Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” - John 4:13-15
Perhaps you have them in your life just as I do: loved ones who are good people, but who either by choice or by life circumstances don’t share your Catholic faith.
And perhaps like me, you’ve encountered interesting moments with these family members or friends since the commencement of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Whether because of mainstream media coverage, or simply to make conversation with me, many of my friends who have been away from the Church (or who never knew Her to begin with) are suddenly asking questions. Over the past several months, I’ve had my spiritual antenna raised for such encounters where the movements of the Holy Spirit create a moment of opportunity to minister with love.
I sense in these fleeting conversations the opening of a window through which great grace can pass. But I also often fear that something I wrongly say or do in these interactions will again slam shut that window and further distance my loved one from the power of Christ’s embrace.
Look For Those “Well Moments”
There is not an easy “one size fits all” approach to these encounters. (Tweet this).
You probably know the pain of having someone you love reject the Creed with which they were raised. The accompanying pain tears at our hearts and causes us to second-guess ourselves, and to wonder what we might have done differently.
We often wrongly judge – both our fallen away brothers and sisters, and ourselves.
Lately, I’ve been trying to train myself to recognize what I’ve started calling these “well moments”. We know from reading John’s fourth chapter that Jesus himself had occasion to meet a Samaritan woman who was not only popularly considered a sinner, but who also was clearly seeking some greater truth in her own life.
Jesus didn’t choose to begin this encounter from a position of judgment or condemnation, but rather in a dialogue. He gently and lovingly led the woman to the truth she was so desperately seeking. John 4:5-42, gives us a model, an object lesson of sorts, for our own “well moments”.
We Need to Walk
Pope Francis, in his March 23rd Sunday Angelus, broke open the key component of Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan Woman:
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’
In this way, the Pope explained, Jesus cut across the barriers of hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans, crushing the prejudice that existed in relating to women.
The Pope said that Jesus’ simple request signals the beginning of an open dialogue, through which, with great delicacy, He entered the interior world of a person to whom, according to social convention, He should not even have spoken to.
“But this is exactly what Jesus does! Jesus is not afraid. When Jesus sees a person He goes towards that person because He is filled with love. He loves all of us. He does not stop before anyone because of prejudice,” Pope Francis said.
He went on to explain that Jesus does not judge, but acknowledges each person making him or her feel considered and recognized, and stimulating in that person the wish to go beyond their daily “routine”.
As we prepare for such encounters in our own lives – those times when we have the opportunity to simply and lovingly journey alongside someone as they move towards Jesus Christ – we need to remember to attend to our own spiritual “thirst” as well. A life lived immersed in scripture and the sacraments helps prepare our hearts and minds for “well moments.”
Together let’s meet these opportunities fully prepared to let God work through us. Let’s open a dialogue, set judgment aside and “be not afraid” the next time we find ourselves at the well.