Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hope is a necessity.

February 24, 2008
Third Sunday of Lent
Mass Readings:
Exodus 17:3-7
Rom 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42

"And hope does not disappoint..."

A while back I had lunch with a former colleague from my days when I worked as a hospice chaplain. Jim is a Baptist minister and I think one of the most spiritual people I know. Jim possesses both a great brain and huge heart and is one person who can put me at peace as soon as he opens his mouth. I miss working with him. Anyhow, Jim and I were talking about our daily lives and we were, of course, talking about the challenges and frustrations we each face regularly.

As we continued to talk, we began discussing how many people who call themselves Christian seem to be the angriest and most judgmental people around. We especially talked about some of the preachers who make their way to TV and radio. So many sermons are aimed at demoralizing and shaming people. Jim looked at me and asked a question that still haunts me; "Have you seen anything lately that would make someone want to become a Christian?" Jim always has a way of asking a question that makes you stop and think about your relationship with God. I am very grateful that he asked that question.

What do we as Christians say and do everyday that will inspire and give hope to Christians and non-Christians alike? Do we say and do things that would make non-Christians want to know more about Jesus?

In Paul's letter to the Romans, he shows that to be a Christian is to be filled with hope. To know the Lord is to be filled with the hope that flows from the Holy Spirit. We are connected to the Father through the salvation given to us through Jesus and we in turn are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the messengers of God's love and peace. So why are so many Christians just down right mean and nasty to other people who, like them, are God's children? Where is the peace, joy, hope, and love that comes from being saved?

Today's reading from John's Gospel is powerful. Jesus is tired and thirsty from traveling and he sits at the well. A Samaritan woman comes to the well. Now the Samaritans were outcasts and the victims of extreme prejudice and bigotry. Being female and a Samaritan would have meant for her being not only persecuted for being a Samaritan but also the burden of chauvinism that was extreme in the 1st Century. What Jesus does is earth shaking.

The Samaritan woman was probably afraid to approach Jesus but she does so anyway. Jesus strikes up a conversation with her. Now that may not seem like a big deal but it was revolutionary! Jesus treats this woman who has been treated as an outcast and an inferior as an equal! Jesus uses this opportunity to show the disciples that the old way of thinking and behaving is over! Thank God!

The interesting thing is that the disciples ignored what Jesus was doing. Why? Were they offended by what Jesus was doing? Did they just not want to have anything to do with what Jesus was doing? Or, did the disciples just not care about this woman? No matter what the reason, they missed a great opportunity. As the text continues, we see that Jesus seems to be doing all of the work. The disciples seem to only be interested in getting Jesus to eat instead of learning from Jesus' example. I wonder why.

I believe the point today is that when we become a disciple of the Lord we are obligated to set aside our own prejudices, dislikes, personal agendas, and most of all, stop trying to force others to conform to our image of what we think they should be and let them conform to what God wants them to be. Our responsibility is to proclaim the Good News, to live lives that are formed by God and not our own agendas, and to be a beacon of hope for all we meet. If we are so full of anger, prejudice, judgment, and cynicism then how can we expect anyone to want to become a Christian? Or for that matter remain a Christian!

Today's readings call us to embrace the joy, peace, hope, and love of Jesus! It is available to everyone and all we have to do is ask and receive! All Jesus wants to do is make us one with Him and journey with us as we go forth and share His good news. If we ask, we can receive. Receiving requires us to let go of all the things that get in the way of our relationship with God and one another. We cannot know the joy and hope that comes from salvation if we hold on to the burdens of negativity, cynicism, judgmentalism, etc. All those things do is weigh us down and make us miserable.

Lent is a season that calls us to let go of those terrible burdens. Today we have the opportunity to accept Jesus' invitation to be filled with joy and hope and be His disciples! A great gift indeed! Let us embrace Jesus' call to happiness so that we never have to ask the question again of whether or not we have seen or heard anything that would make us want to or remain a Christian. Instead, let our answer be a resounding YES! Let our lives be a shining example of why it is GOOD to be a disciple of the Lord so that others may know the peace, love, joy and hope that we have been so grateful to receive.