Thursday, March 12, 2020

3rd Sunday of Lent (Gospel: John 4:5-42) The waters of life

Any time I go into schools, or get to talk to young people, someone nearly always asks me if I have ever seen an exorcism. When I tell them I have and it is real and something to be very careful of, they are usually a bit shocked. I suppose we tend to associate these things with Hollywood, but they are real.

All around us we see signs for Tarot card reading, fortune telling, psychics, all kinds of alternative healing and other practices that come under the general heading of Occult. We are told to stay away from these things that so many people find fascinating. Why is this? What is so wrong with it? Are we over-reacting because we do not understand it?

If God tells us to stay away from something, there is a good reason for it. God does not give us rules just for the sake of rules. There is a reason for everything. In the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy it says:
You must not have in your midst anyone who... practices divination, or anyone who consults the stars, who is a sorcerer, or one who practices magic, or who consults the spirits, no diviner, or one who asks questions of the dead. For the Lord abhors those who do these things. (Deut 18:10-11)

So what is the problem with these thing? Anything that is occult is generally an attempt to gain knowledge or power of the future. One of the greatest things that God has given us is the gift of free will. All through this life we have the freedom to choose to do what we want, even to reject God, which is quite amazing. God does not reveal the future to us because if He did it would influence our free will. If I thought there was going to be an earthquake in the city center tomorrow, the chances are I would avoid the city center. If I think I know what is going to happen, I am most likely to make decisions based on that information, but the problem is that then I am not totally free to choose, because my free will has been influenced. That is the main problem with things such as fortune telling, tarot card reading, etc. We think we are gaining knowledge of the future, but this influences our freedom to choose and God wants us to be free.

However, we have no way of knowing whether the information we are given is true or not and perhaps more importantly, where is it coming from? If God deliberately does not reveal the future to us, then the information is not coming from God. So where is it coming from and how can we trust that it is reliable? Exorcists will be the first ones to tell you that the Occult and New Age practices are a doorway to the world of darkness. They are a deception of Satan. We are dabbling in the world of the spirit, without knowing what we are dealing with and make no mistake about it, Satan is very cunning in how he deceives us. He hates God’s creation and wants to lead us away from God wherever possible. Jesus called him ‘The father of lies, and the deceiver.’ And don’t be fooled by the fact that a fortune teller starts of with a Christian prayer, as some of them do. If the Lord tells us that these things are detestable to him, then we would be wise to stay away from them. If what the Lord teaches us is true, then the Occult is a deception and a lie. If Occult practices are true, then Christianity is a lie. Who do you want to believe?

I know of a woman who was given the initials of someone she was told she would marry. And she met a man with those initials and she married him, and it was a disaster.

The former exorcist of this diocese was telling me about a house he was called to, where footsteps kept appearing across their couch. When he asked them a little about themselves, he learned that the woman practiced witchcraft, her daughter practiced witchcraft and she was living with a man who was not her husband. There was nothing he could do unless they were prepared to change their lifestyle and start following the ways of God. One is against the other.

If you have dabbled in any of these things it is important to confess them to break any kind of influence they over you, spiritual or otherwise.

Now listen to what Jesus says to the woman at the well:
If you only knew what God was offering you and who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.

What is this ‘living water’? First of all it is the life of faith, the path to God, the truth about God, as given to us by Jesus who is the Son of God. He is telling us that what He is offering us is the path to follow, because it is the only path that leads to happiness. The only path. He guides and teaches us through the Scriptures and through the teachings of his Church—his Church. Jesus is either telling us the truth or he is not. If he is, then we need to listen.

For two thousand years the teachings of Christ have been guiding people on the path to God. The fact that it has lasted this long is itself a sign that it must be from God, especially when you look at the history of the Church, which is nothing to boast about. Yet in spite of that, the message of God is still passed on, through sinful people like me, but passed on none the less. It is there for anyone who wants it. Many things are continually offered to us, but not all of them are good and not all of them will help us. What we believe is that what God offers us—the waters of life—is what will lead us to total happiness, beginning now and fulfilled in the world to come. This is what the Lord is teaching us. Do you believe that? 

Sometimes I think it comes back to something as basic as asking ourselves, ‘Do I believe the Scriptures are from God?’ ‘Do I believe that Jesus teaches us through his Church?’ If we believe that, then we need to listen to it. If we don’t believe that, we shouldn’t be here in the first place. God offers us his word to guide us, his Body and Blood to feed us, his forgiveness to heal us, but if we want to follow the path that He is showing us, then we must listen to what he teaches us and act on it.

If you only knew what God was offering you and who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.

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