“Audacious Jesus”: Fr. Mark-David Janus’s Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent
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by Paulist Fr. Mark-David Janus
March 20, 2017

Third Sunday of Lent Cycle A 

Imagine you are married and got dumped….
Your man says: I divorce you! I divorce you! I divorce you!
And you are on your own, with all the 
heartbreak, loneliness, gossip, and financial worry that entails.
Then you try again, and it happens again.
“I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you”  
Once more:
Heartbreak, loneliness, gossip, financial hardship,
Self-recrimination, self-doubt.
You reach out again, and again and again,  
Each time, you hear:
I love you, I marry you, I divorce you.
Well, there is bad luck and then there is-you.
So if some afternoon
A strange man, a man you do not know,
A man whose type traditionally despises you,
Asks you – for a drink,
You could be forgiven being suspicious.
People could understand if you thought to yourself
“This is a bad pick up line” – one more man in long line of men
Who say: I love you. I marry you. I divorce you;
When they only intend to use and discard you. 

If this is how we can see the woman at the well,
Someone five times rejected 
By men who had committed themselves 
Only to leave when they had enough,
We can not only forgive her sassyness, we might even applaud it. 
How else can she defend herself from the world of men 
who begin by asking for a drink on their way to saying
I love you, I marry you, I divorce you.
When you have been so badly hurt, tenderness is dangerous.
In your traumatized memory
Simple questions
Simple requests
Become land mines that blow up beneath you.
She uses words to shove Jesus away.
But Jesus won’t go away.
He has come expressly for her,
For all of us who have lost in love,
Seen our dreams crash and burn, Lost our career, house, 
reputation, health, self-respect. 
He has come to tell her, to tell us,
That no matter what has and has not happened
No matter how often we have lost
No matter how badly it feels;
What does not seem true at any time is in fact true all the time:
God is with us, God loves us, We are precious in God’s eyes 
beyond imagining.
With her life the way it is
Who can blame her for not believing? 
Who can blame her for attacking:
“You say God is here, my people say God is there,
You pray this way and I pray that way
Does religion make any difference?”
To which Jesus replies:
“The only thing that makes a difference 
The only thing that is real, the only truth
Is God’s love.
If that does not seem real to you
I am here to make it real. 
I am the well that never runs dry in any drought
The one who is with you when all have left
it’s me, me- now, me- forever.
I am here because I know you have never had 
a husband to love you-not really.
I am here to love you, I am how God loves you.”

Sisters and brothers, it boils down to Jesus, audacious Jesus.
In the Old Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer
In the wedding ceremony couples exchange these words:
“With my body I thee worship”
That is how Jesus worshiped God.
Jesus showed love and reverence for the saving power of God
Jesus made real the saving power of God
In his life, with his body.
Jesus loved all as he loved God
With his body Jesus worshiped
The leper,
The outcast
The centurion
The tax collector
Anyone known to be a sinner,
Anyone who was no one,
Everyone who had doubts,
The cowards who were his disciples,
The boy John who wrote this gospel,
And the woman at this well.
He made God’s love real for them with his body.
And so he does for us.

Beyond the image of his body on the cross
Beyond the reality of his body and blood on this altar
Is the reality of the Risen Lord
Whose Spirit has grasped hold of our hearts and will not let go.
He lives in us, the hidden light of our spirit
The flames that burn in our hearts
So deep is the Risen One within us
That our life is a continuation of His life
Our baptismal certificate a new page in his story of love.
He continues to offer his love for us as his gift to the Father,
Sharing His Risen Life with us in the sacrament of communion
So our lives will join his, making our lives more like his-
That in each generation 
each soul as betrayed as the woman at the well
Can feel his love resurrect a battered heart,
Revealing to eyes clouded by human selfishness-
the reality of God’s love that shines for them all the time.

John’s Gospel tells that after listening to Jesus
Townspeople told the woman, “no longer do we believe 
Because of your story, we have heard for ourselves
And now we know Jesus is the savior of the world.”
Sisters and brothers, it is time to hear Him for ourselves.
Like the woman at the well
We have grown up surrounded with selfishness so thick
We cannot see, much less believe, in a God who loves.
Lent is our noontime well, and once again we go there to
listen to an audacious Jesus; 
to drink from his well which never leaves us thirsty;
Experiencing God’s love for us made real in His body
Experiencing His Risen Life expressing itself anew in our lives,
Allowing his Spirit to drive us up and out of ourselves
So we set out searching for those who thirst just as we thirst:
The homeless and unemployed, 
Refugee children and their families,
Even the one whom we love and with whom we sleep;
Family, friends, strangers, even enemies
Making of our lives a well of life giving love
From which they can draw the water of His Life:
The Life that has no end. Amen.