The Woman at the Well
Sunday's Gospel was the story of the Woman at the Well which is one of those really important Scripture passages which deserves much reflection and consideration. Fr. Kevin offered a very valuable reflection on the Gospel which I have asked him if I can share with you all here. You can also listen to Fr. Kevin deliver his homily here if you prefer.
A number of people have told me that they have given up drinking for Lent. I think what they really mean is that they have given up alcoholic drink. There was man in the news at start of Lent who said he was going to live only on beer throughout Lent; apparently it’s possible. What isn’t possible is to live without water. The body can go for days and weeks without food, but without water we would simply die. The body craves water to remain alive; even in those regions of the world where there have been recent disasters, the importance of getting water to survivors is paramount. Our souls are the same as our bodies in this regard; without the supernatural life that comes from the waters of Baptism, we cannot live the life of God.
The Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa have written under the crucifix in their chapel one of those seven last words of Jesus on the Cross: Sitio, I thirst. It is in the tending of the most needy that they are caring for Christ. But it has a deeper meaning, expressed in the Gospel today: Jesus thirsts for our faith; and our human and spiritual thirst can only be satisfied in Him. The Samaritan woman at the well asked for a drink; in return Jesus offered her a faith which would be a living water within her, welling up to eternal life.
We can be here today because God has given us the priceless gift of our Catholic Faith. The only thing Jesus asks of us in unconditional faith. That is the one thing he insists upon in the Gospel. When the Jews asked Him what they should be doing to do the work of God, he doesn’t say do charity, he says: This is the work of God, believe in the One whom He has sent. Not by anything else will we be saved; neither by how we feel, nor by our experiences, nor by our intelligence… but by faith.
Living by faith, and not by sight, involves life on another level. We could almost say it is like living in the dark but with the aid of ultra-violet light; everything gets viewed from the perspective of God and eternity, we can see hat others don’t see. Most people in our world now don’t live like that. The last census taken in England shows that between 2001 and 2011 there has been a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religious faith (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent).
Most of us arrive at the Faith through a variety of circumstances nowadays: some from our mother’s knee, some through education, some through friends or simply exposure to the Church in some form. However Faith is found, it must be guarded, and those of us who have the Faith have to know it better and communicate better.
Faith is what we call a virtue, a good habit of the Christian life and these habits if they are to become perfected, have to be practised and exercised. In the same way that the body needs exercise, appropriate amounts of food and drink, so the soul has to be exercised. If we never moved from the armchair we would soon become crippled through inactivity and inertia. If we never prayed or went to Mass or the Sacraments, we would lose our appetite for loving God and so lapse from our Faith.
When science and technology can fill us with so much hope and can respond to so many of our needs, we need to live more than ever by faith. Science may be able to address the HOW questions of life, of existence about the universe; but only faith can answer the WHY questions: why I am here; why the world exists; why everything in happens as it does. If we live by faith, we will never be surprised, and though we get many surprises, we can never be hurt by what the world throws at us. And as Catholics, we have the answers to the difficult questions; we have nothing to fear from the scientist and rationalists as Faith and reason go hand-in-hand for us.
But what we do see now is the rise in substitute for religion in all the colourful guises that comes in: materialism, the occult, and various forms of escapism. yet we so easily forget, that lived and celebrated properly, Catholicism is the most colourful of anything that the world has to offer!
The conversation Jesus had with that woman at the well has been repeated in all our lives: Jesus has asked us what we seek; we have responded asking for faith and faith equals eternal life. He alone can satisfy our every thirst, and He alone can give us the water that will do it. As we continue our pilgrimage through Lent we shall celebrate the Annunciation of The Lord on Tuesday; we ask the Woman of Faith – Mary – to lead us always to the source of that living water.