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My colleague and friend is a Shakespearean scholar. After he published a book on Shakespeare, he was interviewed by a newspaper. At the end of the interview, he was asked: “Why do you like Shakespeare so much?” He answered: “If could write just one poetic sentence like Shakespeare, I would consider my life a success. I wanted to be a priest since I was in second grade. If you asked me why I wanted to be a priest, I would answer: “If I could just bring one person to Christ, I would consider my life a success.” So when I read the Gospel of the Samaritan woman who brings an entire city to Christ, I ask, “How did that happen? Is she a theologian? No. Is she a model of virtue, respected and looked up to by the world?” No again.
Do you ever play poker? What is the first thing you think about when you look at the cards that were dealt to you? You say: “Why do I always get lousy cards?” I was at a convention and one night a poker tournament was scheduled. We got in groups of five. Someone dealt, and I got a 2, 4, 7, 9 and a jack. That was the worst hand you can possibly get. Do you know I made it to championship round? I learned this. In poker, you can get an awful hand and still win. It is not about the cards you are dealt, it is how you play the cards: you can, hold ‘em or fold ‘em.
If anyone could say they were dealt a bad set of cards, it would be the Samaritan woman. First, she is a Samaritan woman. You can’t get lower on the social ladder. On top of that, she had five husbands, and the one she is with now is not her husband. She cannot even go to the well in the morning with the rest of the women because of the gossip. Yet, she is responsible for an entire village, and we are still talking about her today.
Mother Teresa once said to Christ: “I want to help the poor in Calcutta.” Christ asked her, “How?” She answered, “I do not have any money. I do not have much education. But I can hold babies, and I know how to say the rosary.” Jesus said, “I can use that.” Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you have?” They said, “Five barley loaves and a few fish, but what is that for so many?” Jesus said, “I can use that,” and He fed five thousand families. It is not what you have; it is what you do with what you have. Jesus asked the Samaritan woman, “What do you have?” She said, “Not much, but I have a pail.” Jesus said, “I can use that.”
Do you know anyone with photographic memory? I do. They are a lot of fun. One day one of my confreres came up to me and said, “Peter, today is your father’s birthday; he would be eighty today.” I said, “How did you know that?” He said, “You told me five years ago.” At the time, I was preparing for my comprehensive exams. I had to read and remember a stack of books that would fill your bookshelf. I said, “Can I borrow your brain for the exam?” He responded, “Really you want my mind?” I said, “Yes, but you can have it back after the exam.” Somehow I barely passed. God didn’t give me a lot, but it‘s not what you have; it is what you do with it.
Before God met up with Moses, he was a runaway slave with a rap sheet for murder. You can’t get lower than that in the ancient world. You may say that he was dealt a bad hand. Yet, he is considered the greatest prophet. What happened? God said to Moses, “I want to be your God; what do you say?” Mosses answered, “What can you do for my people and me”? God said, “I can give all of you your freedom. I will provide protection from your enemies. I will give you food and water in the desert, I will give you property. Not just land, but prime real estate. You will be able to plant crops. There will be highways to connect people to the superpowers. You will have a rich economy. What do you say, can I be your God”? Moses answered, “Okay, but what is the catch?” God then said, “Listen to My Word.”
That is what Moses did, that is what the Samaritan did, and that is what we should do. Some of us may feel that we were dealt a bad hand in life. But it is not what you have; it is what you do with what you have. In Christ, you will hear Him say, “I can use that.”Back to All Homilies