Faith helps us navigate the struggles, the fatigue, and the noon-day experiences of our lives.
Ugochukwu was the loveliest child in my family and my youngest brother. I loved him so much. Shortly after my ordination, he passed at 14. It was the most trying experience for my family. Meanwhile, my mom was in a wheelchair, having suffered a stroke that kept her bedridden four years earlier. My family was shattered. The experience shook me to the core. Just so you know, from time to time, God uses me to bring healing to his sick people. But when it came to my own family, in this instance, God seemed silent. To die very young was unacceptable. How would God let that be? I prayed and sobbed. Yet, the answer God gave me was, “It is my will.” How could losing a precious child and brother be God’s will?
Faith is the central theme that connects the three readings of the 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A. The actual dynamics of faith include the up and down experiences as we navigate it. God sent Moses to liberate Israel from slavery in Egypt, so they could worship in freedom. As freed people, they would start their journey home. But the road to that promise is challenging. There are mountains to climb and hills to maneuver. The people lacked water, and so they complained. The whole story in Exodus 17 is enlightening.
The people’s complaints show what we do when we are midway through our journey and starting to grow weak. We begin to wonder if we were ever on the right track. We want to return to our comfort zone, where we would no longer need to take the faith leap, for our default is always easier.
The classic story of Jesus’s encounter with the woman of Samaria (John 4:5-42) is moving. It was about noon (v.6). Jesus sat at Jacob’s well. I like the symbolism of the noon. Noon symbolizes the midway of life’s struggles when our energy is going down rapidly. For those of us who take coffee, the caffeine is waned at about noon. It’s comparable to when your faith begins to go weary. You need fresh water to rejuvenate. Jesus sits right there with you to give you the water of life.
The Church places this reading about midway in Lent, during the 3rd week of Lent, when those to be welcomed to Church on Easter (catechumen) receive their first welcome into the body of Christ, to receive the water of life. The catechumen is represented in the person of the woman of Samaria. However, it is not only them; the woman represents all of us too.
When the Lord invites us (as he invited the woman) for a drink, he invites us into a relationship to strengthen us with the gift of faith. His gift of faith will help us navigate the struggles, the fatigue, and the noon-day experiences of our lives. The invitation is not for us to give him water. Instead, we should give him our weaknesses, struggles, worries, and pains so that he gives us the faith that moves mountains above all our struggles. Isn’t it what Saint Peter refers to when he writes, “cast all your anxieties on him, he cares about you”? (1 Peter 5:7).
Dear friend, no matter your struggles, the midday experiences in your marriage, family, the lives of your friends, your job, community, country, and indeed in the world, be sure that God sees you through.
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 reminds us that the faith we receive from the Lord keeps us firm on rainy days. We have grace, too, to stand, and we hope that glory shall come. This hope does not “disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:4-5).
Let this message sustain you, my friend, as you pass through your mid-day experience of faith. Amen.