The Crossroads of Hope and DespairHomily for the Third Sunday in Lent A (Scrutiny A) – Sunday, March 19, 2017 – Deacon Jim Hackett.  Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5; 1-2, 5-8; John 5: 5-42

The Gospel reading we hear today is one of the most recognizable stories that we hear – even many Non-Catholics know the story. And it has a POWERFUL message – reminding us that the living water of truth and salvation is not JUST for the CHOSEN people – but for ALL people.

But I have decided to go in another direction today and focus my homily on our first reading the Exodus story about Moses in the desert  along with those GRUMBLING Jews.

If you’ve ever heard the soundtrack for the Broadway show Les Miserables – you may remember a song that was sung by Fantine that is a lament – a song of SORROW.

She sings a sad song to her lost youth – her lost innocence – her lost beauty.

It reflects a song that many of us may have had in our hearts as she sings:


“I had a dream that life would be

So different than the hell I’m living,

So different now than what it seemed,

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”


There once was a time in MY life when MY heart was full of a song just like that.

I really DIDN’T know WHERE I was going – and I wondered if I’d EVER be REALLY happy again.


What causes us to sing a song like that – to be SO filled with despair?  What murders our dreams? And what, perhaps, is killing YOUR dreams – or the dreams of someone you know and love?


Our first reading today – from the Old Testament Book of Exodus – presents us with a whole tribe of people feeling that burden – that depression – that despair.  Only a little while earlier God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt – protecting them and SAVING them from Pharaoh’s pursuing armies – by parting the Red Sea for Moses and swallowing up Pharaoh’s army in those same waters.


Moses spoke to them of God’s love for them and pointed to God’s Promised Land – a land flowing with milk and honey, that was soon going to be theirs – a land ironically, that Moses himself  would NEVER live to see. Yet here they are, asking Moses, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?”, wallowing in self-pity – hurting and angry at God – and worst of all longing to RETURN to Egypt – back to slavery!


Back to Egypt? Back to slave labor? Back to a land of death?  Unimaginable – yet true. How could this be? And how is it that our own depression and despair can call us – and lead us back into the slavery of wallowing in our OWN self-pity?  For man it leads to the bondage and slavery of drug addiction – to alcoholism – to sex addiction – addiction to shopping, gambling, overeating and what have you. Self-pity is powerfully addictive.


We need to observe, though, that these ancient Hebrews were remembering the past as better than it REALLY was! Hindsight isn’t just 20/20 – it’s seeing things through VERY rose colored glasses. Memory cuts out all of the BAD stuff that happened – and magnifies everything GOOD! The past is painted in colors of glory. The “good ol’ days” were SO much better! School days were brighter, marriage was easier, kids behaved and life was gentler.


But what about war? Recessions? Broken marriages? The addictions? Those family battles when the Thanksgiving or Christmas family gatherings just DIDN’T go as well as planned? All of those things get washed down and painted in muted colors.


The other big cause for despair is to look at the condition in which we presently find ourselves and then claim that life is ALWAYS going to be this way. “Things will NEVER change”, we say to ourselves. We’ll always be too fat, ugly, geekish, unattractive, unloved, lonely, trapped in our job, trapped in a bad marriage, trapped in whatever we find ourselves – right now!


THAT’S what the Jews were saying to Moses. “Get us out of here and take us back into Egypt. At least there we had the Nile – and Pharaoh provided us with food. Sure we were slaves, but things were a whole lot better then than they are now – out here – EVEN with our freedom.”


Does the present look bleak to you NOW? Well, let’s NOT repeat Israel’s mistake.

The condition in which you find yourself NOW – doesn’t have to be the situation in which you’ll find yourself in the future. The present doesn’t put handcuffs on you and enslave you. God STILL has His power – and with THAT power your life can change.


Remember – ALWAYS remember – that without God you are powerless – and can do relatively little. Without God you can accomplish nothing. But WITH God there is nothing you cannot accomplish! With God there’s a whole LOT about your future that will change.


Are you lonely? Are you sick? Without a job? Discouraged with your marriage, with your career?

With God things change.


If God can produce water from a rock – he can provide you with all that you need to move on toward your OWN Promised Land.

With God – EVERY journey moves forward – moves on into the future.

With God – things never stand still and just always remain the same.

God – is a God of change.

All of the beautiful and great Sacraments of our Church are ALL moments of CHANGE. Think about it! Every sacrament is a sign of change – a moment of grace – a promise that looks ahead – ahead to what can BE in our future. And remember, too, that God wants us to never – EVER – go backward into our own Egypt.


Our Catholic Faith – OUR religion, my brothers and sisters – is a religion about what can BE – not what simply ….has been. Our religion is certainly NOT about celebrating only where we are right now – in our present. No! We are here – moving forward in line to Holy Communion – because we are on a journey – a journey toward God – and toward ALL that HE dreams …we can be. And God wants us to go out through these doors– taking what we receive here – His “living water” what God – and share it with our brothers and sisters throughout our world – so that the future world will be a better place – for ALL of us!


In the Broadway show, Les Miserables, Fantine sang her sad song of lament – her dirge to her lost PAST.

“I had a dream that life would be

So different than the hell I’m living,

So different now than what it seemed,

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”


But Jesus Christ descended into hell – and NOW is risen from the dead – victim no longer.  He lives NOW – in the life His father dreamed he could live.


God, our Father, offers that to all of us, to ALL his sons and daughters –  right here, right now – in a life you can live in Holy Communion with him – a life that will take you into your future – into your Promised Land!