Deacon Lincoln’s Log 8-24-14

Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003.jpg
Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003” by Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“Who do you say that I am?”  Mt. 16:15

This week’s liturgy invites us to ponder the question Jesus asks all of his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  As disciples of Jesus we each must answer that question for ourselves.

While no one can answer the question for us, the witness of other disciples can shed light on our own experience.  For example, Jesus is…

Carpenter. Mercy. Crucified Lord. Christ. God-Man. Son of Man. Good. Risen Lord. Giver. Rabbi. Guardian. Gift. Leader. Redeemer. Anointed One. Messiah. Counselor. Suffering Servant. Savior. Holy One. Light. Love. Son of Mary. Son of God. Risen Lord. Good Shepherd. Master. King. Resurrection. Truth. Lord. Light. King. Miracle Worker. Deliverer.

Jesus is all of these and much more.

Yet ultimately, we only know who Jesus is when he reveals himself to us.  “Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”  (Mt. 16:17).

Jesus comes to us in prayer and in the day to day experiences of our life.  This week, pray for the grace to know Jesus better.  The Father will reveal him to you as he did to Simon Peter.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

 

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Deacon Lincoln’s Log 3-23-14

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“Jesus said to the woman, ‘Give me a drink.’”

Jn. 4:7

“Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us.  Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.  God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2560

The story of the woman at the well found in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel is a powerful story of conversion.  A woman, isolated by her sin, comes to the well at noon.  She comes alone, in the middle of the day; most women gathered at the well in the cool of the morning and evening.  She was ashamed to be around the other women.

At the well, she encounters Jesus. He is waiting for her.  This meeting is not accidental; it has a divine purpose.  Jesus desires her from the depth of his heart.  His thirst is not simply a desire for water; it is a thirst for her soul.  Jesus begins a conversation with the woman.  His request for a drink opens up a dialogue leading to transformation.

During lent, it is easy to forget that the source of our spiritual journey is God.  We can get caught up on what we are doing:  our fasting, our prayer, our charity….  But the story of the woman at the well reminds us that God is the source of all of our desires and our efforts.  It is God’s thirst for us that leads us to thirst for him.

It is when these two thirsts meet, God’s thirst for us and our thirst for God, that things change.  After meeting Jesus at the well, the woman returns to the village transformed.  She is on longer isolated, but instead, reaches out to her neighbors to share her experience with Jesus.  She is a converted woman.  Something powerful and mysterious has happened.  She has been transformed by God’s thirst.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/befuddledsenses/8149017681/”>Accretion Disc</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

The Conversion of the Samaritan Woman

by tribalicious is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well found in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel is a powerful story of conversion.  It is a story that works on many levels.

On the surface, there is an encounter between a weary traveler and a lonely woman.  The traveler begins a conversation with the woman by asking for a drink.  Through their conversation, the woman is changed.  She returns to her village sharing the excitement of this powerful encounter.

On a cultural level, the encounter is one of breaking through prejudice.  Jesus is a Jewish man.  As a man, he would not enter into a conversation with an unaccompanied woman.  Relationships between men and women were strictly regulated.  According to cultural traditions, Jesus should not have addressed a woman he did not know in a public place.  Yet, that is exactly what he does.

Even more astonishing is that Jesus addresses a Samaritan.  In Jesus’ world, Jews and Samaritans had a long history of animosity (see Ezra 9-10).  Samaritans were detested by Jews even more than pagans.  If Jesus were to speak to a Samaritan according to the customs of his time, his words should have been insulting.  Yet, Jesus responds differently.

Finally, the woman is described as having had five husbands.  She comes to the well in the middle of the day.  Most women in her day would have gone to the well in the cool of the morning.  The well was a place for building community and the women would talk and share stories while gathering the day’s water.  The Samaritan woman avoids the society of other women by coming in the middle of the day.  Perhaps the woman was ashamed of her past (the five husbands) or perhaps the other women had shunned her.  Regardless, she comes to the well alone, most likely because of a scandal, perceived or real.  Jesus would have easily put this information together.  Yet he reaches out to the woman and invites her to conversation.

Ultimately, on a cultural level, we discover that Jesus is not bound by the customs and traditions of his time.  His vision is broader and deeper than any culture bound values.  “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (Jn. 4:21).

The words Jesus speaks are important and move us to another level, even deeper than the cultural level… the spiritual level.

