>We Are Religious Because We Are Not Perfect

>Excerpts from Fr Valle’s 3rd Sunday of Lent homily:

The disciples are surprised to find Jesus talking with this fallen, scandalous woman. Why? Because the disciples do not get it. They think that to be religious, you must be perfect. Idiotic! We are not religious because we are perfect. We are religious because we are not perfect ….

… My second grade teacher yelled at me and called me stupid, I did not change one bit, I got worse. My third grade teacher told me I was smart and I would have learned to write with my feet for her. What does it teach us? It is simple, almost too simple: Jesus does not condemn and criticize the woman at the well because condemnation and criticism do not work. Jesus loves the woman at the well. Because love works. If you tell people they are bad, they will just get worse. If you love people, not for their sins but in spite of them, people will learn and love and change. Jesus met the woman at the well, told her everything she’d ever done and that gentle and kind telling set her free. We need to be Jesus Christ for one another. Just love: love Samaritans and sinners and, even, people you disagree with.

Just a note here about the need to distinguish between the disciples actions before and after the Resurrection. Lee Strobel’s book, The Case For Christ, does an excellent job of highlighting how their transformation can be considered as part of the evidence that the Resurrection occurred. As Strobel phrases it; Who dies for a lie? See the short video from Strobel on that point here.

Click on ‘Read more!’ below to see his entire homily at the end of this post. If you want to read more homilies by Fr Vallee, just enter ‘Vallee’ in the search box in the upper right corner.

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Fr Vallee’s Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent – 03/15/09

I. The disciples, the woman, Jesus
The disciples are such a piece of work. They return and, “are surprised to find Jesus talking to a woman.” Jesus is talking to a woman who has been married five times. She is a Samaritan to boot. She is outcast, unclean, degenerate, not the sort of woman you would expect an upright religious leader like Jesus to be chatting with at a well. The disciples are surprised. They are surprised because they just don’t get it. Jesus has told them over and over again that he has come for the lost sheep, that the healthy don’t need a doctor and that the Scribes and Pharisees will be forgiven little because they have loved little. The disciples just do not get it. But I wonder if we, today, get it? Like the disciples, are we, too, not seduced by glittering appearances, delighted with the trappings of power and seeking the places of honor? Do we get it, get what Jesus was trying to tell us?

II. The scandal of a lack of charity
I have never understood the passion some priests have to deny people communion. Since when did charity become a scandal? There is a Dominican Brother I used to work with who said that too many priests and religious see themselves as stock boys for the devil in hell. Indeed, it is not our job to send people to hell. It is our job to get people to heaven. Notice Jesus in the Gospel today: there are a hundred reasons why he could have rejected the Samaritan woman. Jesus, plainly and simply, without condemning her, tells her the truth and the truth sets her free, not demanding and condemning and criticizing, just the truth The woman says that “Jesus told her everything she had ever done.” He did not yell, scream, condemn or castigate. He only told her the truth – gently, lovingly, simply – and that truth healed her and made her whole.

III. We are religious because we are not perfect
The disciples are surprised to find Jesus talking with this fallen, scandalous woman. Why? Because the disciples do not get it. They think that to be religious, you must be perfect. Idiotic! We are not religious because we are perfect. We are religious because we are not perfect.

IV. Two nuns, one student
In the second grade, I had a teacher who was one of the meanest women God ever created. I will not mention her name, even though she is dead because I am still praying that God springs her from Purgatory some day. She taught penmanship. Those you who have seen my handwriting know that I, of all people, am truly grateful for the invention of the word processor. When I was in second grade, Sister saw me holding my pencil incorrectly and said, and I quote (I remember with pristine clarity all these many years later), “what’s the matter with you, you little idiot, that is the ugliest chicken scratch I have ever seen in my life.” To this day, I do not hold a pen or a pencil correctly. In the third grade, I met Sister Ruth, who was one of the dearest people I have ever known. I really loved Sister and, truth be told, had something of a school boy’s crush on her. I wanted to impress her, so, in writing class, I did everything I could to hide to hide my manual inadequacy from her. She saw anyway. She asked me to stay after class and said that I was a smart little boy and that she would make sure that I could write decently. My second grade teacher yelled at me and called me stupid, I did not change one bit, I got worse. My third grade teacher told me I was smart and I would have learned to write with my feet for her. What does it teach us? It is simple, almost too simple: Jesus does not condemn and criticize the woman at the well because condemnation and criticism do not work. Jesus loves the woman at the well. Because love works. If you tell people they are bad, they will just get worse. If you love people, not for their sins but in spite of them, people will learn and love and change. Jesus met the woman at the well, told her everything she’d ever done and that gentle and kind telling set her free. We need to be Jesus Christ for one another. Just love: love Samaritans and sinners and, even, people you disagree with.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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