Third Sunday of Lent
What gives us access in our contemporary culture? Consider a doorbell, a key, a password, and for some, since kindergarten days, our magic word, “please. ” What about access to the heart and the “heart of the matter?”
In today’s second reading St. Paul, probably wildly, proclaims “We have gained access by faith … to … grace.” Moses in the first reading gains access to water by doing what God directed him to do: “Strike the rock and water will flow.” More importantly, it seems is that God gained access to the people who wanted to know-“Is God in our midst or not?”
As for the Gospel, we are told that Jesus and the Samaritan woman each gained access to each other’s heart! Jesus helps this unnamed woman to gain access to know and accept herself. She came at noon to the well so that she didn’t have to be confronted with the negative barbs of her neighbors. Jesus could now more easily have access to reminding her of the truth of herself and not the judgment of others. In this dialogue the strong Faith of this woman was uncovered. A freedom, which she had not had, was offered: “True worshipers will worship in Spirit and Truth.” She who was denied access is now being called to an encounter with the Messiah whom she acknowledges will be coming, but in fact is there with her.
In Googling “What does encounter mean biblically,” the response was clearer than I expected. “Encounter is about entering into the relationship through real, authentic experiences and recognizing God’s presence in our lives and in others.” The readings today are very much about such real encounters, Moses and God and the People of Israel and God; the brothers and sisters whom Paul is addressing and himself and God; and, of course, the Samaritan woman and Jesus.
Our Gospel takes us beyond individual transforming encounters. We see this in the townspeople, who heard the message of the Samaritan woman, but having asked Jesus to stay with them for two more days were able to say, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves.” Encounters were becoming engaged encounters, where each one was giving time within the encounter- time, reflection, silence, dialogue, questioning and, thus, bringing the depth that the experience was meant to give. Fruitfulness would come from this contemplative experience as situations were transformed. As with our own experiential encounters in prayer, it is a coming to a true awareness of God’s Presence and a letting go and letting God with the ripple effect into transformative action.
How can we have transforming encounters but for the Grace of God and our own openness to engaging with the Divine? This Transformative Presence is meant to spiral ahead to deeper encounters with our sisters and brothers, individually and collectively. Is this not the answer to move ahead in our evolutionary call within the extreme polarities and injustices in this world to a new world? Will this engaged encounter bring us closer to a unity with Creator and Creation? Will our dominion over the earth, as unrelenting consumers where the earth and the poor cry out, be as transformed as the Samaritan woman? Let us gain access through faith, through encounter, through proclaiming with our lives the Kindom of God.
“Thy Kindom come”
-Sr. Jo-Anne Faillace, OP