Jesus initiates the conversation.  He is waiting for the woman at the well.  God is always waiting for us.  This meeting is not accidental; it has a divine purpose.  Jesus loves her before she even arrives at the well.  He desires her from the depths of his heart.  His first words to the woman are “Give me a drink” (Jn. 4:7).   His thirst is not simply a desire for water; it is a thirst for her soul.  These words open up a spiritual conversation.

I believe that what John records in his Gospel is a bare bones outline of what actually transpired.  As the biblical scholar William Barclay notes,

Now it is certain that all we have here is the briefest possible report of what must have been a long conversation.  Clearly there was much more to this meeting than is recorded here.  If we may use an analogy, this is like the minutes of a committee meeting where we have only the salient points of the discussion recorded (Daily Study Bible, John vol. 1).

Whatever the details, this conversation has a clear progression as the woman reveals more and more of herself and discovers more and more about Jesus.  She begins by confronting Jesus with his cultural limitations, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jn. 4:9).  She sees all the boundaries between them.  However, she soon moves beyond those limitations.  She next addresses Jesus as “Sir” (Jn. 4:11), a respectful form of address.  She is beginning to recognize Jesus’ wisdom as she converses with him.  He is no longer an enemy but a respected teacher.  As she reveals more about herself and trusts Jesus more, she dares to ask the question:  Could Jesus possibly be the Messiah?  Jesus clearly states that he is.

The woman has discovered what she has been looking for her entire life.  She leaves to share this good news with her friends.  She has found the source of life, the fountain of living water, that wells up to eternal life (Jn. 4:13-15).

This simple story of one woman’s conversion teaches us a lot about the dynamics of grace in our soul.

Photo Credit: “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” by tribalicious under CC BY 2.0

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 1-19-14

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Jn. 1:29

This Sunday we see how deeply biblical our liturgy is.  John the baptizer refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, a phrase we hear every week at Mass.  Just before communion we say “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”  Moments later the priest says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”  This image of Jesus as the Lamb of God is profoundly biblical and reveals dimensions of Jesus which we often overlook.

The primary reference for the phrase is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed and whose blood was spread on the doorposts before the Israelites fled Egypt (Cf. Ex. 12).  The blood of this lamb saved the Israelites from death and began their journey to freedom through the Red Sea.  Likewise, Jesus blood shed on the cross, frees us from death and initiates our journey as disciples.

Another reference to the “Lamb of God” occurs in the suffering servant songs in Isaiah.  A mysterious figure, perhaps the Messiah, is described as bearing the sins of the people and being like a lamb led to the slaughter (Is. 53).  Jesus, especially on the cross, bears our sins.

The image of the Lamb reappears in the final book of the bible, Revelation (5-7).  This Lamb appears as the one who brings about final victory over evil in the world.  “They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings… “ (Rev. 17:14).  Jesus is the one who ultimately defeats evil and ushers in the Kingdom of God.

Every Sunday at Mass, this biblical image reminds us of who Jesus is as our savior and the Lord of history.  Behold, the Lamb of God!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

Polemical Parables – The Kingdom of God is not What We Expect

The Kingdom of God, says the Jew, will come suddenly and sensationally with the visible triumph of God’s people:  no, says the parable of the mustard seed, it will grow from small beginnings, spread gradually through the nations:  no, says the parable of the leaven, it will work silently and secretly, before the world is aware that it is at work.  In the kingdom there will be nothing evil or unclean:  no, say the parables, there will be tares among the wheat, useless dog-fish caught in the net.  Solomon’s Temple and Levi’s priesthood will be at the centre of a regenerate world:  no, says the parable of the good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite have lost their chance, they passed by on the other side.  But at least the kingdom will be for the Jews?  No, say the parables, the invited guests have excused themselves and the table has to be filled with strangers brought in from the highways and hedges; the wicked husbandmen have defrauded their employer and killed his servants, and the vineyard will be given to others.  But even if the gentiles are admitted, surely it will be the chosen people, fortified by so many promises, tested by so many tribulations, that will be the chief inheritors?  No, say the parables, those who come to work at the eleventh hour will receive the same reward as those who bore the burden of the day and the heat; indeed, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the prodigal son who has found his way back to God than over the elder brother who never departed from his service.  But, anyhow, when once the kingdom is established, the Jews will flock into it?  No, says the parable of Dives and Lazarus; they have Moses and the Prophets to guide them; they will be given no second chance of repentance.  We shall find, I think, that the meaning of the parables becomes far clearer if we keep that background of polemic in view.

Ronald Knox, “Parable”