I saw in him many signs of a priestly vocation. He spoke enthusiastically about joining a religious community and becoming a priest. When I asked him why he was hesitating to do so, he gave me that response I have heard so many times, “I do not think I am worthy to be a priest. I have so many sins and weaknesses in my past.”
Whenever the sense of our past sins and failures begin to prevent us from following Jesus more closely or making him better known to others, we need to pause and ask ourselves this question, “How excited am I about Jesus? Is my excitement for Jesus greater than my sense of unworthiness or my struggles? What makes me really excited about Jesus?” Unless we are really excited and passionate about Jesus and know exactly why we are excited about Him, we cannot follow Him closely to the very end or make Him known to others because the sense of our past sins, weaknesses, and failures will surely make us discouraged and lose heart.
Many spiritual writers say that the woman at the well in today’s Gospel passage came to fetch water at noon because, due to her sinful life, she was avoiding making contact with other villagers who would come to fetch water at a much earlier time of the day when the sun’s heat was not at its peak. But after her conversation with Jesus, she left her water jar and went back to the village to face the same villagers now with excitement, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” She was filled with so much excitement from her conversation with Jesus that the thought of her sinfulness could not hinder her passionate message.
Most importantly, this woman knew exactly why she was excited about Jesus – Jesus knew her very well. Jesus knew her past with all her sins, struggles, weaknesses, and false hopes. Jesus knew that she had had five unsuccessful marriages and was currently in an adulterous relationship, “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Jesus knew her deepest desires at the present moment and the only thing that can satisfy it – the living water of divine grace, “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst, but the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He knew her and her sinful past very well, yet He offered her grace for the present moment and a better and fulfilling future filled with hope.
Jesus is also passionate and excited about His mission and knows why, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work.” Jesus is passionate about us not because we are good in ourselves or holy but because we are the Father’s gift to Him, “Father, they are your gift to me.”(Jn 17:24) We should be excited about Jesus too because He knows us well and still offers to satisfy our hearts now and bring us into His glorious future. Jesus knows our past with all our shortfalls, yet He knows and loves us in the present and what we really desire, and He offers us His fulfilling love and a more fulfilling future with Him.
St. Paul emphasizes this point in today’s Second Reading in these powerful words, “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.” He knew our sinful past and present sins very well and He did not wait for us to become perfect before He laid down His life for us. With full knowledge of our unworthiness, He died for us so that today we might be “justified by faith,” enjoy a “hope that does not disappoint,” and have the love of God “poured into our hearts.” This is how passionate Jesus is for us. Why then do we let the thoughts of our sinful past and present struggles kill that excitement and passion that we should have for Him?
If we are not excited about Jesus and our relationship with God as His children in Christ, if we do not know why we should be excited about Jesus, if the weight of our sinfulness is deeper than the gift of our being adopted as God’s children, we face life grumbling and complaining like the Israelites in today’s First Reading, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst, with our children and our livestock?” They failed to realize that the God who brought them out of bondage knew very well their thirst for water and was ready to provide water from a rock in their journey and bring them to the Promised Land.
This Lenten season, the Lord Jesus is surely inviting us to follow Him more closely and to give more faithful witness to others about what He has done for us in our lives. The devil is surely working hard to discourage us by imprinting in our memories the pains and regrets from past sins and struggles. We too may be living in the past, becoming slaves of shame and guilt. We may even refuse to accept divine forgiveness and to forgive ourselves and others. We can never find the real reason to be passionate about Christ in ourselves or in our situation in life. We can follow Him closely to the end and bear witness to Him only if our passion for Him is rooted in the fact that He knows us more than anyone and He offers us a participation in His glorious life.
Just like he did to the Samaritan woman, Jesus, who knows us very well as well as all our past sins, awaits us in the Sacrament of Confession to cleanse us from these sins, strengthen us for the present and lead us to a better future. He who is so passionate for us that He did not hesitate to “die for us while we are still sinners,” cannot wait to nourish us with His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist we celebrate today. What can hinder our own passion for Him?
By her words in the Magnificat, “He who is mighty has done great things for me… He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid,” Mary knew in her heart that God knew her and her past and was bringing her to the glorious life beyond the cross. This is how she could followed Jesus in her lowliness to the very end with a passion that never faded. With her help, we too can be passionate for Jesus till the end when we know with certainty that He knows us well and offers us at each moment a more fulfilling future with Him no matter what the past has been.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!