How do you get to know someone better?
When my Dad first became interested in my Mom, he learned where she lived and then went to her home hoping to visit with her. However, my grandmother was not too keen on his attempt to get closer to her and chased him away with a broom! He didn’t give up though, and hoping to see her, he went to her yard and hid behind a tree until she came out.
Jesus’ first disciples went about it more diplomatically. When they saw Jesus pass by, they simply followed behind Him. Jesus, turning back, asked them what they were seeking. Taken by surprise they asked Him where He lived. His response was immediate! “Come and see.” They tagged along with Him and then spent the rest of the day with Him (John 1:38-39). Spending time contemplating Jesus is praying!
Jesus does not encounter someone by accident. He has been waiting for the opportune time to reveal Himself to us but also to reveal us to ourselves as well. As we contemplate Jesus and enter into dialogue with Him, we are drawn into deeper prayer.
But Jesus also has the unnerving habit of encountering us when and where we least expect it. Remember Zacchaeus? He thought he could observe Jesus on his own terms. He ran ahead and climbed up a tree concealing himself in its foliage. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately! I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:4-5). How’s that for planning ahead?
If you want to read the longest conversation in Scripture that Jesus had with an individual, then re-read the encounter with the woman at the well. This conversation, not only took place with a woman, but a woman who was a Samaritan, coming from a mixed people. These were the remnants of the ten tribes of Israel in the North with the five nations brought in by the Assyrians centuries before and now unrecognized and hated by the Jews.
This unnamed Samaritan woman approached the well as she customarily did to draw water. She chose that time of day since she was an outcast among her own people. In this way she avoided the village women who would come during the cooler hours of the day to socialize as they drew water for their families.
It must have startled her to find a Jewish man sitting by the well. She would not have greeted him since women did not speak to other men unless their husbands were present. But Jesus broke the tension of the situation and the customary rules when He made a request to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7)
Certainly Jesus was thirsty, and He wanted a drink. But even more than that, He was waiting for this encounter, just as He had waited for the encounter with Zacchaeus. Jesus knew the troubled waters of her soul and used this opportunity to engage her in conversation in order to reveal Himself to her as Savior and reveal her to herself.
Her curiosity was piqued when Jesus offered her “living water” to quench her spiritual thirst.
“If you knew the gift of God!”
The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water:
There, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink.
Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us.
Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.
God thirsts that we may thirst for him.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #2560)
Gently reaching her heart, He revealed to her that He was fully aware of her moral situation and that He was the longed-for Messiah. He brought her around full circle to the reality of her encounter with Him. In her relief and excitement she forgot her jug of water and ran to spread the “good news” to her townspeople.
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live,
according to the Semitic or Biblical expression,
the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.”
The heart is our hidden center,
beyond the grasp of our reason and of others;
only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.
The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives.
It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death.
It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation:
it is the place of covenant.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #2563)
Jesus seeks to encounter us in our own dwelling place – the heart. There He engages us in dialogue – prayer. There He offers us the Gift of Living Water – a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Are you allowing Jesus to reveal you to yourself so that He can heal you?
Let Him into your heart!
Mother Luisita reminds us, “Between Jesus and the soul there flows a current no one can see and a dialogue that no one hears”. She teaches us how to have Him always within us: “Form a rich and beautiful tabernacle within your heart and then do not let Him go.”
Sister Mary Colombière, O.C.D.
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Alhambra, California 91801