i enjoy korean dramas on tv. a universal theme that the koreans do so well is the search for love. first love rediscovered, surprise love, opposites-attracting love, unrequited love, faithful love, unfaithul marriages, friendship love– there are so many variations on the love search. for me, korean dramas are unique because the hurts and pains of love are felt in the (korean culture and) acting.
the christian faith is primarily about love– God’s love for us and our response.
ideally, the parish community is an important place where we experience and learn about God’s love. there are many things about parish ministry that i miss– the rite of christian initiation (rcia) is one of them. i have always thought that one litmus test of a good parish is how much effort goes into the rcia. a good rcia program lifts up the whole parish community.
for me, the rcia during lent is extra special because of the scrutinies. during the liturgies on the third, fourth, and fifth lenten sundays, there are unique prayers of purification for those to be baptised during the masses. the gospel readings that are proclaimed those weeks are from john: the woman a the well (4: 5-42); the man born blind (9: 1-41); raising of lazarus (11: 1-45).
each of these readings are long– and we stand for the whole reading during mass! but each are profoundly beautiful in our relationship with jesus. if we are open, after hearing these scriptures, we are renewed and enlightened.
today, the woman at the well encounters jesus. she represents samaria: the five tribes that existed there had five different gods. she was “espoused” and subsequently “divorced” five times from these gods. as we know from divorce, it inflicts unique pains of betrayal, rejection, and loss of trust. she has been hurt and crushed in her life because of false love.
divorce can break our hearts; finding ultimate love can heal the same hearts.
the samaritan woman is getting that which sustains people in the desert– water. it is a routine chore. without water, we die. especially in the desert.
this heartbroken woman encounters jesus at the well—it is the same place that jacob met the love of his life– rachel. now, samaria meets the love of their life– jesus. it is jesus who will give her living water so that she will never thirst again. living water is an allusion to both the water of baptism and the Spirit. but the woman must get through the confusion and hurt that has dominated her life because of her pain stricken “marriages and divorces” from what she had worshiped in the past.
through this encounter with jesus, she is discovering what it means to worship in Spirit and in Truth. it will be about this jesus who intimately knows her past and loves her as she is. when she realizes that this jesus knows everything about her, she leaves her water jar– her quest for water is found in a way she did not expect and she found “living water.” she cannot hold it in and must share what she has experienced with others. they will come to know of jesus because of her encounter.
the gracious gift of God to us through this scripture is a renewed love. as our hearts wander in various ways looking for happiness, it is the same living water that satisfies our thirst, our love. it is encounter with jesus that reminds us of a true love that knows us and our broken hearts and still loves us.
imagine what this might mean for one who is preparing for baptism. imagine what the Spirit might be stirring in each of us as we continue to unpack the meaning of our own baptism. imagine the healing power of the Spirit who will purify our hearts from the wayward journey of love that we encounter anew in the living water of jesus.
imagine this love coming together for us all in the gift of eucharist.