Following is the March 15, 2020, homily by Archbishop Jose E. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angelus and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We gather today in a time when many of us and our neighbors are anxious and afraid, in this time of the coronavirus.
It has been a challenging week, as we all know. We are facing a worldwide pandemic, and we have not seen anything like this in our lifetimes. But we know that “all things work good for those who love God”; we know his hand is for good upon all who seek him.2
In the Gospel that we just heard, Jesus tells the woman at the well:
The hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
I have been praying and reflecting on these words all week. And it seems to me that in this challenging moment for all of us, in this time of fear and uncertainty, God our Father is calling us to intensify our faith, our discipleship.
God is calling us to seek him with all our hearts, to serve him with our whole lives. He wants us to trust in his Providence, his plan for our lives and our world.
The Gospel today is one of the most beautiful stories from the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is always coming to people that the world takes for granted, that society does not notice. The woman at the well was just an ordinary woman, doing her daily tasks. Yet all these centuries later, the whole world remembers her story, because she was important to Jesus.
And that’s the point we need to reflect on: every soul is precious to Jesus. You — each one of us — are precious to Jesus, his love for you is personal and real.
This woman is just like we all are. When she meets Jesus, he is tired and sitting on the well. He seems like any other exhausted traveler. Jesus asks her for help, for a drink of water.
So what is Jesus doing here? I think we can see that he is making himself vulnerable. In his humility, he is telling this woman that he needs her.
But at the same time, Jesus wants her to know that she has extraordinary value and purpose in God’s Kingdom. And Jesus wants each one of us, all of us to know that, too.
Jesus tells the woman:
If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, “Give me a drink,”
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.
So my brothers and sisters, Jesus also comes to all of us in a humble and vulnerable form. He told us he would come to us in the person who is poor, the person who is homeless and the stranger, the person who is in prison or sick.3
This is how Jesus touches our hearts. He encounters us in our neighbor who is needy. We meet him in our work, in the challenges of our daily lives. Just as this woman met him as she was drawing water from the well in the heat of the day.
So the secret is to have faith! We need to recognize him, to see the image of God in the person next to us!
And it seems to me that this is really important now in this time of the coronavirus. We need to remember that it is Jesus who comes to us in our neighbor. And especially in our neighbors who are sick and those who are frightened.
My dear brothers and sisters, we — each one of us — needs to hear Jesus speaking these words to us today, “If you knew the gift of God …”
Jesus has a gift he wants to give you, each one of us — the gift of faith, of eternal life. He knows that we, too, are thirsting for holiness and love.
It is a beautiful gift that he gives us, a beautiful mission. But we know that sometimes we get scared, especially when times are hard.
Sometimes we’re like the Israelites in that first reading of today’s Mass.
As we heard, they are thirsty on their journey and they reject God.
And isn’t that how we are? We want God’s gifts, but we don’t always like following his path for our lives.
But in the first reading of today’s Mass, Moses struck the rock and living water flowed out for the people to drink, just as blood and water flowed out of our Lord’s pierced heart on the Cross.4
So today, once again, God is calling us to trust in him. He’s calling us not to harden our own hearts, out of fear or lack of faith. God is calling us to trust that Jesus is still speaking to us, even in this time of trial and testing.
So like the woman at the well, we need to ask him to give us this living water — to renew in us the gift of his Spirit; to pour out the love of God into our hearts.
So as we begin this new week, let us go out and worship our God in spirit and truth, with our whole lives! Let us try to be patient and kind, and love one another and seek to serve Jesus in everyone we meet.
Today, we are giving out prayer cards with a special prayer that I have written for this time. We are going to pray it at the end of Mass. And I hope that we continue to pray this week. Every day, many times, personally and as a family
May our Blessed Mother intercede for us in these challenging times. And may she help us always to the know the gift of God that she brings us in Jesus.
1. Readings: Exod. 17:3-7; Ps. 95:1-2, 6-9; Rom. 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42 (4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42).