Monsignor Yennock on The Woman at the Well - Homily from March 15, 2020

Mar 16, 2020

WOMAN AT THE WELL

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 15, 2020

TWO MIRACLES READINGS: EX 17:3-7; ROM 5:1-2, 5-8; JN 4:5-42

IN 1887 A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL NAMED HELEN KELLER LIVED IN ALABAMA. BUT SHE WAS NOT AN ORDINARY LITTLE GIRL. HELEN KELLER WAS BLIND, DEAF, AND MUTE. HELEN LOST HER SIGHT AND HER HEARING AS THE RESULT OF AN ILLNESS WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT ONE AND A HALF YEARS OLD.

SINCE HELEN COULD NO LONGER HEAR, SHE LOST HER ABILITY TO IMITATE SOUNDS. SHE COULD NOT SPEAK. WITHOUT SIGHT OR HEARING THERE WAS NO WAY ANYONE COULD COMMUNICATE WITH HER. THERE WAS NO WAY SHE COULD COMMUNICATE WITH ANYONE ELSE EXCEPT BY KICKING AND PUNCHING..

NO PROFESSIONAL COULD HELP HER. HER FRUSTRATION WAS SO GREAT THAT SHE ACTED LIKE A LITTLE WILD ANIMAL WITH NO WAY TO SPEAK TO THE WORLD OUTSIDE HERSELF. TRYING TO GET INSIDE THE MIND OF THIS LITTLE GIRL SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE. WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

BEFORE THE END OF HER LIFE HELEN KELLER WOULD GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE WITH HONORS, BECOME A WIDELY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR, BE THE WHITE HOUSE GUEST OF EVERY AMERICAN PRESIDENT FROM GROVER CLEVELAND TO JOHN F. KENNEDY. SHE BECAME AN INSPIRATION TO HANDICAPPED PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.

WHAT HAPPENED? SOMEONE CAME INTO HER LIFE AND CHANGED HER LIFE FOREVER. A 20 YEAR OLD WOMAN NAMED ANNIE SULLIVAN WAS HIRED TO BE HELEN’S PRIVATE TEACHER.  ANNIE SULLIVAN WORKED NIGHT AND DAY TO FIND A WAY FOR THE OUTSIDE WORLD TO GET INTO THE MIND OF HELEN KELLER. THE ONLY SENSE SHE HAD TO WORK WITH WAS THE SENSE OF TOUCH.

A BREAKTHROUGH CAME ON A SPRING DAY IN 1887.

HELEN DESCRIBES WHAT HAPPENED IN HER AUTOBIOGRAPHY, THE STORY OF MY LIFE. SHE WRITES: “[MY TEACHER] BROUGHT ME MY HAT, AND I KNEW I WAS GOING OUT INTO THE WARM SUNSHINE. THIS THOUGHT… MADE ME HOP AND SKIP WITH PLEASURE.

 “WE WALKED DOWN THE PATH TO THE WELL-HOUSE. SOME ONE WAS DRAWING WATER AND MY TEACHER PLACED MY HAND UNDER THE SPOUT. AS THE COOL STREAM GUSHED OVER ONE HAND SHE SPELLED INTO THE OTHER THE WORD WATER…. I STOOD STILL, MY WHOLE ATTENTION FIXED UPON THE MOTION OF HER FINGERS.

SUDDENLY… [THE] MYSTERY OF LANGUAGE WAS REVEALED TO ME. IT FINALLY OCCURRED TO ME THAT WORDS MEANT SOMETHING. I KNEW THEN THAT ‘W-A-T-E-R’ MEANT THE WONDERFUL COOL SOMETHING THAT WAS FLOWING OVER MY HAND. THAT LIVING WORD AWAKENED MY SOUL, GAVE IT LIGHT, HOPE AND JOY. I WAS FINALLY FREE.

