How to Find Happiness 2021-3-7 Fr. Roberto
Homily for Third Sunday of Lent – Year A
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Parish, Los Angeles, CA
March 7, 2021
Title: How to Find Happiness
Theme: Repentance and faith give us Jesus’ “living water” that will quench our thirst for happiness.
Readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
Eight centuries ago, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican philosopher and theologian, taught something that I think is absolutely true. He taught that every human being wants to be happy because God created us to desire and to seek happiness in our lives. So, if happiness is what all human beings want in our lives, why are there so many unhappy people in the world? Is it because happiness is impossible to find? No, it’s not that. I think it is because we all have different ideas as to what is going to make us happy, and people too often look for happiness in the wrong places. We see an example of this in our Gospel today.
The Samaritan woman in the Gospel seems to have been looking for happiness for a long time in her life. Apparently, she has been looking for the right relationship in her life to make her happy, and, after going through five husbands and now living with her boyfriend, she is still looking for that elusive happiness. Now, I am not saying it is all her fault; perhaps she made the mistake of marrying five jerks in a row. In any event, in today’s Gospel she comes to the well to draw out some water, and while doing so, she crosses paths with Jesus. In the course of their conversation, it becomes obvious that she is thirsting for something more than just water from the well; she is looking for purpose and meaning; she is looking for happiness…and Jesus knows it.
Her conversation with Jesus is not very easy for us to follow or to understand because it is very symbolic and theological, and because it jumps from one subject to another. That is John the Evangelist’s style, and he is using their conversation in this Gospel to outline the steps it takes to become a disciple of Jesus, which is what eventually happens to the Samaritan woman. In the course of their conversation, the Samaritan woman moves through several stages of discipleship. For example, she starts off not knowing Jesus at all. But then, once they enter into conversation, she begins forming a relationship with him. As the conversation continues, Jesus brings up her complex past of having had five husbands and now living with someone who is not her husband. But rather than being embarrassed and walking away from Jesus, she seems willing to acknowledge that her life has not been ideal, and she continues the conversation with him. She comes to realize that Jesus is someone special, perhaps even a prophet. Then, at a certain point, she takes the leap of faith to believing that Jesus is the Messiah. Finally, leaving her water jar at the well – which symbolizes that she no longer needs it because she has tasted Jesus’ living water – she runs off to share with the other villagers what Jesus has done for her and invites them to come and experience Jesus themselves.
As a result of her encounter, conversation and relationship with Jesus, she realizes that her ultimate happiness is not going to come from any man, or, for that matter, from any human relationship. She comes to see that the only thing that will satisfy her deepest thirst is drinking the “living water” Jesus offers her. In other words, her true and lasting happiness is going to come from opening her heart to Jesus. And that’s what she ends up doing by the end of their conversation in the Gospel: she opens her heart to Jesus. Through their conversation and relationship, Jesus frees her from the burden of her past: all that rejection and baggage from five failed marriages, and probably other stuff too, that she had been carrying in her heart. In other words, he “unbinds” her, he sets her free.
Well, my brothers and sisters, Jesus wants to unbind us in our lives too. That is what this Lenten preaching series entitled, “Unbound – Freedom in Christ,” is about. It is about us being unbound and finding freedom in Jesus’ living water. In this third week of our series, I am going to talk about the First Key of the Unbound process: Repentance and Faith. This first key is a critical step we must take in order to begin our journey to freedom in Christ. It means that, like the Samaritan woman, we have to have an encounter and an honest conversation with Jesus where we acknowledge our need for a savior, admit to our failures and wrongdoing, and surrender our lives in faith to the Lord. Our sincere repentance leads us to faith in Jesus and to freedom.
So, my question for each of you is, where are you in your faith journey? What kind of relationship do you have with Jesus? Have you sincerely and humbly come before him, acknowledged your sins and your need for him to be your savior – not just the savior of the world, but your savior who died on the cross for you and your sins? You may have received all your sacraments, you may have gone to Catholic school, you may know and follow all the Church’s rules and regulations, you may come to Mass every week or even every day. But if you have not truly come before Jesus and admitted that you need his forgiveness and help in your life, and if you do not have a meaningful and personal relationship with him, you cannot be a true, committed and mature Catholic.
Our Catholic faith is ultimately not about rules and regulations or about an institution; it is about a relationship. And the relationship that is the foundation of our faith, the foundation of our life, the foundation of our eternal salvation is with Jesus. You can have a great devotion to our Blessed Mother, to St. Jude, St. Joseph, St. Dominic, San Lorenzo Ruiz and other saints as well. That is wonderful. However, the primary relationship you have to have as a Catholic is your relationship with Jesus. In fact, the purpose of the Blessed Mother and all the saints is to lead you to that relationship with Jesus. That is why this First Key – Repentance and Faith – is absolutely crucial if you want to drink Jesus’ living water, if you want to be free of your sins and the burdens and baggage of your past, and if you want to find happiness in your life. The first key is a reminder of what the Bible and our Catholic faith teach us about finding the happiness we thirst for in our lives.
So, let me ask you this. Have you, like the Samaritan woman, been looking for your happiness in the wrong places? Have you ever thought that if you just get the right job or car or house or achieve the right goal or have the right relationship, then you’ll be happy? Or have you thought that it’s just a matter of having more – more money, more stuff, more kids, more power, more friends, more food, more alcohol, more sex, more muscles, more time off, etc. – that that will eventually fulfill you. Now, of course there are moments when we achieve something meaningful that brings us happiness and fulfillment for a time. But often that happiness and fulfillment are only temporary, and then we long for something else, for something more. It’s not that these things are bad in themselves or that wanting them is bad; many of them are good things and good desires to have. But they simply cannot satisfy our deepest thirst, our deepest longing for happiness. Only God can do that, and we do not find God “out there” somewhere; we find God “in here in our heart.”
The First Key of Repentance and Faith in the Unbound Ministry model is a necessary step to help us find God here in our heart and, like the Samaritan woman, to drink Jesus’ living water and find our freedom and our happiness in him.
Next week, I will speak about the Second Key of Unbound: Forgiveness. This is another important step we must take to find our freedom in Christ and our happiness.
Once again, I would like to lead you through a prayer from Neal Lozano’s book to help you take this essential step of repentance and faith in Jesus. Even if you have done a prayer like this before in your life, you can never do it enough. Please stand, if you can. If you would like to close your eyes and open up your hands palms up like this, feel free to do so. Now, please repeat after me:
Lord, I am a sinner; //I come before You to tell You I am sorry// for all my sins.// Thank You for giving Your life for me,// that I might be forgiven //and come home to You. //Please come and be Lord of my life; // I want to live in Your kingdom// with the freedom of a child of God. //
Speak to me and lead me // to the deeper freedom //that is found in knowing Your love.
Again, I invite you to let those words you have spoken sink into your heart for a few moments…
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