Blog & Pastor Letters

3rd Sunday of Lent

03-12-2023Weekly ReflectionFr. Edward Linton

Every Christmas morning, in a parish where I was pastor for many years, we had a reception for homeless people. The parish served a great Christmas lunch to about 150 homeless men, women and children. One Christmas it was especially cold and wet. A long line of homeless people formed outside our hall. I strolled up and down the queue trying to keep up the spirits of those waiting to get in. One man showed me his shoes. They were old and the sole was coming apart from the rest of the shoe. He asked me if I had another pair of shoes for him. I told him I didn’t have another pair of shoes, but he should keep on asking because I was certain that someone who was helping with the lunch would definitely have a pair of shoes for him. “You have an angel here,” I told him. “You have to find the angel who has your shoes.”

As soon as I said this, his frustration began to show. Certainly, you can imagine his frustration: He was living on the streets; it was cold and wet and his shoes were shot. He looked at me and said, “You are just like all the rest; you don’t want to do anything for me; you want to pawn me off on someone else.” “No,” I insisted. “Your angel is here and your angel has your shoes. But I am not your angel.” He turned his back on me and mumbled under his breath. A little later I saw a religious sister who worked with me in the parish. Now, you should know that this nun was a small woman. But I thought, what the heck and I asked, “Sr. Barbara, do you happen to have a pair of men’s shoes that are about size 11?”

“Well, yes I do,” she said to my great surprise. “My nephew just sent me a box of his old shoes.”

“Come with me,” I said. We went up to the man who needed new shoes and I said, “I’ve done your work for you! I found your angel!” He began to cry instantly, and he began to apologize for not having more faith on Christmas morning. “Don’t cry,” I told him. “Be grateful and rejoice because the Lord, himself, is looking out for you!”

Today in the Gospel, we hear that the Lord, himself, went searching for the woman at the well. The woman came to the well weighed down, frustrated and sad, only to discover that the Lord himself was waiting at the well, searching to forgive and save her. How do we experience the Lord searching for us?

In order to experience the Lord searching for us, we must allow ourselves to be pursued. The Samaritan woman from the town of Sychar did not arrive at the well ready to be pursued by the Lord! In fact, she put all sorts of obstacles in the way of Jesus to make it difficult for him to each out to hear with love and forgiveness. When Jesus asked her for water to drink, she replied “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” When Jesus said that he could give her living water, she irritably responded, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?” When Jesus then said, “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst,” the woman poked fun at him. “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The woman did not arrive at the well ready to be pursued. In fact, she arrived with a temperament that made it difficult for the Lord to break through to her. But the Lord would touch her heart by allowing her to speak about what most burdened her. When the Lord told her to go and get her husband, she responded that she had no husband. To which Jesus replied, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”

It seems that this woman was searching for love in all the wrong places! Perhaps she was so poor that her only option was to live with a man who would provide for her. Perhaps the price she paid for this was abuse. Perhaps she was a prostitute. We don’t know for sure, but certainly, this Samaritan woman was burdened by the life she lived. The Lord pursued her and unburdened her. The Lord pursued her for a purpose! The Father seeks people who worships him in Sprit and Truth to worship him, he told her. The Lord seeks people such as you, he told her! How wonderful this must have sounded to this woman! Others might disrespect her, but the Lord pursued her!

When the Lord breaks through our hardness of heart, we know he is pursuing us! When we acknowledge what burdens us before the Lord, we experience him pursuing us!