by Alain Richard, OFM and Julia Occhiogrosso
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Exodus 17:3-7 | Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 | John 4:5-42
The Thirst to be Free from Lies and Barriers that Separate Us
Water, Sister Water, as St. Francis called her, is such a precious gift! We who live in Nevada have to remind our visitors to carry plenty of water when they go into the desert. Thirst comes quickly, and forgetting one’s canteen could be fatal. In our Old Testament reading, Moses was about to be stoned by his own thirsty people. He was saved when God directed him to an abundant spring.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well far from her home. She had to walk carrying her heavy load, probably more than once a day.
Starting from her daily experience, Jesus awakens her thirst for a life really free. At first he shows his own freedom in the face of a very common separation. “You are a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” Jews were at odds with Samaritans–and she was a woman! Jesus violates these barriers. He risks breaking the rules of his society because she needs to be freed on a deeper level. He shows her the reality of the situation in which she lives. He touches the spot which needs healing. He frees her from the ambiguity of her life.
In our culture it is difficult to know what is true and what is false. The sophistication of disinformation techniques is so great that many people are confused. Instruments of death are called “Peacemakers;” junk is hailed as the latest advancement; scientific reports are falsified by those who commissioned them; unscrupulous business people steal money by promising large profits; government officials proclaim killing a crime and then give orders to kill. National leaders who pretend to be moralists are war criminals according to the protocols of the Nuremberg court by which Nazi crimes were judged fifty years ago. Countries are blockaded for profit and it is called justice; people are told that illegal immigrants are supported by taxpayers, when the truth is that they bring the wealth of their work. Every day we discover a few more lies, and many of these cause divisions in our society.
Billions of people oppressed by lies and separations are longing for truth and unity with others. They long for a living water to free them from their terrible thirst.
In the Church itself, millions of people are deprived of the Eucharist; millions of women thirst for full participation. Who will allow the living water given by Jesus to reach them?
God, have mercy on the terrible limitations of your Church which has allowed slavery, racism and sexism to exist for centuries, the same Church which proclaims that Christ had destroyed all barriers! God, be merciful to those who impede many of your children who wish to quench their longing for more frequent Eucharists! God, free all the members of the Church from delusion and from the barriers which separate your children!
“Whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty; no, the water I give shall become a fountain within, leaping up to provide eternal life.” If it comes from Jesus living inside us, our freedom from lies and the walls of separation will be freeing for many others. Be a liberator!
This reflection is from Towards the Freedom of Love: Lenten Reflections, 1996 by Alain Richard, OFM, co-founder of the Pace e Bene Center in Las Vegas, and Julia Occhiogrosso, who founded the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in Las Vegas in 1986.