3rd Sunday of Lent; March 23, 2014
At Vigils we have been reading from the book of Exodus about Israel’s journey from an alien land in Egypt to a promised kingdom – a journey from slavery to salvation. In today’s gospel we read of a woman who is making this “exodus journey” as well. She, too, is moving from the bonds of slavery to the new horizons of a land of promise. They are the same journey in many ways – one as a community and the other as an individual. We each make this journey as well – both as individuals and as community. This last week with our Visitation, it was a time to communally examine our journey to God – where is our community needing to go or the Spirit leading us - where to improve, where to encourage, where to change, and where to praise God with gratitude. Lent is a time for us to do the same on a personal level – where does the Spirit want to lead me, where to improve, encourage, change, and where to praise God with gratitude. So, how fitting that our Visitation coincided with this Lenten Season. The Samaritan woman at the well was discovering her life, or more precisely, she was discovering Jesus Christ in her life. The Israelites in the desert were discovering who they were as community – or more precisely, discovering God in their midst. Through the struggle of the desert they were finding their uniqueness, their values, their goals, and their desires. We, too, must continually make this journey - this discovery – an exodus from any forms of slavery to a promised kingdom…which is none other than God Himself in our midst.
What is a similarity in the exodus of Israel and the exodus of the Samaritan woman? One is that they must discover their incongruencies. Brought face to face with themselves, they discover places in their lives where “what they are meant to be” does not coincide with what they “do”. St Paul defines these incongruencies as sin. He says plainly: “I do not do what I want to do but I do the very things I hate”. (Rom7:15) But as the Samaritan woman teaches us, discovering these places within does not bring us to shame but to love! Jesus Christ is right there at the well offering us springs of living water – and doing so eagerly, desperately, and gently. In the same way, God was right there in the desert as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead his people to the Promised Place of Paradise. And Jesus Christ is here today in our cloister as well. And so, the desert, and the well, and the cloister are places of reflection…places of discovery.
Another similarity I see is that both Israel and the Samaritan woman needed reminding of where their journey was going: their goal and hope. Both lost sight…therefore, both lost hope. Their incongruencies made them a broken people and so their convictions turned to complaints, their desires into doubts. God comes to the people of Israel who are broken and powerless by slavery. Jesus comes to an outcast woman who is left with a broken self-image. She is a woman hiding – hiding, ironically, in the midday sun, a time when no one would be out or see her. But there Jesus was…waiting…waiting patiently…because He “thirsted”!
Despite all our brokenness and incongruencies, our beautiful God entrusted Himself to Israel who had lost trust in Him, as well as in their journey. Jesus approaches the Samaritan woman as a beggar and puts his trust in a woman who had lost trust in herself. In other words, Jesus became like us in order to heal us and help us. He becomes thirsty to reveal to us our own thirst - our thirst for meaning, acceptance, belonging, and love. To do this they, and we, must take risks, must be vulnerable. We must be willing to trust, to be open, and to be humble. The promise of Jesus can only come about if we are humble and recognize our poverty and brokenness as Israel and the Samaritan woman did.
In our Visitation we also came face to face with our own communal poverty………But what the Israelites and the Samaritan woman teach us is that it is in these very places of poverty that we find God. We realize that our helplessness is the place where Jesus does his best work. It is the very crosses we carry that bring us to hope and grace. At our Visitation Fr Mark observed that even though we are aware of our personal and communal limitations, most of us still carry a sense of “happiness and inward peace as well as an outward calm and cheerfulness”. This should be a great affirmation to us as community. The Spirit is very much alive and active in our midst! Fr Mark also pointed out in the Visitation card (quote) “a general understanding among us that a primary source of personal and communal healing is each one’s choice for gratitude over against complaining”. This attitude takes great humility and trust. He saw this on a communal level but how are you doing with this on a personal level? Are there places we can improve, encourage, change, or praise God with gratitude?
The water God gave to the Israelites from “the rock who is Christ” and the water of life springing up within the wellspring of the woman is Christ’s Presence and Love – this alone quenches the pangs of loneliness, fear, anxiety, shame. The fountain is Love and if we dare to drink from it, we will become more loving. The fountain is the Holy Spirit and if we dare to drink from it, we will be like Jesus Christ – living in His Spirit. But we must keep in mind: It is how we understand the life we chose and receive that will determine the life we will give…to others and to God. Therefore, we need daily to go into the desert – the broken and empty spaces of our heart…taking nothing with us – and sit by the well of Scripture to drink deeply. This is the message of our Lenten Season, of our Visitation, and of the gospel. Let us not be afraid today to enter the desert and sit by the well.