Evangelization workshops are being offered throughout the archdiocese, to help us become better equipped at sharing our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ with those we meet. This is how we answer the question that is asked in the first reading from the book of Exodus for the Third Sunday of Lent: Is God in our midst or not?
As we witness to the evidence of God’s presence in our life, we grow in strength of faith. At times of suffering and difficulty, we count on the memory of our encounter with Jesus. For those friends and family who have difficulty believing, they benefit from our ability to witness to our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Can you witness to the presence of Jesus Christ in your life today? In this moment? Throughout all your life?
The Samaritan woman at the well has had difficulty in the past acknowledging the presence of God in her life, and thus she has difficulty in allowing that presence to change her choices. When confronted with the physical presence of Jesus at the well, she begins a verbal sparring with Him, attempting to keep Him at a distance. It could be assumed that other men have not been faithful and true to their word. She has every reason to believe that Jesus is a man like all those other men.
In the fruitful dialogue that Jesus has with this woman, we see a clear lesson about how we are to build relationships with others, even those who are cynical or mistrusting. Deep and compassionate listening allows us to truly hear the story of another person’s life. If we keep the knowledge of a person’s past to form our perceptions of that person, we aren’t really able to hear in a compassionate and understanding way. Jesus listens to this woman and hears her whole story. He does not judge or reject her. His commitment to her, in both time and understanding, opens up a part of her mind and heart that might’ve been hardened by past experiences.
Once she has a true encounter with Jesus Christ, she is then able to go to all of her neighbors and witness to His presence. She would truly say that God is in our midst. We see that fact by the changing of the priorities in her life. She had originally come to the well in the middle of the day, to avoid encounters with others. After an encounter with Jesus, she leaves her jar at the well and has more important tasks to perform with her life. Her thirst for water has been replaced by a thirst for others to know about Jesus.
During this Lent, are you setting up the opportunities that allow you to meet Jesus at the well of your life? Jesus wishes to hear every detail of our lives. He is willing to endure that conversation, showing compassion and love toward us. It may be hard to hear the voice of Jesus over the busyness and constant noise of our lives. Are you allowing for time that is empty of distraction and commitment and open to experiencing Jesus here and now?
God is truly in our midst, and He wants to make Himself known to us in our ordinary lives. He wants us to be the messengers of Good News to all people who encounter us. Our food for that journey comes from prayer, sharing in the Eucharist, acts of sacrifice and compassion toward others and generously giving to those most in need. Each of those opportunities bring us into contact with Jesus, mostly in the persons of the broken and those who live on the edges of life.
Jesus awaits your choice to make yourself available to Him, and to notice His presence as He quenches your thirst, loves you and knows every detail about your life.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.