Each week during Lent you are invited to join one of the Brothers as they reflect on God's word in Scripture. This Third Sunday of the Lenten Season provides us with an insight from Br Michael Callinan.
"The water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life." (John 4:14)
Could This Be the Christ?
(Third Sunday of Lent)
"And what can I get you to drink?" It was no empty question. The man asking the question of me was standing in front of a fully stocked bar, ready to create and pour whatever was my fancy. Moreover, I was a guest at a function, so the question was being asked with the expectation I'd respond freely, enjoying what was offered without cost (to me, anyway). And I did enjoy!
In another sense the question "And what can I get you to drink?" has had a much deeper meaning for me. I'm nearing the end of an extended sabbatical period, a time in which I have been privileged to share in a renewal experience with other brothers from across the world, as well as having been invited to stretch my language limits and cultural boundaries by beginning to learn Spanish in two different countries. In fact as I've stepped back from a busy and rewarding 'professional life' this past year I've frequently heard Jesus asking me the question "What can I get you to drink?" I've been invited through my varied experiences to give Jesus an answer ... or more than one.
This week's Gospel story of the Samaritan woman at the well is one of the many in John's Gospel which encourage the reader to become a believer in Jesus, the Christ. Strangely, whilst the actual identity of the woman is obscured by her 'shadowy' life, her encounter with Jesus is very public and intentionally has us wondering early on what business the two of them have in the sweltering midday sun. Clearly the offering or accepting of a drink of water begins the dialogue, but really it is the circumstances of the woman's life around which the dialogue centres. What is revealed is a life where one relationship has dissolved into the next, and the woman has been left vulnerable and questioning her own dignity. But rather than judge, Jesus appears to redirect her almost mocking responses, encouraging her to see a new possibility for the fullness and worth of her life, centred on worship of God within a welcoming community of believers.
It's strange, don't you think, that Jesus receives no water? But then again, no, because we see that the woman has forgotten all about Jesus’ thirst, and even leaves her water jug behind. This woman who seemed both 'savvy' yet terribly world-weary, speaks to others with a fervent outburst: “Come and see! Could this one be the Messiah?” Jesus' disturbance of her resignation to and cynicism about life produces an incredible result. The encounter never was about Jesus.
And what about my response? It was easy enough to give the bartender a quick, direct answer at that function I attended, but I daresay I can be a little slower and sometimes less clear in my response to Jesus. Even slow to provide space to allow him to do the asking! I'm hoping that my faltering acceptance of the life-giving water of Jesus is some form of response to his unwavering and daily accompaniment of me as I make my pilgrim journey towards the Father.
I'd like to think Mary's life was a bit like that, too.
Thought: Spend some time with Jesus in prayer, allowing him to be the one "who has told me everything I have done" (John 4:29)
Prayer: Jesus, water of life and wellspring of hope, help me to walk with courage and joy through this Lenten season. Allow me to be honest with myself, Lord, embracing change where it's needed, and always open to the surprise of your grace and your generous love.
Brother Michael Callinan, FMS served most recently on the Marist Mission and Life Formation Team, following nearly twenty years of leadership in the area of Faith Formation in several Marist schools across Australia. During the past six months Michael has been studying Spanish language at the Javeriana Pontifical University in Bogotá, Colombia and the University of Guadalajara in México. He is a keen liturgical musician and enjoys jumping aboard two wheels on and off road.