Homily at Sant’Andrea della Valle: March 2018

On the occasion of the Mass for Vocations at Sant’Andrea della Valle. Given by Fr. Matthieu Raffray, IBP. 9 March 2018.

In the name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Dear brethren, seminarians, and Roman students,

First of all I would like to give thanks to Fr Carlos Gómez Ruiz, a Theatine religious and rector of this beautiful Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle, for his warm welcome today. I also thank my dear confrere Fr Giorgio Lenzi, the local superior of the Institute of the Good Shepherd here in Rome, for having agreed to celebrate this Holy Mass for Vocations this evening. I thank all of you also for your presence, especially those who have helped in the preparation of this ceremony, particularly the seminarians of the Venerable English College for the music.

In the Gospel that we have just heard, during this rather penitential ceremony of the Third Friday of Lent – with the ancient use of folded chasubles, and the melodies reserved to this time of penance- we meet the figure of the Samaritan woman, who invites us to personal conversion; a true, authentic conversion without illusion.

Everything starts beside the well of Jacob, the symbolic place of Tradition and of divine promise, unfailing promise made by God to his chosen people, where Jesus says to the Samaritan woman; “Give me something to drink.” This is how our encounters with Jesus always begin: with an appeal, a call, a cry from Our Lord to us. Our vocation, for example – for we priests, seminarians and religious – our vocation started with this call to holiness, this call to participate in the saving work that Jesus came to realise in the world. But each personal encounter with Jesus also starts with that same call, “I thirst, give me something to drink”. Here Jesus also calls us today during this season of Lent, to follow Him on the Way of the Cross with our penance and sacrifices. «Sitio»- “I thirst. ”(Jn 19:28) Jesus will tell us this again at the last moment, dying on the Cross on Good Friday: “I thirst for your soul, your will, your love”.

This is the cry that Jesus addresses to us more and more, to make us understand, as He will tell the Samaritan woman, that we all have need of this water of salvation. We are the ones who should, without ceasing, repeat the words of the Psalm; “As the deer longs for flowing water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?”(Ps 42:2-3) And rightly it is these words of Psalm 42 that the Church, during the Paschal ceremonies which will be upon us soon, will proclaim during the night of the Resurrection, when the priest will go to the Baptismal Font to bless the Baptismal water. Indeed, as Jesus says to the Samaritan woman; “The water that I will give [to you] will become [in you] a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:13-14) This water that Jesus gives us is the water of baptism, the water of eternal life, living water that makes us live the life of God, divine grace that from our baptism renders us more and more like God and opens to us the gates of Heaven for all eternity.

This water of salvation, we believe, can truly transform us, truly make us saints, turn us to God, because Jesus is that source, like the water that flowed from his side when one of the soldiers pierced His side with the spear. This water of salvation is also the fount of life from which the Church emerges through all the sacraments, as we will sing after Easter in the Vidi Aquam chant, from the prophecy of Ezekiel(Ezk 47:1-2): “I saw water flowing from the Temple, from its right-hand side, and all to whom this water came were saved and shall say: Alleluia.” Our thirst for salvation, our desire for the mercy of God are indeed founded in the hope of his Redemption; He, the Lamb of God, who was once offered on the Cross for our sins, and now from Heaven is our source of life which gushes forth, as the book of Apocalypse says, “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, which proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Ap 22:1) “And the same Spirit and Bride who says[to us]: Come.” See here the call of God to each one of us, a call to sanctify ourselves during this time of Lent, an appeal to leave behind our wicked desires, to abandon our egoism and individualism, to forget the bad that we have done and the wicked habits that ruin the image of God in our souls, (a call) to be purified, renewed, reborn in water and the Spirit of salvation: “He who thirsts come, he who wants take the gift of the water of life.” (Ap 22:17)

Dear friends, this gift of God first of all transforms us into “true worshippers who worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”(Jn 4:23) God seeks each person who worships him…but, what will he find in our hearts? Are we ourselves capable of responding to this question of God? We have to ask ourselves if we are truly living according to the heart of God, if we are truly, without illusion, the “true worshippers” that can change the world according to the desire of God? Dear friends, our old world is dying because it has lost ardent souls, souls which burn with the fire of love, souls which brighten the darkness of the world with the light of truth. Like the Samaritan woman, Jesus calls us “to go to the city,” to go out through the world and tell the people to “come and see a man who told me everything I ever did,” who has forgiven my sins, and has given me the water of eternal life.

In the name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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