I LEFT THE WELL·H0USE EAGER TO LEARN. I REALIZED FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT EVERYTHING HAD A NAME. EACH NAME GAVE BIRTH TO A NEW THOUGHT. AS WE RETURNED TO THE HOUSE EVERY OBJECT WHICH I TOUCHED SEEMED TO QUIVER WITH LIFE. THAT WAS BECAUSE I SAW EVERYTHING WITH THE STRANGE, NEW SIGHT THAT HAD COME TO ME.”

HELEN’S EXPERIENCE AT THE WELL THAT SPRING DAY CHANGED HER LIFE FOREVER. BECAUSE ANNIE SULLIVAN HELPED HELEN CONNECT WITH THE WORLD OUTSIDE, THE WORLD DISCOVERED AN EXTRAORDINARY MIND.

THE STORY OF HELEN KELLER AT THE WELL BEARS A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO THE STORY IN TODAY’S GOSPEL. IT TOO TOOK PLACE AT A WELL. IT TOO INVOLVED A TEACHER AND A STUDENT. IN IT THE TEACHER ALSO USED WATER TO COMMUNICATE AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO THE STUDENT. AND THAT MESSAGE CHANGED THE LIFE OF THE STUDENT FOREVER.

THE TEACHER IN TODAY’S GOSPEL STORY IS JESUS OF NAZARETH. AS IN THE CASE OF HELEN KELLER, THE TEACHER’S MESSAGE LIFTED THE SAMARITAN WOMAN OUT OF A WORLD OF DARKNESS AND OPENED HER TO A WORLD OF LIGHT. LIKE THE LIFE OF HELEN KELLER, THE SAMARITAN WOMAN’S LIFE WAS CHANGED FOREVER.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE WHAT THE SAMARITAN WOMAN DID AFTER HER ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS AT THE WELL. THE GOSPEL SAYS: “THE WOMAN LEFT HER WATER JAR AND WENT INTO THE TOWN AND SAID TO THE PEOPLE, ‘COME SEE A MAN WHO TOLD ME EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE.’ ” THE GOSPEL ADDS THAT THE PEOPLE LEFT THE TOWN AND WENT TO MEET JESUS. AND SO THE WOMAN, WHO HAD BEEN A GREAT SINNER, BECAME CHRISTIANITY’S VERY FIRST MISSIONARY.

AFTER HER ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS AT THE WELL SHE WENT OFF TO SHARE THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT JESUS WITH HER FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS. HEREIN LIES THE PRACTICAL MESSAGE IN TODAY’S GOSPEL FOR EACH ONE OF US HERE. WE TOO SHOULD RESPOND TO OUR ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS AT THE WELL OF BAPTISM IN THE SAME AGGRESSIVE WAY THAT THE SAMARITAN WOMAN DID.

OF THE 70 MILLION CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES, MORE THAN 15 MILLION ARE INACTIVE. THAT AVERAGES OUT TO 600 CATHOLICS PER PARISH WHO ARE NOT PRACTICING THEIR FAITH. STATISTICS SHOW THAT TWO-THIRDS OF ALL CATHOLICS WHO EVENTUALLY RETURN TO THE CHURCH DO SO BECAUSE A FRIEND OR A RELATIVE INVITED THEM TO RETURN.

STATISTICS ALSO SHOW THAT THE BEST RECRUITERS OF INACTIVE CATHOLICS ARE CATHOLICS WHO THEMSELVES WERE ONCE INACTIVE. EVERY CATHOLIC IN THIS CHURCH TODAY SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN MISSIONARY WORK. EVERY CATHOLIC IN THIS CHURCH KNOWS AT LEAST ONE INACTIVE CATHOLIC.

MANY CATHOLICS IN THIS CHURCH KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING FOR A MEANING SYSTEM IN THEIR LIFE. EVERY CATHOLIC IN THIS CHURCH BELIEVES THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THAT MEANING SYSTEM. WHAT ELSE DID HE MEAN WHEN HE SAID: “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE? NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.” 

