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I heard about a single mother who went on a camping trip to get her head/heart straight while she was preparing for her daughter’s wedding.  She unexpectedly met a man who was also camping.  They are now getting married, and she is moving to another state.  Just like that.  Her life was changed.  You can imagine the conversation if her daughter later asked something like, “Did you think anything more about how we’re going to do the place cards while you were away?”

The Woman at the Well

Now let’s think about this woman in the gospel, who also wanted to be alone.  She goes to fetch water at a time when the other women of the village are not there.  Hmmmm.  Why?  Let’s think about this.  Is she embarrassed because of her series of failed marriages?  Rejected?  Do the other women hate her because it is a small town and she has already lived with 5 of the men and is on her 6th?

Who Is This?

So she goes to the well at a time when she can be alone, and a new man comes along.  He is thirsty and she has water.  She is thirsty to…for something he has.  Something is brewing here.  Jesus, in the experience of the early church, was often thought of as the Bridegroom.  Our souls desire to be made whole by the Other.  When we meet this soul-mate, we stir to life in a way that takes us by surprise.

All of a Sudden, Only One Thing Is Important

She is so excited that she forgets her water jug—that is why she was there, she thought, and she completely forgets about the water.  Just like the woman who thought that camping was about de-stressing before a wedding and who may have forgotten about those place cards.  But more profoundly she then forgets, not just her jug, but “herself”: herself as defined by the shame of her life, the shame of alienation from her former spouses and the other women of the village.  Why do we know this?  Because she starts interacting with all these people she has been avoiding.  Something more important is driving her choices.  This John’s community is telling us is the “big divine distraction” that takes her attention away from what she thought her life was really about.

Seeing God

And this is how it is.  We recognize that the experience we are having is looking at the “face of God.”  That is to say, just like looking at a face reveals the soul of a person, in looking at this situation, we see the Living Mystery peeking through.  Think of the face on a dead body.  Think of the difference when it is animated.  That is the difference when we are looking at any situation and it seems dead and lifeless.  And then in an instant we see it as the “face of God” with all the attractive life that is there to be engaged with.  It is the experience of the veil being lifted.

Does God Need Our Human Traditions?

Notice too that Jesus is a Jew and she is not.  And notice how it doesn’t matter once this veil is lifted.  Let’s pause here and milk this.  Some people have said to me, “Since there are so many different religions, how do I know which one if any is true.  That is why I have stopped going to church or synagogue or whatever.”  My response is, “If you find out that there are many wonderful cuisines in the world, do you similarly stop eating?”

The elements of our tradition are simply meant to occasion an experience of God, which cannot be dependent on our tradition; we know this because God is everywhere engaging with all God’s creatures all the time.  But these are flash points, what Gerard Manley Hopkins refers to when he says, “The earth is charged with the grandeur of God, it flashes out like the shining of shook foil…”  These flash points are break-throughs that tell us of the Divine Presence.  Traditions which occasion more opportunities are ways to make communing with God a weekly experience rather than a 6 times a lifetime experience.

All of this is to say that the chance meeting with the Bridegroom, our soul mate, can be a weekly experience if we allow it to be.

Sts. Clare & Francis
Third Sunday of Lent
Saturday, April 22, 2014
Exodus 17:1-7
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42 (focus text)
Homily by Frank Krebs

Photo by Anil Gulati on flickr.com

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