The first Sunday of the Scrutinies drew me into the paradox of preaching words to stir the hearts, to give a sense of hope. May these words provide comfort and strength, and stretch our religious imaginations beyond borders trusting in a God that will never abandon us.
Therapy is hard work especially when working with teens who have experienced trauma from: chronic bullying, the death of a family member, the suicide or sudden death of a close friend, or immobilized by the dysfunction of family dynamics. When emotions are heightened, I hear that inner voice – “breath deeply, remember to create a loving space to listen, allow them to process, reflect and re-frame.
My ministry as a special education teacher draws me into spaces where teens are often paralyzed by fear, social anxiety and depression. Collectively, their diagnoses spans the spectrum. The task: cultivate spaces for meaningful learning, and risk-taking, and the discovery of one’s voice. With that said, I hear and experience a lot of their complaints about everything and anything.
Often they are akin to our ancestors wandering in the desert. At times shrouded with doubt, burning with frustration, parched with anger and fear, lacking any desire to move forward and so they complained to Moses: “Give us something to drink why did you do this, why did you bring us to this desert place to kill us, our children, our livestock.” In great distress, Moses cried out to GOD: What shall I do with this people? Do you feel that way sometimes? I know I do.
Such a human experience: Complaints have echoed through the ages, and with it a longing to be heard. However, these teens have taught me many things, one thing in particular I’ve come to discover that in their struggle and suffering they can find redemption. In their time, these kids are willing to embrace their brokenness, to be held accountable, to work at repairing relationships with the peers and adults. So frequently within these loving spaces, their encounters cultivate forgiveness, and transformation takes place. They don’t name the grace…I don’t even think they know the language. It is a mystery of God’s self-revelation.
In a focus group the other day, one student shared: “I am feeling good. I had a mediation, and I had to take an honest look at myself. I realized I was holding a grudge. I had to seriously ask myself, can I try to walk in her shoes?” Truly a willingness to be vulnerable, to be open and authentic. To be painstakingly honest.
Pope Francis says in one of his homilies that if “in our heart there is no mercy, no joy of forgiveness, we are not in communion with God, even if we observe all of his precepts, for it is love that saves, not the practice of precepts alone” (Angelus, 15 September 2013).
Yes, love transforms and heals, beyond the practice of precepts. Take for example in today’s Gospel the woman of Samaria, faithful to a daily routine going to the well for water. she meets Jesus who requests a simple kindness, a drink of water.
This woman so aware of the precepts of her time and place:
- men didn’t talk with women in public
- Jews don’t interact with Samaritans
- So embedded in their collective religious history, that both had distinct places of worship. [ Samaritans worship at Mt Gerizim, – the Sacred Mountain. Jews worship in the Temple of Jerusalem] don’t cross boundaries or borders.
The woman offers Jesus water to quench his thirst. Her curiosity marked with profound openness to question even more, she thirsts for a greater truth. In this lengthy exchange with Jesus she learns worshiping God transcends the Sacred Mountain and Holy Temple.
In this divine encounter, she experienced mercy and acceptance which draws her deeply into her religious imagination, She leaves behind a world-view, and goes to announce to her townspeople: “Come see the Christ, who told me everything I have done.”
Good News indeed..resounding through the ages in time and space informing our desire to seek truth, to create spaces in our communities that are inclusive deepening our call to discipleship. Jesus the Christ, is the Life-giving water poured out at our Baptism. God’s grace received at Baptism is ever so present with us today, we stand in solidarity with those desire and seek full Communion in the Catholic Church, our catechumens and candidates. The Scrutinies, this ancient ritual, calls to mind of the realities of sin in our lives today. Do not be Afraid…With you we stand with confidence of the hope and promise that Jesus the Christ accompanies us on our journey of Faith. We give praise to God for your witness. And we eagerly await to celebrate the Easter Sacraments at the Easter Vigil.
For now, we continue on our Lenten Journey, we continue to look deeply into our lives perhaps parched by the dryness of desert lands, overwhelmed by complaints, burdened by the challenges of each day, or dancing and singing in the darkness. Let us live with the hope and promise that Jesus, the Christ…who knows everything we have ever done. Who lovingly and with great compassion embraces each one us. Who calls us to the TABLE to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Nourished and strengthened we can boast in our HOPE of sharing the GLORY of GOD, HOPE does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.