During these forty days of Lent we offer ourselves anew to God through abstinence, examination, confession, and renewal. The words of the woman at the well, which we will hear on the third Sunday of Lent, ring out as a reminder that there are many who need the faith we affirm.
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 NAB)
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - 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 NAB)
While we may be leaving the ashes of Wednesday's observation behind us, we continue to keep with us the mark of our mortality. We are dust and to dust we shall return. That is not only true about us but about all mankind.
Every individual has an eternity to face. Lent can be a time where our participation may help draw us deeper into the One with whom we desire to spend our time after we draw our last breath; we may also influence others in that journey as well.
Awhile ago I was given the opportunity to share the story of my journey into the Catholic Church with a group in our local parish. The re-telling of this pilgrimage reminded me of one fundamental issue, this was the story of a thirsty man who could only be satisfied with living water.
Such a story cannot begin at RCIA but at the true beginning of the journey of faith - in my case, at baptism. Baptized and confirmed an Episcopalian, I found other pursuits drawing me away from the church and the things of God.
As a rock musician and "Top 40 Disk Jockey" in the late sixties and early seventies, I was high on life - but a unique approach to life. The attraction of hedonistic living is especially powerful when one loses sight of two things - mortality and eternity. Both became real issues once again while serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
In describing this time of life once again, I re-revisited - heart and mind - the real power in conversion. I had been thirsty for living water. While outwardly moving through life in a spirit of great adventure, the specter of my own finite existence left me hollow and hungry on the inside.
Real life demanded real meaning. I had to return to the promises of my baptism and embrace fully and completely all that our Lord had prepared for me. I came back to God and back to His Church.
Such was also the case with the woman at the well. With multiple husbands, her life had been anything but dull. No doubt, with each of these suitors was a story and a new drama of life for this Samaritan. Being from Samaria was, in itself, a problem. All of that was just a part of life.
The woman didn't know she was thirsty. Like one in a desert, constantly parched, she thought this is as good as it gets. It took a touch from the One who was before time and forever to awaken her thirst. It took a personal touch from Jesus to bring about the hope that life can be different.
The people around the woman were not aware of the spiritual barrenness inside. She was known as a Samaritan and probably known as someone of ill repute. The interior was hidden, as it is in all of us. The aches, the hurts, the condemnation all echoed through a hollow heart.
Then our Lord spoke to her. to a woman. to a Samaritan woman. One considered unclean to the Jews was being asked for a drink of water. More than a request for some refreshment, Jesus was inviting her into a prophetic encounter and an invitation to drink deeply from a new kind of water, one that fills the heart.
In that conversation something awakened deep inside, her thirst for being became intense in the presence of his divine love. "Sir," she spoke out, "Give me this water!"
Each day we pass many who, like the woman of Samaria, decorate time. Their lives may look adorned and abundant, but this is merely a disguise, hiding an interior emptiness. They are the hollow army of humanity so parched but unaware that liquid life is so close them - in us.
We don't have to go far to find those who thirst. They are all around. We see them on our streets, at the office, in our schools, and at the mall. They may be members of our own family, our neighbors, or our friends. Some have left the faith while others have no reference to the things of Christ.
So, what is our call? Are we to overwhelm our hearers with the Catechism of the Church, a treatise on salvation history, or the ultimate questions of heaven and hell?
Perhaps we can begin by merely giving a cup of cold water in Jesus Name. We can do this by just acknowledging the person inside, such as addressing our waitresses by their name, greeting people we meet, and simply being the presence of Christ to those around.
When I met the person who would be used to re-kindle my faith many years ago, he did not begin with a lesson, he began with love. He wanted to know about me. He then told me about himself. I became his friend not his project. He was Christ to me in word and deed before he talked about Christ with me.
Lent can be our opportunity to love out loud. We can let our relationship with the Triune God become present all day every day by letting Christ love the world through us.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
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