Saturday, November 21, 2009

John 4, homily ideas

An Excerpt of my MA Thesis. In the section just prior to this one I did an exegesis of John chapter 4 looking at 5 different aspects of the text: text and translation, historicity, place, the five husbands, and symbolism. Here are 5 homily ideas based on the fruits of the research.

In the previous section I have explored five aspects of John 4 using neither a fundamentalist nor historicist approach. Rather, I have tried to show that using the historical critical method with a sacramental approach to the Bible can lead to spiritual discovery. Further, I think this way of reading the Bible is rich in pastoral import. In this section, I will briefly discuss five homilies that could be written as a result of this investigation.

    First, examining the text and translation, I discovered that John uses vivid language to make the scene come alive in its proclamation. One could deliver a homily that builds upon this feature. For example, the inceptive aorist was used to show that the people began to believe from that hour. One could deliver a homily that asks the people: when was the moment your faith began? If we cannot pinpoint any particular moment, perhaps this moment, today, would be the appropriate one. Our faith is not a faith of ethereal formalism; rather, our faith is based upon a real, tangible interaction with Christ which has lasting consequences. If we do not have an historical beginning, the consequences may not follow.

    Second, we discussed the historicity of the narrative. While I think it is often dangerous to discuss historicity from the pulpit (some in the congregation may embrace fundamentalism or scientism), I can apply the discoveries of this section in a homily. First, we noted that the text mentions that Christ had to go through Samaria. One could deliver a homily that exploits that ambiguity. One could say that Jesus did not have to go through Samaria because that was the only way to get to Galilee; rather, Christ had to go through Samaria because the woman was waiting for him at the well. Jesus does not miss an opportunity to come to us, but we need to be ready to meet him when he comes.

    Third, we explored the historicity of the scene, namely Sychar. One could deliver a homily that begins by stating that Sychar has been lost to us. Yet, the encounter with Jesus has not been lost, it is just as real and concrete today as it was when Jesus walked among us. Yesterday's Sychar has become today's Fort Wayne.

    Fourth, we examined the woman's five husbands. While I cannot rule out the possibility that this passage does simply refer to a woman who had five husbands, I am convinced that the allegorical reading is the best one. One might say as much in the homily. As soon as the congregation hears that the woman had five husbands, they often think of her as immoral. One could remind the congregation that God often referred to Israel as an unfaithful spouse (Hosea for example), and it seems as though John is relying on that sort of imagery. And, if it was the case that Samaria fell victim to false gods, might we have fallen likewise? This homily could help us peer into our hearts, discovering many false gods: consumerism, individualism, immorality, etc.

    Lastly, we discussed the symbolic nature of the characters found in John's gospel. And, it seems that the symbolic nature of this encounter between Jesus and Samaria was intended to quell tensions among the early Johannine community. One could craft a homily that explores the tension found in Catholic parishes between the immigrant Hispanic community and the Anglo communities, for example. One might encourage the Anglos to reach out to the Hispanics the same way Christ reached out to the Samaritans.


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