My eyes are always on the Lord, for he rescues my feet from the snare. Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor.
A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Third Sunday of Lent
When we sit back and examine our lives, it may be a temptation to sort of wish away our challenging circumstances and only retain the circumstances that are fun or a strength or lucrative. Wouldn’t that be nice! Often, our reality is conditioned by certain circumstances that may be burdensome or troubling. Often, we may view these circumstances as inhibiting, especially when they result in additional circumstances that are also challenging. If we’re not careful, this can lead to despair, which is the opposite of the Christian Virtue of Hope!
By all accounts the circumstances of the woman that encounters Christ at the well in Sychar would have, from the categories of the day, excluded her from any and all forms of participation in religion. She was a Samaritan, she had several marriages, and as a woman, she did not possess any rights of her own. Her circumstances, taken as a whole, excluded her from what the mainstream of the day was. We’re able to see, of course, that her circumstances also provided a perfect opportunity for Jesus’ invitation and action to turn the previously-named realities on their head!
Saint Paul, in the Letter to the Romans that is our Second Reading, insists that Jesus takes personal initiative and responsibility for the justification of each human being who professes faith in him. “Justification” is the transport of a person into a right relationship with the one who initiates the transport. In the case of the Christian faith, Christ’s act of justification, accomplished through his Paschal Mystery, is accomplished in us through Baptism. It is God’s initiative and it is God’s gift.
Back to our friend at the well. From the categories of the law, her circumstances “alienated” her from the justification of the law. Her personal encounter with the Living Word of God transformed everything for her and, as evidence of the radical impact of Jesus’ mission, she can’t stop speaking about her new-found communion with God. The result? The conversion of the village of Samaritans! What is our takeaway? Those circumstance that we think alienate us from God or what others have told us alienates us from God are often constructs of the human imagination. Our encounter with Christ, in and through the Church’s Sacraments, for which we must be prepared and disposed, is an experience of direct communion with God’s divine life that is truly transformative. Like the woman at the well, why wouldn’t we run around telling everybody about the love of God that we experience?
O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.