March 5, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Jesus: the hope that will never disappoint us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

(The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent—Ex 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42—that are being referenced in this column presume the celebration of the scrutinies as outlined in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. The scrutinies are rites of self-searching and repentance that have a profound spiritual purpose. They invite us to a conversion of our hearts and minds.)

The world’s cruelty—whether in the form of poverty, health crises, political turmoil or many other causes of personal and social unrest—too often cause us to turn inward, to close ourselves off from God and from each other. Like the people of Israel lost and disheartened after many years of wandering in the desert, we are tempted to cry out, saying: Why did we leave Egypt? Was it just to die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?

Life is hard, but that doesn’t mean our reactions should be hard-hearted. In fact, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, in Jesus we have been blessed with the great gift of hope, “and hope does not disappoint” (Rom 5:5).

The basis for our hope is, of course, the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Never was there a situation more dismal, or seemingly hopeless, than the Lord’s passion and death. Preceded by the agony in the garden, where Jesus shed tears of blood, the hardships faced by God’s only Son at the end of his ministry were intolerable by ordinary human standards. Only the grace of God could transform this barbaric cruelty into a miracle of redemption with far-reaching consequences for all humankind.

As St. Paul reminds us:

“For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6-8).

Whenever we are tempted to be bitter or resentful because of the hardships we’re required to face in our personal lives or in our society, we’re invited to recall the fact that, while we were still helpless sinners, Christ died for us. And in the words of this Sunday’s psalm refrain (Ps 95), we are admonished, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!”

The Gospel reading tells the familiar story of the woman who encountered Jesus at Jacob’s well in Samaria. Breaking several social taboos, Jesus engages in dialogue with this foreigner (a woman), and he convinces her, simply by the power of his presence, that:

“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” (Jn 4:13-14).

Incredulous at first, the woman ultimately says to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water ” (Jn 4:15). Then, after Jesus points out the truth about her marital status and, by implication, the state of her soul, the Samaritan woman’s heart is unburdened and she experiences genuine liberation and heartfelt joy.

When she shares her experience with others, St. John tells us, “Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world’ ” (Jn 4:41-42).

No matter what hardships or suffering we must face, no matter how far we have strayed from the way of life that leads to genuine happiness, we are invited to come to Jesus and to receive his living water. This water, which flows from the Sacred Heart of Jesus as from an inexhaustible fountain of love and mercy, brings with it healing, nourishment, consolation and the hope that will never disappoint us.

The living water that Jesus gives has the power to heal all our wounds and to break open our hardened hearts. As we continue our Lenten journey, through the sufferings of the cross to the joy of the Resurrection, let’s remember that Jesus knows our pain and disillusionment. He has walked before us on the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrow, and he has redeemed us and set us free.

Lord, you are truly the Savior of the world; give us living water, that we may never thirst again. Give us the gift of hope in you, so that we will never again be disappointed. †

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