Lent is meant to be a time of repentance. It should call us to an awareness that sin separates us from God, and of what it cost Him for the redemption of our sins. This is an opportunity to contemplate what our Lord really did for us on the Cross. Repentant sinners seek a cleansing from sin. True repentance leads to a change of direction. It starts with regretful acknowledgment of sin with a commitment to change. It is about a journey for each of us as we seek to resist the inclination to sin and temptations of the devil, by changing that which is wrong in our relationship with God and building on that which is right. We make this journey with the assurance from our baptism that Jesus walks with us and the Spirit guides and protects us.
The readings speak to a constant tension that exists in our relationship with God as we journey with Him. The first reading talks about Massah and Meribah, which mean to test and quarrel. They are a reminder of this tension where the people would put God to the test and quarrel at times with how he cared for them. We are thankful for the blessings he bestows upon us and readily trust Him when things are good. But we struggle when things don’t go according to our plan for life, and begin to question anew His care for us. Lent invites us to set out; to say to ourselves, “I have got to change, I have got to make this journey.” We are being invited to leave behind what is not working and not good for us and go to a place up ahead. Like the Israelites, we start out making the changes we must, but the road is long, uncertain and sometimes very hard to stick to, with many frustrations and failures. Was God with them? Judging from their condition, it didn’t seem so to the Israelites. We can identify with the people wandering in the desert, for we too have known similar moments on our journeys. There have been times when we have lamented, “How long must I endure this?” “When will it end?” “Can I/we make it?” We know what we have left behind and we are not sure what lies ahead. Will it be worth the struggle? We have known the hard places; we have known the rock at Horeb. The experience of the Israelites in the desert reminds us how much we need God – day by day.
In our gospel, we hear the story of the woman at the well. Unlike us – or the people that Moses leads out of Egypt from captivity to freedom, she does not have a relationship with God. She is a sinner who has come to live with the emptiness that comes from accepting sin in her life. But she has a thirst – a desire – that she doesn’t even recognize. It is a thirst that is quenched only by the living water – Jesus Christ – whom she meets at the well. It is only through him that she’s able to begin to find her way out of the clutches of Satan, when she finally says to him, “Sir, give me this water to drink.” It is a reminder to us that it is only through our baptism that we have found our way into relationship with God.
We need to listen for his voice and guidance in all things, and soften our hearts to accept His will for us. We need to maintain hope through the difficult times, realizing that He will lift us from our sufferings to ultimate joy. As St. Paul tells us, “it is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we have peace with God.” He reminds us that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holt Spirit.” This is our hope, the hope of Jesus Christ – and hope does not disappoint!
As Vincentians, with every neighbor in need, we enter into situations where people are challenged to see God’s plan for them. We become present to them in their time of need just as God is always present to us. We ask them to trust us and allow us to help them just as God asks us so often to trust him. Through prayer we discern what God’s will for their situation is. It can be challenging for them to understand and for us as well. How do I seek God’s will in difficult situations for neighbors in need AND for myself? Do I trust that God will be present in both easy and difficult times? Do I listen for His voice, with an open and loving heart?
Lord Jesus, help my heart not to be hardened. Give me patience with those I minister to when they struggle with trusting me. Give me patience to trust in your will, not putting you to the test nor quarrelling with your ways. Help me to make myself fully present to others that I may be more aware of your continual presence to me. Grace me with humility to submit fully to your will trusting in your love for me always. We pray all of this in your name. Amen.