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Homily text is below:

There is a Well

With the high holy day of St. Patrick fast approaching, I thought it fitting to “Go green” this Third Sunday of Lent and our Gospel of the Woman at the Well. “As a child, they could not keep me from wells.” So begins a poem by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. The poem, in part, goes like this:

As a child, they could not keep me from wells…
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky
I savored the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

Wells offer a certain fascination to us. There is something mysterious, intriguing and even sacramental about a dark shaft that reaches deep into the earth to hidden waters. In Ireland, there are “holy wells.” The most famous of which is St. Brigid’s Well in Kildare. These wells pre-date Christianity, but have long been converted to Christian places of prayer. Like rest areas on our interstates, these wells invite people to pull off the road for a while to pray and encounter the One who is the Wellspring of all creation.

Wells dot the landscape of sacred scripture as well. Abraham’s son Ishmael, through whom Islam traces its origin, and his mother Hagar are left to die in the desert, when an angel of the Lord points them to a well that saves their lives. Isaac meets his future wife Rebecca, Jacob meets Rachel and Moses meets Zipporah at a well. And of course, Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, defying all acceptable social custom in doing so. Jacob’s Well was more than a source of water to the Samaritans. Reaching down into it, they were reaching not only for water but symbolically reaching down through time itself to Jacob and the God of Jacob, the well spring of their religious heritage.

Of course, we are an educated and sophisticated people. The idea of a well as a place to dream and make wishes is quaint and romantic but we know better than to take it seriously. H’mmm, Is that really so? For what are all the science and humanities taught at universities but wishing wells of a sort? Aren’t geologists, biologists, anthropologists and psychologists all peering back through time seeking the origins, the meanings – – the well springs of our lives? What is a telescope but a kind of well through which an astronomer gazes at our starry past to shed light on who and what we are? Are not history, literature and poetry attempts to plumb the mystery, the sacrament of human experience?

Back to the poet Seamus Heaney, who late in life admitted he was now too infirm to bend over actual wells. Instead, he wrote, “I rhyme. I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.” Today we come to the well, literally and in our imagination, to go within. To set the darkness echoing; to name our dreams, hopes, longings, disappointments, thirsts and whatever cries out for healing.