February 23, 2008
Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

First Reading: Ex. 17:3-7
Psalm 95
Second Reading: Rom. 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: Jn. 4:5-42

Becoming Spiritually Intimate with God

Today’s gospel account of the encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well is of significant importance to me as a priest. It is significant to me because it reminds me on my faith journey that I am a perpetual catechumen in search of identity with the Creator. May I presume a bold assertion that all of us are catechumens in search of deeper relationship with the Creator? Like the Samaritan woman, all of us seek radical changes about a lifestyle we would rather not see a part of who we truly are. All of us are seeking to be one of Jesus’ first disciples like Mary or the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well. For any of us then, any shocking revelation of our lives demands quick but effective changes in our lives. For the Samaritan woman, the shocking revelation couldn’t have come any time better than when Jesus revealed to her that she was living with her fifth husband. For some of us, the behaviour of the Samaritan Woman is immoral and sinful. For Jesus though, the issue is not “utter condemnation,” but one of “becoming spiritually better in bonding intimately with God.”

The question is, “How did Jesus win the heart of the Samaritan woman?” Jesus simply warmed up to her and her heart turned towards Jesus. Jesus was able to tell her that there is more to sex as recreation; that there is more to material acquisition and other stuff; that our behaviour – attitudes – words and actions carry some weight of pain or joy on others and upon ourselves, and that there is joy in being a morally upright person. We may now ask this personal question, “Does my behaviour, attitude, word or action cause pain and discomfort to others? This question calls for total self-transformation through a thirst and a hunger to bond intimately with God in every aspect of life.

Jesus transformed the Samaritan Woman by teaching her to thirst and to hunger for God. So therefore, who is this Samaritan Woman? For me, she embodies the will and the determination to change one’s lifestyle or living condition for the best. She embodies any person who seeks in-depth spiritual life with God. She reciprocates God’s thirst for our response for a deeper faith in him. She embodies God who does not condone our sin or weakness, but who is rather ready to forgive us so that we may overcome the bumps and hurdles in our lives. The Samaritan woman embodies Jesus who hurts for us. Do we hurt to see those who hurt in anyway in their lives? Does our heart reach out to those in need of transforming their lives, or are we just ready to pounce on their failure or weakness? The Samaritan woman embodies true and inner happiness. Does our encounter bring happiness to those we meet, or is it a life full of vengeance, sadness and a repetition of the status quo? When the Samaritan woman heard Jesus’ Word of life, she changed from the status quo. Not only did she transform her life, for indeed, through her conversion and testimony, she made the Word of God become alive amongst her folks.

Taking a radical view about the Samaritan Woman’s conversion, we learn that it is not what I write or preach about Jesus that matters. Indeed, what matters and is most important is the name, JESUS! In other words, it is not “Fr. X” that must be famous or popular in our faith life; it is not “Fr. X” that we must follow even when “Fr. X” goes on transfer to another parish. We must rather follow Jesus - the Word of God and make him famous and popular in our faith lives.

When we convert into Jesus and follow his mandates, we are better able to become spiritually intimate with God. It is beautiful and wonderful then, that God thirsts for our salvation. It is beautiful and wonderful that God calls us to grow beyond material satisfaction. Why? God knows that we seek material wealth, that we even crucify ourselves in the process of wanting more and more but are never happier or satisfied, apart from him!

According to the gospel reading, Jesus saw that the Samaritan Woman was never happy with her husband or any other man for that matter; otherwise, she would not have dated various kinds of men. In reality though, the question, “Who is your husband?” may be synonymous with, “Who is your power or driving force behind your success? Is it God or something else? Jesus reminded the Samaritan Woman of having had five husbands. For me personally, the five husbands may refer to our five senses: SIGHT – TASTE – SMELL – TOUCH – FEEL. It is one or all of these five senses that if, and when, not directed distinctively for that which God created it, that we lose honest intimacy with God and neighbour.

My dear brothers and sisters, the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman is indicative that only God can be the governing and sovereign power behind our success in becoming spiritually fulfilled – especially towards total freedom and eternal salvation! Let us celebrate this Eucharist with the conviction of becoming spiritually intimate with God and neighbour!

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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