Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

While the COVID-19 restrictions are in place, I hope to put my homily on line for people to read.  God bless!

The precautions we’re taking for the Coronavirus to preserve our physical life are like what Lent calls us to for our spiritual life:

First, consider the hoarding that’s taken place, especially regarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. (I was in Allen’s on Friday, and there were “limit 3” signs up.) The penances of Lent, especially things like fasting and almsgiving, help us to follow Jesus’ advice when He says:

Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be (Matthew 6:20-21).

Or think of how the virus may require us to go into isolation, either to keep us from getting the virus or from giving it to others. But do we take such measures to isolate ourselves from near occasions of sin, especially mortal sin – an even more deadly virus that can cause eternal death.

Or even consider the emphasis on proper hygiene. For our spiritual health, are we going to Confession regularly and practicing a daily examination of conscience to help cleanse ourselves of that perpetual contagion we call sin?

With the postponement or cancelation of many events, including major sporting events and other forms of recreation and socializing, we’re given the opportunity to reflect on what is important – things like faith and family. (Last night, I visited with a family after Mass. They were planning to attend State Basketball, but that was restricted. So what did they do? The built a snowman, they looked for leprechauns downtown, that bonded as a family. As much as I like state basketball, that sounds a whole lot better.”

Today’s readings tell us about the “Spiritual Rock” (1 Corinthians 10:4) from which we receive “Living Water”, Jesus Christ, who calls us to drink of Him. I think of three primary ways we drink this “Living Water”:

1) First, Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Granted, there may come the point that we may be quarantined, but we can’t isolate ourselves from the support of Christian friendship and support, lest we find ourselves isolated from God.

2) Second, the Sacraments, especially living the call to conversion and holiness that flows from the living waters of our Baptism, and the worthy reception of the Eucharist, in which Christ really gives Himself so that we may have life.

3) And third, encounters with God’s Word, especially when we take time to read and to pray with Scripture. Here are some beautiful words from Saint Ephrem I recently re-encountered:

Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words. We lose more of it than we grasp, like those who drink from a living spring…. A thirsty man is happy when he is drinking, and he is not depressed because he cannot exhaust the spring. So let this spring quench your thirst, and not your thirst the spring. For from it you can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring, then when you thirst again you can drink from it once more; but if when your thirst is sated the spring is also dried up, then your victory would turn to your own harm (LOTH, 6th Sunday of the Year).

Especially in this time of crisis in our world, let us come to that rock who is Christ and drink from Him (1 Cor 10:4), that we may know the answer to the question that the Israelites answered in the desert: “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” I believe He is! “I will be standing there in front of you…”