The Third Sunday of Lent
2020 – Cycle A
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
Did you ever consider that to know the truth about God, we must first recognize, admit and accept the blunt and honest truth about ourselves?
It seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Yet…?
“Go call your husband…”
“I don’t have a husband.”
“You sure don’t…you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. You are telling the truth.”
Talk about a reality check!
Yet it is only when the woman, almost inadvertently speaking the truth about herself, that she comes to know the truth about Jesus; the truth that he is a prophet and the Christ who will tell us everything!
And “the everything” Jesus will tell us is the full truth about ourselves. Not the lie we tell ourselves. Not the whitewashed version that we offer to the world. “The everything” includes what we keep in the dark that embarrasses us, would disappoint, even scandalize, family, friends and others and therefore might put in jeopardy our relationships. What would people think if they knew…knew what about you or me? Are any of us willing to take that risk? Do you and I want to be confronted so boldly with everything we have ever done?
Yet look at the freedom this honesty offered the woman. She leaves her water jar, runs to her village boldly announcing that someone knows everything about her – that she is a sinner – and this stranger has not rejected her. The woman is released from her shackled past to become a believer! And then this sinner/believer invites her neighbors, who most probably have judged and rejected her, into the same experience of truth, conversion and freedom. Talk about a well – spring of fresh, bubbling waters of new life leaping up within her streaming out for the sake of others. Is there no more wonderful feeling than to be accepted even when unacceptable?
This is what is being offered to our Elect and to us.
For the Elect this encounter with Christ will happen at the Easter Vigil in the waters of Baptism; for us, the baptized, it happens in the encounter with Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a “second” Baptism.
Both experiences are our public and bold confession that we are sinners and believers. Sinners seeking truth so as to be free from what shackles us. Believers in the merciful love and acceptance of Jesus.
This is the experience of conversion. And conversion only occurs through an encounter with Jesus Christ.
A thief on the cross. The self-righteous Saul on the road to Damascus. A sinful woman brazenly stealing uninvited into a dinner party to wash the feet of Jesus with her tears. Nicodemus filled with questions who comes to Jesus in the night. A woman at a well. The regretful Peter confronted by Jesus about his love for him on the shores of a lake. The fraudulent and traitorous Zacchaeus perched up in a tree. The crestfallen and arguing Cleopas and his companion walking back home to Emmaus. The doubt – filled, proof – seeking Thomas who only encounters wounds.
In all these encounters with Jesus, there are no physical healings. The only healing that occurs is that of these people’s relationship with God: a conversion of heart and soul.
There are other encounters, of course.
Herod kept trying to see Jesus but views Jesus as a circus act and thus never faces the truth about himself and is not healed. The rich young man encounters Jesus but continues to be so burdened by his wealth that he walks away from Jesus. The other thief crucified with Jesus mocks and ridicules the only one who can save him.
Which of all these Gospel encounters characterize your relationship with Jesus?
Are you intrigued as Herod is, but…? But what…? Are you purposefully seeking Jesus, like the sinful woman at the dinner party or a convicted dying thief? Are you embarrassed like Peter? Are you curious like Zacchaeus perched where you don’t think Jesus can find you? Like the rich person, have we been walking away from Jesus all your life?
All seven Sacraments are encounters with Jesus Christ. How do we approach them? Why have so many of us refrained from the encounter with Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Like the woman at the well, how can we profess the mercy and acceptance of Jesus to others if we have not first experienced that acceptance and mercy ourselves?
How can we know God, if we first do not honestly know ourselves?