He sternly corrects her confession with the retort, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” Christ isn’t trying to get into a logomachy with the woman, he just wants her to be complete in her confession.
What Christ is offering is the living water which cleanses and quenches. He will not distribute it until she is prepared to receive it. And half-confessions do not suffice. Incidentally, the only true answer to the question “Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest?” is “Because Christ commanded it.” However, this incident illustrates one of the reasons Christ did establish confession as a meeting between the sinner and the priest — there is no replacing the vocal articulation of something in order to fully comprehend it. The samaritan woman clearly struggled and knew that what she had done was wrong, but it wasn’t until she came face to face with Christ and actually spoke the words and heard His response that her confession became complete. The same applies to us all.
Notice how the woman does not fly into a corybantic fit and hurl her clay mug at Christ and stalk away angry and alienated. Instead, she says “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” She acknowledges Him and now is ready to receive what He offered from the beginning. Why is it that we frequently miss this point? A good confession followed by absolution always results in grace received. It is only when we empty ourselves that the living water of which Jesus speaks can pour forth into our hearts and souls. All too often, however, people regard confession as a one-way street of having sins forgiven.
Certainly, having one’s sins forgiven rates highly in the list of important things in life. But the forgiveness comes with a divine bonus — the grace to avoid committing sins in the future. This woman at the well runs off and tells everyone she knows about how the Savior has forgiven her and has given her a new life. The new life is the life of grace. And the life of grace has no peer, no equal, nothing that comes close to matching it. But it is unattainable without full disclosure. Pleading the fifth in confession doesn’t cut it; nor does holding back for fear of retaliation or shame. Rather, lay it out on the table and let God do what God has chosen to do: work through His priests to cleanse the soul and shower down His grace upon you.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
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