Sunday, March 19, 2017

You can't squeeze water from a rock... but God can!

There is this strange thing about us humans, probably because of our concupiscence, that makes us always be unsatisfied with just about everything.   We see someone else getting something we want, or doing something we normally would do, and we criticize or gripe and complain.   It makes the work place a dangerous place filled with gossip and discontent.   It turns the home into a sad, disagreeable existence. The funny thing is half the time we are content until someone else begins to complain or to point out what we should 'want'.   We have been given so many blessings but then we see a single blessing or benefit we don't have, or a single thing unpleasant, and we focus on it.

One time one of the kids was constantly chatting during Mass, even when I asked them to stop. Finally I came over and whispered, what is the problem?   She launched into a tirade of how this person was doing this wrong, and that person this wrong.   Now on one hand I understood.   It was the Mass.   These people were behaving disrespectfully.   It started to grate on me and soon I was annoyed to.   After Mass though I took her to the side and said "If we constantly watch other people and criticize what they are doing, then we can't keep our eyes on God.  We are doing it wrong."  It's funny how trying to see people as Jesus instead of just another human in the room completely changes how we view the Mass.   There is a gentleman who, God bless his heart, loves to sing.. but can hardly breath.   Sometimes when there is complete silence in our worship, his labored breath will echo throughout the sound system.  Today it happened again.  Many times I've been annoyed by it, thinking they should cut off his microphone!  Or move him back a row!

How shallow are those thoughts?   I often wonder if they are even mine, or planted displeasure by the enemy trying to keep me from focusing.   Today though, my mind immediately went to a First Friday devotional that I had read long ago.   In it, it spoke of Jesus' heart beating in the tabernacle, longing for us.   Today his breathing made me ponder the mystery of the Eucharist, and glimpse maybe a vision of Jesus breathing behind that veil.   Grumbling became something different, because my mind wasn't focused on myself and my comfort.. but on Jesus. On the other.

The Israelites in the desert had the same experience.  They had just left Egypt where they were enslaved and treated harshly.  Now here they are in the desert and have lost sight of God, and instead are just focused on themselves.   Hungry and thirsty they wonder if Moses just brought them into the desert to die.   They no longer even wonder if Moses is being lead by God, but rather accuse him of tricking them.  Then God provides a glimpse of Him again, as He showers them with water from the rocks themselves.  They had already forgotten all the miracles they had witnessed.   Plagues, pestilences, fiery mountains, and parting waters.  All they can focus on is the here and now, their vision of eternity has been limited.    In a way, they are testing God... a prefiguring  of Jesus to come in the desert who when being tempted the same way... proclaimed ¨Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.¨

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act. Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: "You shall not put the LORD your God to the test." The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

Then we see in the Gospel reading the story of the Samaritan woman.   All she can think about is water at first.   Here she is in the heat of the day, which shows us that she wasn't part of the community.  All the other women came in the early morning when it was still cool.   She was an outsider.   Then a holy man, a prophet, God himself speaks to her.  One moment she is just talking about water and wondering how this man can make it to where she not only doesn't have to work so hard to get water, but doesn't have to face the stigma of coming out in front of the community... the shame of not being able to be seen with the other women.  The encounter with Jesus not only leads her beyond the mere physical needs of thirst and hunger.. but in the end she runs off as one of the first disciples, an evangelist who leaves behind her water jug!   She doesn't need it anymore!  She's after living water!  Her dignity restored by God himself, she witnesses to the people and on her word (the word of a woman, and a sinful one at that!) brings the people out to meet Jesus and experience for themselves this metanoia experience.

How often have we made that mistake?   The fault of falling into a prosperity gospel mindset, where the physical is what we long for?   Praying to win the lottery.   Praying for a new car.  Praying that God would give us more than what we have.  As if He was simply some ATM with which to get food and drink.  Yes, every blessing we have comes from God... but it wasn't that they wanted water or food... we have to have those things to live... it was that they had already lost their trust in God.   He knows all the birds and the flowers, yet aren't we worth more than that?  That's why we are constantly reminded by the saints that being joyful is part of being Christian.  Oh how I need to work on that!  Being joyful not because you have no adversity, but being joyful despite the adversity!  God didn't promise us a bed of roses, but challenged us to take up a cross and follow Him.   Are we willing to do that?  Do we pray with that in mind? Or are we grumbling in the desert of this world about the lack of what we think we need, when in reality all we need is to come to the source and drink deeply of the living water in the Sacraments of His church?

As Delmar said in Oh Brother, Where Art Though... "come on boys, the water's fine!"

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent: March 19, 2017.