Third Sunday of Lent

LTC-third-sunday-hires-original
Original artwork by William Nelson

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
But whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
John 4:13-15

It is one thing to have the experienced listener of Jesus in front of you, in the flesh, to reflect back your needs, to be a merciful mirror into your loneliness and shame. It is quite another thing to enter prayer, staring wondrously (or perhaps only faithfully, or merely programmatically) into a dark and silent abyss (to some, it is only a void), asking questions, and straining to discern meaningful answers. If, at any given time in our life, we are particularly attuned, we might receive convincing insights into who we are or what it is that we are called to do. Self-reflection is complex. We are, in a sense, trying to pry ourselves open as gently as Jesus does with the Samaritan woman, while also being the Samaritan woman that seeks (without entirely understanding it) the living water. We are, through practice, both a channel of God’s healing and the one who needs healing most.

But like the Samaritan woman we are reticent; often unwilling to give ourselves fully to the abyss, for fear we may lose the identity with which we are so comfortable, for fear that we will have to change, or for fear that we may have to face our own shortcomings, the truth of who we have become. Father Adrian van Kaam, CSSp. writes of the Samaritan woman’s resistance, “It is an illustration of our own condition. It opens our eyes to secret plots against God’s appeals to generosity. Her irritation makes us aware of the tactics employed by our own prejudices against our being gentle and giving.” And within the context of our prayer lives, this even means we are unwilling to be gentle and (for)giving to ourselves. We cut ourselves off from the well of life within. As we observed last week, the encounter with God can provoke “fear and trembling,” we become vulnerable, open, exposed, naked. But are we not also loved? Like the woman at the well, Christ, who is within us, “is faithful to what [we are] called to be,” Father van Kaam writes. And so it is an act of faith that we enter prayer, meditation, introspection, contemplation, self-reflection (whatever we choose to call it), with the trust that when we encounter fear and trembling, we will receive an abundance of mercy, forgiveness, and love, because Christ wants us to tap our own fullness.

Above all else remember
that your God is forever faithful.
In the words of the prophet God says:

Can a mother forget her infant
Or be without tenderness
for the child of her womb?
I will never forget you.
I have branded you
on the palms of my hands.

For your part,
God asks you in return
to make the word of God your home.

To do this
you must be willing to spend time each day
in solitude and prayer,
opening yourself to God’s living word.

Fundamental Principles

Exercise

On Ash Wednesday and in the First Week of Lent, we recollected and then attempted to experience once again the concrete manifestation of God’s love in our life. Last week, we spent time reflecting on a moment or moments when, in retrospect, we realized that our work, speech, or action was not an expression of our uniqueness or of God’s direction, when we were unable to be fully present to a situation from our deepest and most vulnerable identity. We were asked to describe this experience without judgment or evaluation.

This week we’re asked, once more, to examine that experience, in light of the story of the Samaritan Woman, and the following poem by Hafez, which was included in Greg Boyle, S.J.’s book Tattoos on the Heart.

With That Moon Language
By Hafez

Admit something.
Everyone you see, you say to them,
             “Love me.”
Of course, you do not say this out loud;
             Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one
  Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying
With that sweet moon
              Language
What every other eye in this world
              Is dying to
               Hear.

What connections can you make between the poem’s observations and the story of the Samaritan woman? How, in our prayer lives and in encounters with others, can we live with “a full moon in each eye”?

Is there a practice that you can incorporate into your personal rule of life that, in a very ordinary and practical way, challenges you to try and live with a “full moon in each eye”?

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