We have lots of conversations each day. Some are trivial: we chat with the person sitting next to us on a plane; we share highlights from the weekend news around the water cooler at work; we talk to the person in front of us at the checkout counter.
Some of these conversations exchange information: "Who will do the shopping?" "Do we need milk?" "What time is the hockey game over?" "What Mass are you going to on Sunday?" "Hi mom, how are you feeling today?"
There are other conversations that are an important and necessary part of life; ones in which we make a commitment to another; which start a new friendship; which help cement an old one; which heal hurts. These are conversations which add quality to our life, we need to have them and they are life-shaping. We can call these "conversations of significance" (or, "conversations that count") and we need to have them if our life is to have any deeper meaning: if we are to live more than a superficial life.
That’s the kind of conversation the Samaritan woman had with Jesus by the well – a conversation of significance. It started casually, but because of who she was – thirsty, and probably looking for much more in her life, and because she’s talking to Jesus, their conversation goes quickly to the heart of the matter.
It addresses issues of importance like: "Who am I?" "Where am I going?" "What am I doing?" "What change do I need to make in my life?" "Am I happy with things as they are?"
Questions like these are about significant issues, not the stuff of everyday conversations perhaps – but we need to have them periodically. We need to stop the rush of our lives, sit by some "well of refreshment," as the woman did; take a breath and pause to reflect on questions of importance, questions that count.
I opened a letter from a friend recently, a businessman who travels a lot. He sent me an article from one of those "wellness magazines." The title of the article was, "How to Manage Stress." I’m sure this doesn’t apply to anyone in church today (!), but for the one or two who are experiencing stress, here are the recommendations.
One suggestion was: "Find things that make your spirit soar." For example: music, reading, nature, exercise, and, although this was not a religious article, there was this suggestion, "Take time for spiritual pursuits on a regular basis." And it even went on to suggest meditation and prayer.
The gospel is about someone whose life was stressful; who paused to do what would, "make her spirit soar." She was thirsty for more than water – are we too? She is willing to engage Christ in a "conversation that counts," willing to listen to what he has to say to her. She is willing to change. We might take the hint and do what the woman in the gospel story did. She sets a wonderful example for us in the midst of Lent. She is willing to break the pattern of her routine and make adjustments in her life.
Perhaps we feel that our religion has settled into years of routine. Or, that we have lukewarm religious fervor, which lacks enthusiasm. Or, maybe we need to make a significant change in our lives. In terms of today’s gospel story our faith may be more like stagnant/still water, than like the water Jesus promises the woman – living water.
If, like the Samaritan woman, we find ourselves spiritually parched and dry of spirit, then we are potential, perfect recipients of what God has to offer us this Lent. The gospel story reveals that God is offering us much more than we now experience – much more than we could expect or imagine from God.
Lent is a time to enter into a "conversation of significance" ("conversation that counts"). Shall we engage God, as the woman did by the well? Or rather, shall we let God engage us, as Jesus did, when he began the conversation with her? Shall we enter into a conversation of significance this Lent? – A conversation that counts.
Note: we want to avoid assuming that the Samaritan woman was a sinner. The text doesn’t say this, nor does Jesus tell her not to sin anymore – as he says to others in the gospel. What about her five "husbands?" In John’s highly symbolic language this could be a reference to her and all Samaritans who accepted the five false gods of the Assyrians. (See Barbara Reid’s, "Wisdom’s Feast: An Invitation to Feminist Interpretation of the Scriptures," p 100)
Click here for a link to this Sunday's readings:
"Is the Lord in our midst or not?"
Like the ancient Hebrews of Exodus, there are millions of people around the world today who must wonder this question aloud on a daily basis as they struggle to put nutritious food and clean water on the table. Thanks to the work of organizations like Catholic Relief Services, impoverished people throughout the world can experience God working in their midst. CRS Rice Bowl is Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten faith-in-action program. By this time, you are using your CRS Rice Bowls and calendars to experience life in Vietnam, Kenya, and Honduras. This year, CRS Rice Bowl focuses on the lives of girls in those countries. You can see the short videos by entering on the following link:https://photos.crs.org/rb2020videos/hdcc7b6c3#hdcc7b6c3 You are also invited to eat simple, meatless meals from these countries. And, through the stories, learn about the principles of Catholic social teaching—and ways you can put them into action during Lent and beyond.
You can also explore Catholic Relief Services’ work for clean water (www.crs.org/our-work-overseas/program-areas/water-and-sanitation ) and search for other sites that seek to provide safe drinking water. Next Sunday, March 22, is World Water Day. More than 844 million people do not have access to safe water, according to the World Health Organization. Limited access to safe water causes disease, lack of sanitation, and political turmoil. Imagine, too, if you are a woman or a child having to spend your day transporting water to your home, forcing you to relinquish your daily activities and education. This year’s theme for World Water Day is "Water and Climate Change" and how the two are inextricably linked. Water is our most precious resource – we must use it more responsibly. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the poorest people don’t get left behind. Everyone has a role to play. There is one simple step you can take immediately that will make a big difference: don’t waste water. To learn more, go to: https://www.worldwaterday.org/
We are called to recognize the needs of our global human family and respond. Our prayers, fasting and almsgiving can provide for those worldwide who are most in need, especially those who are hungry and lack proper nutrition. Let them know that the Lord is, indeed, in their midst.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Exodus reading:
[God instructed Moses]
"Strike the rock and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink."
In the desert Israel and we learn to trust God. That’s not something we learn all at once. Instead, as God provides for us each day, we are reminded again and again of our dependence on God and God’s gracious generosity towards us. "Give us this day our daily bread." It’s a prayer often said and learned through experience, one day at a time.
So we ask ourselves:
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
"First Impressions"is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm
1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.
2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. atJboll@opsouth.org.
3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Click on a link button below to view the reflection indicated.
(The newest items are always listed first.)