Third Sunday of Lent 2015

In a homily addressed to the Italian bishops, Pope Francis said:

Jesus, the Good shepherd, does not humiliate or abandon people to remorse.  Through him the tenderness of the Father, who consoles and revitalizes, speaks; it is he who brings us from the disintegration of shame—because shame truly breaks us up—to the fabric of trust.  He restores courage, re-entrusts responsibility, and sends us out on mission.  (“The Church of Mercy” p. 66)

His words capture the meaning and liberating beauty of what takes place between Jesus and the woman at the well  this 3rd Sunday of Lent (John 4:5-42).

Shunned by the townspeople due to her sinful lifestyle, the woman is made to fetch water at noon instead of the morning along with the other women.  It must have been humiliating and made her feel the “disintegration of shame”.  Yet, there is Jesus in all his shameless mercy, sitting at the well as she approaches.  It’s as if he’s waiting for her; like some shepherd seeking out a lost sheep.

Through that encounter, Jesus revitalizes the depths of her parched soul as she realizes a thirst that’s inside us all.  There, at the well, she encounters “living water” quenching the restlessness of her desire; this woman who’s had five husbands.   Quenched and revitalized, she leaves her water jar at the well and goes off into town announcing, “Could this be the Christ?” to the very ones who shunned her.  It’s like she’s sent out on mission.  That had to take courage.  Yet, her encounter with Jesus helps take her eyes off self and focus upon the life-giving flow of  mercy, superseding shame while holding fast to the fabric of his words with trust; vital to any relationship. 

Haven’t we known the “disintegration of shame” in some way?  Years ago, I read Gershen Kaufman’s book “Shame” when advised by my Novice Master.   Kaufman writes:

Few strivings are as compelling as is our need to identify with someone, to feel a part of something, to belong somewhere…one’s inner yearning to belong.  (p. 27-28)

Jesus alone fathoms this compelling need to belong; a thirst he is able to quench when, alongside Christ, we courageously face the shame and see beyond it all, thanks to the tenderness of his gaze, that we are so much more.  This is the good news and what is revealed at the well...

 

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

 

 
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