by Alain Richard, ofm and Julia Occhiogrosso

Exodus 17:3-7 | Romans 5:1-8 | 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.

CascadeStarting 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 at 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 seventy 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 wealth by 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 yearn 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 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 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!

  • Are you conscious of lies in our society which you prefer to believe because the lies seem to make life easier for you? Could you accept the truth and let go of the lies?
  • How do you express your thirst for truth? Is there a wall of separation which you can struggle against? Will you do it alone or as a member of a group?

This reflection was written by Alain Richard, ofm and Julia Occhiogrosso in the booklet published by Pax Christi USA, Lent 1996: Towards the Freedom to Love. This year’s Lenten reflection booklet, Embracing Possibilities: Reflections for Lent 2014, is available as a download for purchase from the Pax Christi USA website.

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