March 19, 2017
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I apologize for missing my official reflection day... turns out, taking care of a baby takes up a lot of time and reorders your plans for the day.
Being a parent has taught me a lot so far, even in just these three and a half weeks, but the most potent realization recently has been in the wake of Leo's colicky days and nights. Colic is actually a term that designates infant crying that cannot be explained. You've taken care of the usual suspects that cause fussiness, tried every holding position humanly possible, sung every lullaby, and the baby rejects them all. For hours. And at whatever time of day or night. In my frustration and exhaustion as a parent in this situations, I've come to see anew how God is the perfect parent even when we lash out at Him in our own colicky moments, when God provides everything and we still are restless, upset, not even convinced that He's there taking care of us. This perfection of His constant care and pursuit of His people is seen abundantly in the readings for today.
The first reading brings us back to Exodus, long after Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery. I don't know about you, but as I've grown older, my response to the Israelites hard-heartedness has transformed from disbelief into a realization of my own similarity with their actions. These are the people who WALKED THROUGH A SEA and saw the TWELVE PLAGUES, and because of time, memory, and hardness of heart, they do not remember just Who did these things, let alone why. They even start to long for Egypt, because at least they had water and food, things they don't have an abundance of in the desert.
But how often are our hearts like this? Hard. Impenetrable. Unable for God to move, to soothe, to calm down. But God still comes to us in our colicky moments to tell us that He is always here, and in the perfect way for us to realize (because unlike human parents, God always knows what's wrong and how to fix it!). That's an example of the unconditional love of God: He knows the ailments of our hearts, and always tries to help us heal, but he does not force us to listen. He will let us cry, but He will not abandon us. He will not just put us in a crib and leave the room because He is tired of hearing us cry and wants a break. (Although, for us humans, sometimes this action shows self-knowledge and is necessary...)
I know the rock in this reading is usually explained as a prefigurement of Christ being broken and poured out, but when I read it this time, I read it as symbolizing our hearts. Our hard hearts are like the rock that God commanded Moses to strike with the most unlikely of instruments to reveal and break into the life hiding within it.
The woman at the well (in JOHN 4 - which has to be one of my favorite chapters in the whole bible) is a picture of this inner transformation of hard-heartedness to a fountain of life. Jesus tells the woman: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." She is skeptical that Jesus is the source of this "living water" He speaks of, but also is skeptical that she, herself, could become a spring of this living water. Nevertheless, she desires this, and Jesus knows this, but He must break a way into her heart; He brings up her past sins, the barriers to Him, to the flow of living water in her life, the things that built up resistance to His Goodness and made her heart hard, unavailable to grace and growth. But she still thinks it is water, itself, and not Jesus
Himself who will satisfy her! She says "give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty...".
Only after discussing her sinful history as well as the history of the Jewish people does she come to see and does Jesus reveal His true identity to her. He acknowledges the history of Moses, the history of how they worshipped, but acknowledges Himself as the Messiah, the ultimate answer to the plight of His people. It is not water itself, but Himself that she is looking for. This is illustrated by the beautiful image: "And the woman left her water jar...". She left what she thought would be filled, with herself filled and completely forgetful of what she thought she wanted, out of amazement and love for Who she encountered. The prefiguring of the rock poured out for the Israelites had been fulfilled in a Man filling the hearts of mankind to overflowing.
May we all allow God to break us in ways we do not expect, in order for His life to flow through us. And may we never doubt His Presence.