Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life-giving Water

Jesus and the Woman at the Well
We are in the middle of a six-week journey.  Each Sunday in Lent reflects on life as in a prism.  First Sunday: a hungry Jesus tells the tempter what makes for life: not bread alone but every word from God. Last Sunday: the Transfiguration. God reveals the divine in the human Jesus, our life.  And today Jesus is life-giving water.

A central moment in the life of the Hebrews was their Exodus or liberation.  Yet here they are wandering and complaining!  Where is God now, they wonder, as they face hunger and thirst.  Moses cries to God for help, and God demonstrates his presence. Water suddenly flows from a rock and quenches their thirst.  

The life-giving waters allude to the waters of baptism and the promises made to God in baptism: a rite of initiation into a global community.  God's love and life has been poured out upon us and into us so that we can reflect the glory or presence of God in our daily lives.

In the Gospel according to John, Jesus asks a woman for water, only to engage her in a conversation about thirst.  Jesus reveals who he is: the messiah, living water who can satisfy our quest for meaning.  And in faith, this woman heralds the good news to her townsfolk.

We all thirst like Jesus and the woman at the well, don't we?  Some simply thirst for a decent livelihood.  Others thirst for health, wealth, pleasure, power and fame. Still others for purpose in life.

Therese of Lisieux’s remarkable autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” documents her own search and made her a guru in Catholic Spirituality.  She died at 24, still struggling with doubts about God  and yet holding onto a crucifix as she spoke her dying words: “My God, I love You.”

She pursued a spiritual pathway that she came to call the “little way.”  What is this “little way” that anyone supposedly can follow? For me, it has three ingredients.

First, Therese realized her own insignificance.  Think about it.  There are about seven billion people on this planet.  Some say there are at least ten trillion planets in our galaxy alone, and at least 200 billion galaxies.  We really are insignificant.  And yet God gave us significance.  God who is love created us out of love from nothingness so that God could be one with us.  Therese personified humility.  Her response was always gratitude to God that she even existed.

Second, Therese recognized that God loved her unconditionally. That's why she had a childlike trust, receptive to whatever gifts God bestowed upon her.

Finally, she loved God unconditionally, even though she often wondered where God was.  The words of Thomas the Apostle could have been hers, and perhaps ours sometimes: I believe; help my unbelief.  In every situation, she willed the good of the other.  Her “little way” quenched her thirst for God as Jesus quenched the thirst of the Samaritan at the well and ours as well.

During these Lenten days I invite all of us to renew ourselves spiritually and to rededicate ourselves in regular prayer to God and in generous service to one another.

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