Sunday, February 24, 2008

3rd Sunday of Lent - reflection

Based on today’s Gospel (Jn 4:7-42), the following reflection was written by St. Augustine in the early 5th century and is found in today’s Office of Readings:

A woman came. She is a symbol of the Church not yet made righteous. Righteousness follows from the conversation. She came in ignorance, she found Christ, and he enters into conversation with her. Let us see what it is about, let us see why a Samaritan woman came to draw water. The Samaritans did not form part of the Jewish people: they were foreigners. The fact that she came from a foreign people is part of the symbolic meaning, for she is a symbol of the Church. The Church was to come from the Gentiles, of a different race from the Jews.

We must then recognise ourselves in her words and in her person, and with her give our own thanks to God. She was a symbol, not the reality; she foreshadowed the reality, and the reality came to be. She found faith in Christ, who was using her as a symbol to teach us what was to come. She came then to draw water. She had simply come to draw water; in the normal way of man or woman.

Jesus says to her: Give me water to drink. For his disciples had gone to the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman therefore says to him: How is it that you, though a Jew, ask me for water to drink, though I am a Samaritan woman? For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.

The Samaritans were foreigners; Jews never used their utensils. The woman was carrying a pail for drawing water. She was astonished that a Jew should ask her for a drink of water, a thing that Jews would not do. But the one who was asking for a drink of water was thirsting for her faith.

Listen now and learn who it is that asks for a drink. Jesus answered her and said: If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, perhaps you might have asked him and he would have given you living water.

He asks for a drink, and he promises a drink. He is in need, as one hoping to receive, yet he is rich, as one about to satisfy the thirst of others. He says: If you knew the gift of God. The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. But he is still using veiled language as he speaks to the woman and gradually enters into her heart. Or is he already teaching her? What could be more gentle and kind than the encouragement he gives? If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, perhaps you might ask and he would give you living water.

What is this water that he will give if not the water spoken of in Scripture: With you is the fountain of life? How can those feel thirst who will drink deeply from the abundance in your house?

He was promising the Holy Spirit in satisfying abundance. She did not yet understand. In her failure to grasp his meaning, what was her reply? The woman says to him: Master, give me this drink, so that I may feel no thirst or come here to draw water. Her need forced her to this labor, her weakness shrank from it. If only she could hear those words: Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Jesus was saying this to her, so that her labors might be at an end; but she was not yet able to understand.


At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catholic Exchange - Your Faith. Your Life. Your World. Homily of the Day
Feb 26, 2008
Stop Thinking Like an Accountant!

Dn 3:25, 34-43 / Mt 18:21-35

One of the key things that children learn as they grow up is the value of fairness, the importance of playing by the rules and making sure that each person gets his fair share and nobody gets cheated. How often on the playground or the classroom or at home, we hear the outraged cry of one of our children saying, "Thats not fair."

A deep-seated sense of fairness is crucial both to lasting relationships and to a decent society, but its not enough. Nevertheless, too many of us get stuck at the justice and fairness stage, and never move up to the next step.In confronting one anothers faults, we find ourselves too often thinking more like accountants than friends: "Pay what you owe," we say, as if we ourselves were able to pay all we owe!But, of course, we cannot.

Every last one of us is dependent upon the Lord and upon our friends being willing not to address us with an accountants ledger in hand, but to look at us with the same understanding that a good parent looks at a child whos just learning how to do the simplest things.

Jesus is very clear about this: Throw away your ledgers and your accountants hat, and think like a parent who never gives up loving and hoping for the child.Its the only way to live, and a much happier way to live.And it will get your own heart wide open to receive all the forgiveness and understanding that you need.

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At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A deep-seated sense of fairness is crucial both to lasting relationships and to a decent society, but its not enough."

It’s definitely not enough! There is much that comes to each of us in our lives that look incredibly unfair and unjust- a young mother of several children getting a terminal illness, a child dying, poverty (why are some born into it while others are born into so much?). It is easy to get stuck there. I’m finally starting to embrace the idea that there is so much I am not ever going to understand- much I’m not meant to understand. The concept of Divine Mystery was one that was too big for me to grasp, still is. But the idea of looking at life as described here- an accountant keeping everything in columns and doling out the “you got this, so I should get that” is the kind of thinking that makes my life unmanageable. And that seems funny, because from the outside, that kind of management would seem to be one that would work. What I have come to understand is that what seems unfair in this life may be what is required to make all fair in the next, but, in the moment- it’s not always easy to see that.


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