Mar 19, 2017

Third Week of Lent


During the Liturgy of the Eucharist the priest or deacon will mix a little bit of water into the wine. Water points to humanity's great thirst.  Wine, in itself, can remind us of the joy and richness of the divine life. When God became man, He entered into the thirst of humanity. He come to us as Christ, the Savior of the World who offers to quench the thirst of very human being who longs for the fullness of life. 

Whereas the Church’s liturgy will speak this mystery in signs and symbols, the Holy Scriptures, especially the Gospel, will likewise do so with words and stories. But signs, symbols, words and stories themselves thirst to fleshed out in real life. 

Jesus shares in our exhaustion from the long journeys we often find ourselves on. That He might refresh us as we tire easily down our own long road through life (cf. Mat 11:28) Christ comes to the well parched with our thirst, yet speaking of Himself as the only one who can satisfy our deepest longing (c.f. CCC 2652).

Who is this woman at the well? It is all those who find themselves wounded by sin and scarred by the sins of others. She represents all of us, but especially when we find ourselves vulnerable, the weak and desperate, regardless of how strong or in command of our surroundings we might think we are.

But, in order to provide the right environment for an encounter with you and me, sometimes, like what He does in the incident we read in the Gospel today, Christ sends His "official" disciples away on an errand. Maybe, they think it is a very important mission, but our Lord maybe simply doesn't want them around right now. They might be too much of a distraction in this point of contact He is wants to make with the stranger at the well. 

That should be a good hint for us. Sometimes disciples have the worst bedside manners and can turn people away from Christ. We are hardly good ambassadors for the Lord when we are overbearing, or coldly judgmental. Yes, Christ is patient with us too when we are like this. Sometimes, when we become a bit too zealous or annoying, He might say to me, "Why don't you go a little walk!" and sends us off on an errand, that we think is very important. Maybe it serves our Lord so that we are simply out of His way!

This allows Christ the Good Shepherd is be able to reach out to this wounded and frightened lamb patiently and with gentleness. For, in this instance, that is what is called for.

In her dialogue with Christ, the Good Shepherd is not afraid or embarrassed to point out her sins. He want to heal, not punish. But He doesn't try to embarrass her or back her into a corner.  She, like all of us, is gently challenged to look at our sins face to face. In this moment of encounter with Christ we are slowly cleansed and washed clean of our sinful past only as we linger longer and longer in conversation with Christ.  The deeper and deeper we allow ourselves to waste time with Christ, like the woman at the well, we not only recognize Him as a holy prophet, but also the Messiah. 

Where does this conversation lead us to? That Jesus Christ is the savior of the whole world - we are given a glimpse of a new heaven and a new earth that awaits us all. That is the gift of liberation, joy and hope - that's the wine what our humanity longs for.

The Gospel demonstrates that Our Lord continuously and constantly invites us into a dialogue that never ends, one we would never tire of - we thirst for God, He thirst for us. This dialogue between water and wine is, of course, called prayer. "Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ!" It is not our gift to God, but it is His gift to us.

(CCC 2560)

Who begins this dialogue? Christ initiates it, not you or me. It is He who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. God thirsts so that we may thirst for Him (Cf. St. Augustine, De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: PL 40, 56).

The long journey of Lent will bring us through desserts and plains. It will eventually lead us to a hill, the hill of Calvary. Lifted high on that Cross Our Lord calls out once again, "I thirst". But even if we have only stagnant water, or even if our wine has turned into vinegar - if that is all we have to offer - He will take it, and transform it into a well-spring leading up to eternal life. Lord Give me this water always!