Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
March 23rd, 2014
Year A

A long time ago a Frenchman incurred the displeasure of the emperor Napoleon. He was put into a dungeon. He was forsaken by his friends and forgotten by everyone in the outside world. In loneliness and near despair he took a stone and scratched on the wall of his cell, “Nobody cares.” One day a green shoot came up through the cracks in the stones on the floor of the dungeon. It began to reach up toward the light in the tiny window at the top of the cell. The prisoner kept part of the water brought to him each day by the jailer and poured it on the blade of green. It grew until at last it became a plant with a beautiful blue flower. As the petals opened in full blossom, the solitary captive crossed out the words previously written on the wall and above them scratched, “God cares.”

This is precisely what the woman at the well encounters in her exchange with Jesus. There are some interesting details about this encounter that reveal just how much God cares and lengths He goes to show it. First, St. John tells us that this woman went to the well alone and at noontime. This seemingly small detail reveals much about her. Normally, the women would go to the well in groups. They would go in the morning or in the evening, so as to beat the midday heat. It shows that she does not want to be seen by others, that she is ashamed of herself. In the midst of her indignity, Jesus speaks to her – “give me a drink.” Though He was truly tired from His journey, Jesus isn’t just thirsty for water. He thirsts for her faith and for her love in such a way that satisfies the thirst of her own soul for love, meaning, and fulfillment. He does by first forcing her to take a hard look at her life. He probes her heart. He digs deep. He enters into her darkness, into the deepest recesses of her soul and, like that flower, blossoms and to restore hope, to affirm her worth, to heal her sins and restore her dignity. St. John reports that she left her bucket and returned to the people of whom she was once afraid, ashamed to even be in their presence.

At this Mass, we have with us those who are preparing to enter the Church through the RCIA. During the Season of Lent, they prepare in a more intensified way through education, prayer, and the rites of the Church. This period is known as the Period of Purification and Enlightenment in which is celebrated the Scrutinies, the Presentation of the Creed and Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer. Today, we celebrate the first of three scrutinies – done on the third, fourth, and fifth Sunday of Lent. The scruntinies are reinforced by an exorcism, self-searching, and repentance. They are meant to uncover and heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of those preparing for baptism, confirmation, and Holy Communion. In this way, they bring out and strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good in their hearts and souls. The scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver them from the power of Satan and protect them against temptation and strengthen them in Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These rites, therefore, ought to bring about greater conversion and to hold fat to Christ. Three scrutinies are celebrated in order to desire greater purification and redemption by Christ. By this means, first, they are instructed gradually about the nature of sin, from which we all desire to be delivered and saved. Second, their spirit is filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life. From the first to the last scrutiny they should progress in their desire for conversion, purification, and salvation.

The scrutinies are much like our own meeting of Jesus at the well. He forces us to look into our hearts, to take a hard look at the shame and guilt of our sins. He enters into our darkness, not to plunge us into further shame, not to condemn, but to affirm who are truly meant to be. He does so in order to restore our dignity as sons and daughters of the Father. He gives us hope. We ought, therefore, to scrutinize our lives everyday. We ought to make known to God the darkness of ours sins, expose them to light in order that, through the healing power of His mercy, He may free us from the guilt, the shame, the weight of our sins that we may be children of the light and blossom, like that flower in the cold, dark cell, into the most beautiful souls. And why? Why is all this necessary? Because God cares. He cares for our salvation. He cares for our souls. He cares for us.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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