March 15, 2020
Third Sunday of Lent
Dear Followers of the Living Christ,
Today, we eavesdrop the encounter between Jesus and the woman who approaches the well in John 4:5-42. This tender interaction reveals the mercy of Jesus. At this well, we also come face to face with our own truths. Jesus knows us better than we know the instincts of our own hearts. In this text, we cannot hide from him, for he knows us completely. Here, we carry our burdens and empty them in his presence. We pour out our pasts, our needs before him. This lovely woman is our guide to Jesus’ heart.
A woman arrives at the communal well at high noon. The time is paradoxical. The sun is at its height, yet she desires to be invisible among her community. Most of the women would have been at the well in the early morning to retrieve water for cleansing and cooking at the beginning of the day. The woman arrives later and as she encounters Jesus she carries more than an empty jar, she carries many personal burdens in her fragile heart.
Jesus receives her. Not just her human quest for water, but also her longing to be known, even at high noon. Jesus knows her. He understands her hesitancy, as she looks down to the ground when he is near. He opens a conversation asking for water. The love poured out to her from Jesus is profound and deep. She is after all, a foreigner. Jesus breaks down so many barriers. He cracks social expectations into pieces. His presence brings her joy and healing. She begins to open up to him. Her vulnerability shines greater than the sunlight. He knows her deeply; her parched heart becomes drenched in grace in his presence. She knows that miracles will happen with the Messiah. She is speaking to the Long-Awaited-One. Everything she always wanted is unfolding in her sight.
The water Jesus offers is his abundant and flowing mercy. We all ache to be washed clean and to be known in him. This water stirs up the mystery of our own baptism. The commitment God made to us in the washing of baptism is eternal. This mercy does not dry up nor is it only for those who live a good life. In this Lenten season, we come back to Jesus because the journey of life is long and cumbersome. We need to remind ourselves that we are loved in him. We need to empty our despair into his hands and allow him to wash away the grit and grime of our earthly doubts, sins and past history.
One of the misconceptions of Lent is that we are to beat ourselves up for being sinners. We are mistaken if we put ourselves down, if we think we don’t live up to Church teaching. This is a deep misconception. Lent, is a journey toward springtime, a renewal of our life in the everlasting and profound love that only Jesus offers. In Lent, we examine our lives one more time, only to come to the conclusion that we cannot live without God. This becomes our exultant praise on Easter. Our hearts are rich when we learn that only God’s love and mercy wash away our doubt and failures.
As we grow older, the past always seems to loom large. Sometimes we can’t forget our sins, our sexual histories, the ways in which we treated people poorly and all of our misfortunes and everything bad that others put on our lives in the past. Lent is a time to be free from all of those things yet one more time. Lent opens us to the infinite ways in which Jesus’ love flows threw our sinfulness, our despair and discouragement. Lent is a time in which we gain new insight about who Jesus is for us and why he is our redeemer in the first place. No matter how old we get, we tend to forget that our hearts become empty, and that only Jesus fills them with love, hope and forgiveness.
I want to overhear this conversation between this young woman and Jesus so I may know him in a deeper way. Nothing fills my heart as his mercy. Nothing stands in the way of the miracle of his everlasting life within me. The woman’s testimony is deep and broad and it is true and real. It is has reached my heart and I am sure her testimony rests in yours.
“We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”