HOW DO PEOPLE DISCOVER JESUS? HOW DO INACTIVE CATHOLICS RETURN TO THE PRACTICE OF THEIR FAITH? HOW DO PEOPLE WITH NO RELIGION OR PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT FED BY THEIR PRESENT RELIGION DISCOVER THE TRUTH OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH?

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN AT THE WELL DISCOVERED NEW MEANING FOR HER LIFE WHEN JESUS WALKED INTO HER LIFE. SHE WAS SO EXCITED THAT SHE “LEFT HER WATER JAR AND WENT INTO THE TOWN AND SAID TO THE PEOPLE, ‘COME, SEE THE MAN WHO TOLD ME EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE. COULD HE POSSIBLY BE THE CHRIST?’

THE GOSPEL SAYS: “MANY OF THE SAMARITANS OF THAT TOWN BEGAN TO BELIEVE IN HIM BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF THE WOMAN.” “MANY MORE BEGAN TO BELIEVE IN HIM BECAUSE OF HIS WORD, AND THEY SAID TO THE WOMAN, ‘WE NO LONGER BELIEVE BECAUSE OF YOUR WORD; FOR WE HAVE HEARD FOR OURSELVES, AND WE KNOW THAT THIS IS TRULY THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD’”

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE DESPARATELY LOOKING FOR MEANING IN THEIR LIVES? HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING TO KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS FOR THEM?

SOME OF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH MARTIN GRODI WHO HOSTS A PROGRAM ON EWTN CALLED “THE JOURNEY HOME”. MARTIN GRODI WAS A FORMER PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER WHO CAME INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND STARTED THE “COMING HOME NETWORK” TO ACCOMPANY PEOPLE ON THEIR JOURNEY TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

THESE WERE SOME OF THE QUESTIONS THAT MARTIN GRODI WAS STRUGGLING WITH: HOW DO I KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS FOR MY LIFE? HOW DO I KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS FOR THE PEOPLE IN MY CONGREGATION? HOW CAN I BE SURE THAT WHAT I’M PREACHING IS CORRECT? HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TRUTH IS? WHAT AUTHORITY CAN I USE TO BACK UP MY PREACHING?

 

HOW DO I KNOW THAT THE REFORMED DOCTRINES I INHERITED FROM MARTIN LUTHER, JOHN CALVIN, JOHN KNOX, AND THE PURITANS WERE TRUE? HOW DO I KNOW THAT THE INTERPRETATION HELD BY MY LUTHERAN, BAPTIST, PRESBYTERIAN AND ANGLICAN FRIENDS WERE TRUE?

 

ONE DAY, AS A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR HE WAS STANDING BESIDE THE HOSPITAL BED OF A MAN WHO WAS NEAR DEATH AFTER SUFFERING A HEART ATTACK. THE MAN’S WIFE ASKED HIM: “IS MY HUSBAND GOING TO HEAVEN?”

 

MARTIN GRODI SAID THAT THIS QUESTION STOPPED HIM IN HIS TRACKS. HE SAID: I CONSIDERED THE GREAT DIVERSITY OF ALTLERNATIVE RESPONSES I COULD GIVE, DEPENDING UPON WHETHER THE INQUIRER WERE PRESBYTERIAN, METHODIST, BAPTIST, LUTHERAN, ASSEMBLIES OF GOD, NAZARENE, CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST, FOURQUARE GOSPEL, JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, OR WHATEVER. OR I COULD JUST SAY:”WE MUST TRUST IN THE LORD”

 

AT THAT MOMENT, THE CONFUSION IN HIS OWN MIND LED MARTIN GRODI ON A JOURNEY OF FAITH WHERE HE SERIOUSLY HAD TO CONSIDER THE QUESTION: HOW CAN I KNOW WHAT IS TRUE?

