Ex 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42
Living the message of Jesus on the cross
What is the message that we get from looking closely at a crucifix? Do we recoil because we think that it is too gory or revolting to look at? But is it really gorier than our secular movies and video games? Or is our sense of justice triggered as we see the unimaginable pain, unjust death, and humiliation of the Messiah? Or are we filled with guilt and shame because of our sins that we even get depressed? Or are we just plain indifferent to reflect deeply on a crucifix?
St. Paul invites us to see love above all things when we gaze on Jesus on the cross, “For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly… But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:6,9) Jesus did not wait for us to become worthy, good, holy enough, wise, or talented before He died for us.
The main message of the crucifix is that we are always loved and precious to Jesus. Whether we are holy or not, happy or sad, laughing or crying, wise or foolish, healthy or sick, prayerful or not, appreciated or rejected by others, we are always loved and precious to Him. Nothing takes this fact away.
The Samaritan woman experienced how precious she was to Jesus, as she exclaimed to her neighbors about Jesus, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.” She could not believe that He would speak to her so lovingly and gently despite knowing all her sins and struggles.
Though she was a Samaritan woman, a sinful woman who was living with her sixth male lover in a row, though she was so ashamed of herself that she came alone to draw water at the hot noontime and not with the others who drew water earlier in the cooler time of the day, though she was alienated and separated from her community, though she was confused in her theology and she had so many desires raging in her poor heart, Jesus lovingly initiated and sustained a heart-to-heart conversation with her, beginning with the request, “Give me a drink.”
Let us be clear: Jesus does not need her drink of water. He asked her for water because He wanted to give her something that she just does not deserve, “If only you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me and drink,’ you would have asked Him and He will have given you living water.” The entire purpose of this conversation was to dispose her to receive the love of the Spirit.
This woman accepted Jesus’ invitation to enter into a deep, honest, personal conversation with Him. She was so honest and open to Jesus. She did not try to pretend or hide anything from Him, not even the status of her married life, “I have no husband.” She was also open to receiving all the truth that Jesus offered to her, even if it was difficult and hard to understand. It was a beautiful conversation with honest and complete self-revelation on her part and that of Jesus.
She was completely changed once she experienced through this conversation that she was unconditionally loved and accepted by Jesus. She changed from being an isolated sinful mistress without direction in life to a woman of the community who gave witness to Jesus with great zeal. She who left the city that day as an estranged sinner returned as a fervent disciple of Jesus. We can even imagine her inviting her current lover to come and meet Jesus!
Unless we too accept Jesus’ invitation for a personal heart-to-heart conversation with Him and we are ready to act on this conversation, we will never know how loved and valuable we are to God. One good and honest conversation with Jesus completely changed this woman and moved her to live for Jesus. Just imagine what our lives, families, Church, and world would be like if we too have this type of conversation with Jesus every single day of our lives and then act on it to bring others into this same life-changing conversation with Him. This is the real accompaniment we need today, one that actually accompanies souls to Jesus, and not the vague and directionless accompaniment that is being touted endlessly in our times.
On the other hand, Ex 17:37 shows us the sad scenario when we live without this deep conviction that we are deeply loved and accepted by God in Jesus Christ. The Israelites had run out of water in the desert and they showed their weak identity as God’s chosen people. They forgot that they were God’s precious people. Like them, we too can begin to complain and grumble when things do not go our way, or we do not get what we want. Instead of building others up in the faith, we bring them down because we too begin to accuse and blame others for whatever we find unfavorable.
Lacking a sense of being loved and precious to God all the time, we behave like the Israelites and lose our peace of mind, doubting that God can provide for all our needs. We also ask, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” We cannot patiently endure the hardships of life but are quick to use violence and aggression in words and actions just like the Israelites who were on the point of stoning Moses. We also become restless, and nothing can satisfy us because we do not have that “hope that does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts.” Lastly, our hearts become hardened to the point that we cannot receive and give love to God and others, we cannot go deep in our conversion, and we cannot pray, serve, love, and forgive others.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lenten season is not just a time for conversion. It is also a time to be so converted that we begin to live for Christ and not for ourselves anymore. We are to do this despite our own lingering fears, sins, anxieties, worries, struggles, etc. We may even feel so sinful and overwhelmed by the evil in the world. We may have doubts that others will believe us or listen to us because of our own failures.
We can do one thing to help us live for Christ despite our inner insecurities and external challenges. Let us find time to pray privately before a crucifix daily at least once a day. Let us not look at the crucified one with natural eyes that only see suffering, death, pain, blood, injustice, etc. But let us look at Him with eyes of faith, that allow us to see His undying accepting love for us.
Looking at the crucified savior with eyes of faith, we know that He is alive, and He is always inviting us to deep and honest conversations with Him all the time. He is waiting for us with many graces. He is saying to us too, “Give me something to drink,” because He is asking us to give Him some of our time and loving attention. If we approach Him with complete honesty and receive everything that He is offering to us, we will also receive and be faithful to the true message of the crucifix – we are always loved and precious to Him. This is the only thing that will change us completely and move us to live for Jesus and Him alone.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!