Friday, February 22, 2008

If You Knew the Gift of God--Second Sunday in Advent

February 24, 2008 Year A

Third Sunday of Lent

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  If You Knew the Gift of God

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."

Our Father in the revelation of himself unveils to us what is true worship.  And the true worshippers the Father seeks, is not out of a self-serving of ego needs.  The Father's self-disclosure is that He is gift and as gift he keeps on giving of himself, from himself, and as he is in himself.  But whoever drinks of this water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

In today's Gospel it is hard to miss the personal relationship each of us is invited to have in the embrace of the Father.  This embrace is a communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And in this endless exchange of mutual love between the eternal Trinity, we learn that God has proven his love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Jesus is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. 

Salvation is personal, but not private.  In that our Salvation is living water, rather than sloshing around in our own private joy, we gather together in a mutual exchange of the love that has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  To live unto our selves is to believe that God is similar to us.  But God is not like us, not selfish nor self-serving.  Again, He is gift.  So worship is never about getting.  True worship is rather the giving of our selves to Him and receiving Him and each other in the bonds of love.

There are two evils of which Jeremiah reminds us to beware.  And these two evils are the backdrop to Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well.  The first is in forsaking God, the fountain of living waters.  And the second is, hewing out cisterns for ourselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)  The Catechism of the Church is to us a fountain of living waters.  But when personal choices become privately held beliefs resisting the guidance and love of the Church's teaching, we become like those who hew out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.  To hold within our hearts the divine life is to experience the spring of water welling up to eternal life.  O to neglect the gift of God is to be without living water and to fall short of the hope and glory of God.

It is after all divine life that is the result of worshipping the Father in spirit and truth.  The gift of God, if we but knew, is worship in conformity to the revelation of the nature of the Father in Christ in whom we also live in participation of the divine nature. This is most visibly realized in our approaching the Altar to receive Christ's body and blood.  It is our Amen that gains us access by faith into that abyss of divine love.  

Worship, that is true worship, is to approach the mystery of the Holy Place where Christ entered with his own blood, thus securing for us an eternal redemption. (Heb 9:12)  

And there we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18) God is Spirit and they who worship him must worship in Spirit and in Truth. 

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14)

Water is a common symbol of divine life or of a divine event throughout the Gospel of John.  In chapter 2 at the marriage in Cana of Galilee it was turned into wine.  In chapter 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus unless on is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  In chapter 4, water is depicted as divine life welling up in us as a spring of water.  The Pool of Bethzatha in John 5 becomes healing water when the angel of the Lord comes down and stirs the water.  In John 13 Jesus pours water into a basin and washes the disciples feet in order to show the humility and servant hood of our life in Christ.  And in John 19, while still on the Cross, a soldier thrusts a sword into our Lord's side and immediately there came out blood and water drenching the earth below and the world beyond and the ages before and all who will come after with salvation.

But it is the water Jesus speaks of in John 7:37-38 that is similar to the water of John 4.  In order that we might not miss the opportunity of knowing the gift of God, Jesus stands up and proclaims, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink."   The gift of God is God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  He, who is forever a friend of sinners, invites us now and always to believe in His Son.  For the promise is 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, how I thirst for the living water, for the living God.  Turn the desert places of my heart into green pastures of divine rest.  Refresh in me the waters of my baptism and may I be found in you living and moving and being a new creation.  Amen. 



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