The Elect and the Candidates are with us this morning. They are now entering a period in their spiritual journey when the Church invites them to look at their own response to temptation. The normal response of anyone who does this is to realize we often fail to turn to God and we continue to entertain the temptation., This reflection should not be condemning but it should show us were we need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit so we never fall for that temptation again.
The scriptures are clear when they tell us apart from Jesus we can do nothing. That is particular true in the area of those temptations we seem to never be able to overcome. The scriptures are also very clear in that the only way we will ever do God’s will is by allowing the Spirit to change our hearts so we automatically follow God’s will instead of our will (Ez. 36:26-27).
Today we will specifically pray with our Candidates and Elect asking God to strengthen them. With the laying on of hands we will ask the Holy Spirit to fill them. In prayer we will ask God to protect them from the one who would destroy them. Our attention will be on them and yet we need those prayers to protect all of us as we seek to do God’s will.
Each of us is called specifically to follow Jesus and to seek from Him all we need to be disciples. The gospel story of the Woman at the well tells us a lot about how to allow an encounter with Jesus to totally transform us and free us of all that keeps us from following him.
The lesson this gospel makes clear to us is the need to remove the barriers that separate us from God.
Jesus destroyed one of those barriers when he entered Samaria. Most Jews, doing what good Jews did, would travel the longer way around Samaria instead of going through it. But Jesus did more than travel through it he stopped and waited for her to show up. Many of us in our spiritual journey take the long way to Christ doing everything good Christians do except having a direct encounter with Christ. Jesus is constantly inviting us to show up and allow him to be present to us.
Jesus destroyed another barrier when he spoke with her. This should make us consider if we have ever had a conversation with Jesus or if we are going to the well when we expect no one to be there. Christ does desire to have an encounter with you where he will speak to your heart. The conversation with the woman at the well was one where he revealed everything about her sinfulness and yet he offers her life instead of condemning her.
This is the nature of Jesus and it is exactly why we must allow our sin to be revealed to us by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is only in the light of Christ love can we ever understand total and complete forgiveness and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. Sin is not a barrier to Jesus because he came to remove our sin. Once we know forgiveness we are then free to embrace Jesus in ways we have never embraced him.
There is more to learn from this encounter with the woman at the well and it is another barrier that keeps us from allowing us to feel his love and forgiveness. Her reaction to the encounter is to go back to a place where she is comfortable. She wants to discuss theology – she wants to have a safe debate about how and where to worship rather than listen to what Jesus is offering her.
If Jesus had allowed the conversation to be about worship practices, she would have never had her life changed. This aspect of the gospel should cause us to reflect on how we use the comfort of ritual and spiritual practices to avoid the scrutiny of a deeper reflection on why we avoid what Jesus offers us.
However by opening up her heart to encounter Jesus, she was challenged, she was invited and she was affirmed. Each of us need more than an understanding of dogma or theology, each of us need more than just knowing how to practice our religion. Each of us needs to accept the life offered to us by Jesus and by the Church in order to be true disciples.
Her excitement after her encounter with Jesus should be the same kind of excitement that should fill us in our spiritual journey. Because of this excitement she told others and they came to encounter Christ for themselves. “They no longer believe because of what she says but because they have heard for themselves.” This is a key statement and each of us need to believe because of Jesus speaks to us. Each of us needs to have our thirst satisfied.
We should see ourselves in this story, because most of us believe and we have intellectually accepted our faith. We need to open our hearts and deep within our core embrace our faith and remove the obstacles that prevent us from the life giving water we are offered.
Jesus wants us to understand by his life, death and resurrection those obstacles exist no more.
The last chapter of the last book of Scripture tells us “Come, Let the one who thirst come forward, and let the one who wants it receive the gift of life giving water.”
We need to thirst for this to happen, we need to desire what God offers us for this to happen – the Samaritan woman had a thirst she never recognized and Jesus challenged to recognize what it was that she was thirsting for.
“What is it we are thirsting for?”