“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
In our Gospel, a woman's life is dramatically changed, and it all starts with what appears as a chance encounter. Reflecting on our lives, I suspect each one of us have experienced something similar that started by accident, a chance encounter, a coincidence. An older Jesuit once told me that a chance encounter, a coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.
Certainly in the beginning of this story the grace of God appears anonymously – at first. We witness, what on the face of it is, an unremarkable, chance encounter between two very unlikely characters in the wilderness, at a well, thirsty from a day’s journey during the noon hour heat. Arriving with bucket in hand, one woman’s midday sojourn speaks volumes it reveals her outcast state, as a fallen Samaritan woman.
There she encounters a stranger, a Jewish man, who is at first unknown to her, though later she has a suspicion that he might be a prophet, and still later on wonders if indeed he is the Messiah, the One who will tell everything. It his request for a drink that unnerves her, breaking all the social, cultural conventions of the day: first as a man, talking to a woman; second, as a Jew to a Samaritan; third, as a holy man to a public sinner; fourth his willingness to drink from their well using her cup. And this encounter begins the woman’s remarkable journey toward her salvation …
Isn’t it simply amazing how the wonder of God comes in such ordinary ways, chance encounters? God working anonymously in our lives, very close and everyday, offering us opportunities for new life, new meaning and direction.
I am consoled and encouraged by your peers we have heard the last couple of weeks – Mathew, Victoria, and tonight, Alex, all who have witnessed to the happenstance ways – at times – about the many graces that have surprised them, invited them to a new way of living – of making this life choice to becoming Catholic.
With so many things going on around us at this university, how attentive are we to those chance moments of encounter when Christ sidles up close to us, inviting each one of us to a deeper, more meaningful life? To drink of his water … a living water that springs up within us satiates our every desire and longing? How attentive are we?
Certainly the Samaritan woman was attentive, and even a tad curious, though – at first – she did not fully comprehend who this stranger was. She comes with the intention to draw water at the well of Jacob and instead finds herself being drawn in, her entire self, all that she has done … drawn into a new well … a well that promises so much more … to quench all of her thirst and longing!
Speaking to the woman, Jesus proceeds to open up her heart and gradually enters into it. And having entered into her heart, Jesus reveals her to herself: “He told me everything I have done.” Jesus reveals the truth to her in love.
Romano Guardini describes how God’s loving gaze works in us. “To be seen by God does not mean to be exposed to the merciless gaze, but to be enfolded in the deepest care. Human seeing often destroys the mystery of the other. God’s seeing creates it.” This is what the Samaritan woman experienced, the creating gaze of Jesus who knew her and loved her into freedom!
I am often reminded of this story when I was younger Jesuit: Jesus drawing, inviting me into deeper union with him. The year before I was ordained a priest I made an 8-day retreat in Los Altos, CA. For the whole of 8 days, Jesus sang a love song to me.
The lyrics go like this: The wilderness will lead you; To the place where I will speak; Integrity and justice; With tenderness; You shall know. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.
One evening as I looked down into the San Jose Valley, I felt Jesus sidling up to me and say, “I want to be with you Michael!” “Lord, if you knew who I was, you would not want to be with me.” “Michael, I know you and I want to be with you. With you and I together anything is possible.”
That’s one of many stories that each one of us in this community could share with one another – of being drawn into the life giving water that Jesus wants to share with us. I now invite forward Alex Hopkins to share his story …