 

SOON SOMEONE WALKED INTO HIS LIFE JUST AS JESUS WALKED INTO THE LIFE OF THE SAMARITAN WOMAN; JUST AS ANNIE SULLIVAN WALKED INTO THE LFE OF HELEN KELLER.

 

MARTIN GRODI HAPPENED TO SEE AN AD IN THE PAPER THAT STUNNED HIM. THE AD READ: CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN SCOTT HAHN TO SPEAK AT LOCAL CATHOLIC PARISH THIS SUNDAY AFTERNOON.

 

MARTIN GRODI KNEW SCOTT HAHN/ THEY WERE THEOLOGY STUDENTS TOGETHER MANY YEARS BEFORE. THEY WERE BOTH STAUNCH CALVINISTS AND STAUNCHLY ANTI-CATHOLIC.

 

MARTIN COULDN’T BELIEVE THAT HIS FORMER CLASSMATE HAD BECOME A CATHOLIC EVANGELIST AND PROFESSOR AT STEUBENVILLE UNIVERSITY.

AFTER GETTING OVER THE SHOCK THAT HIS FORMER CLASSMATE WHO HATED THE CATHOLC CHURCH WAS NOW PROMOTING THE CHURCH, HE SAID TO HIMSELF: THIS HAS TO BE AN ANSWER TO PRAYER. COULD IT BE THAT HE HAD AT LAST FOUND THE TRUTH HE WAS LOOKING FOR.?

 

CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN A CONVERT FROM ANGLICANISM HAD A STRONG INFLUENCE ON THE CONVERSION OF MARTIN GRODI: THIS IS WHAT NEWMAN WROTE:

 

“TO BE DEEP IN HISTORY IS TO CEASE TO BE A PROTESTANT.” THIS ONE LINE SUMMARIZES A KEY REASON WHY MARTIN GRODI ABANDONED PROTESTANTISM, BYPASSED THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCHES, AND BECAME CATHOLIC.

 

MARTIN GRODI CAME INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALONG WITH HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN. HE HAS SINCE DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO HELPING OTHERS MAKE THE JOURNEY INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

 

26 YEARS AGO MARTIN GRODI FOUNDED THE “COMING HOME NETWORK” WHERE HE WELCOMES CONVERTS TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND HELPS FORMER MINISTERS FIND EMPLOYMENT AND A PATHWAY TO A NEW LIFE.

 

EVERY WEEK ON EWTN ON THE JOURNEY HOME, HE HEARS THE CONVERSION STORY OF SOME MAN OR WOMAN WHO HAS COME INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. HE HAS INTERVIEWED MINISTERS, RABBI’S, IMAMS, AND THOSE WHO HAVE PRACTICED NEW AGE AND ORIENTAL RELIGIONS. HIS PERSONAL STORY IS POWERFUL.

 

EVERY PERSON IN THIS CHURCH KNOWS A CATHOLIC WHO HAS FALLEN AWAY FROM THE PRACTICE OF HIS FAITH. EVERY PERSON IN THIS CHURCH KNOWS SOMEONE WHO HAS NO RELIGION AND IS LOOKING FOR A MEANING SYSTEM FOR THEIR LIVES.

 

A SIMPLE PRAYER AND THE RIGHT WORD AT THE RIGHT TIME COULD CHANGE A PERSON’S LIFE FOREVER.

 

LORD JESUS, YOU ARE THE SOURCE OF ETERNAL TRUTH FOR WHICH OUR MINDS SEARCH.

 

YOU ARE THE SOURCE OF LIVING WATER FOR WHICH OUR SOULS THIRST.

 

YOU ARE THE SOURCE OF THE PEACE AND JOY FOR WHICH OUR ENTIRE BEINGS REACH OUT.

 

LORD JESUS, OUR HEARTS WERE MADE FOR YOU, AND THEY WILL NOT REST UNTIL THEY REST IN YOU. (St. Augustine.)