to meet him. Meanwhile, his disciples begged him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” The disciples therefore said to one another, “Has someone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Well, I say to you, lift up your eyes and behold that the fields are already white for the harvest. And the one who reaps receives a wage, and gathers fruit unto life everlasting, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. For herein is the proverb true, ‘One sows, another reaps.’ I have sent you to reap that on which you have not labored. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” Now many of the Samaritans of that town believed in him because of the word of the woman who bore witness, “He told me all I have ever done.” When, therefore, the Samaritans had come to him, they begged him to stay there; and he stayed two days. And far more believed because of his word. And they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you have said, for we have heard for ourselves and we know this is in truth the Savior of the world,” the Christ.

It is great that we all believe in God but it is important to ask ourselves what kind of God we believe in.

Unfortunately, sometimes we believe in a God whose only purpose is to serve us and we treat God like a vending machine. We put in some change, request what we want, then wait for the items to drop down.

If we are sick, we ask God to heal us immediately. If we need a job, we ask for Divine intervention. Or sometimes if we need a parking spot, we think that we might as well ask God.

There was a man who got a $500,000 a year job in downtown New York. On his way to work on the first day he got stuck in traffic. He started worrying because his boss told him to make sure he never arrives late. He got close to his office ten minutes before he was supposed to start but he could not find a parking spot, so he prayed: “God if I find a parking space within the next three minutes, I will donate $10,000 to the Church.” Just as he said this a car pulled out in front of him. He looked up and said: “God, you don’t need to help me with the parking space. I found one myself.”

This man who felt he only needs God when he is looking for a place to park has not really understood God.

That is why today’s Gospel of the Samaritan woman is so important to help us develop a balanced and healthy view of God.

There are three things that stand out in today’s Gospel. First, Jesus does not put people in categories of greater or lesser importance. Second, Jesus wants us to have a regular conversation with Him. Third, Jesus does not like sin but He loves the sinner.

With regard to the first point, during His life, Jesus treated everyone with great respect, especially those who were social outcasts.

This is actually an extraordinary gospel because the Samaritan woman was not only an outcast, but she was an outcast at three levels. First, she was a woman in a culture that did not respect women. Second, she was a Samaritan, which meant the Jews considered them to be a lower class of people. Third, she had such a bad reputation that she was even rejected by the Samaritans themselves. Therefore, she was rejected at three different levels, as a woman, as a Samaritan, and as a Samaritan with a bad reputation. She was rejected by absolutely everyone. Everyone that is except Jesus.

That is why she was so surprised when Jesus started speaking with her. “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9).

This shows us that although we may feel that some people do not like or accept us, God is always right there for us. People may reject us, but God is always with us and for us. In the Old Testament, God tells Isaiah the prophet: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

This leads us to our second point. Jesus wants to have a conversation with her although she was a woman, a Samaritan, and an outcast from among the Samaritans.

Another amazing aspect of this reading is that it is the longest conversation that Jesus has with anyone in any of the Gospels, even with his disciples. This shows us that if Jesus wanted to have a conversation with someone who was considered to be an outcast from even among the outcasts, then Jesus wants to have a conversation with each one of us right here and right now regardless of how worthy we think we are.

Sometimes people think that a priest, bishop, or pope have a direct line to God. I guarantee you I never got a toll free number to God when I was ordained a priest. People sometimes ask me to pray for them, then add “God is not listening to me maybe he will listen to you.” Of course the priest has dedicated his life to pray for people and wants to pray for you and with you, but I always remind everyone, “I can pray for you but I can’t pray instead of you.”

Therefore, today as we reflect on the story of the Samaritan woman let us make sure to start an honest conversation with God regardless of how worthy we feel or where we are in our spiritual life. God always wants to hear our voice, God always wants to hear what is on our heart, and God always wants to hear about our joys and sorrows.

The third important point in this Gospel is that Jesus does not like sin but loves the sinner. Jesus knew the Samaritan woman had a bad reputation even before he began to speak with her. However, despite her reputation, He asks her to give him water. He treats her with dignity and accepts her as an important person. It is only after Jesus shows her respect does He challenge her to honestly look at herself and change how she is living.

In this Gospel we see the Samaritan woman make a complete reversal of directions. She was a woman who was despised by everyone including her own people, but she became a leader in her community as a result of these three unique aspects of today’s gospel.

Number one, Jesus respects her because he does not have categories for people. Number two, Jesus has a long, honest, and personal conversation with her, and number three Jesus accepts her but also challenges her to take a closer look at her life.

As a result of this, she became the first to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to many other Samaritans. Today’s Gospel tell us: “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did’ ” (John 4:39).

I encourage you when you go home to read John 4 slowly and reflect on these three aspects of the Gospel: first that you are special in God’s eyes regardless of who you are, second that God wants to have a real, extended, and daily conversation with you, and third that God wants to make you a stronger believer so that you can grow in His love and share the joy of that love with others.

Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
Office: (714) 985-1710
My cell: (714) 914-1710
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