1st Reading: Exodus: 17:3-7
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42
Many years ago, in a simpler time before many bridges had been built: two Buddhist monks who were on their way back to their monastery found an exceedingly beautiful woman at the river bank.
Like them, she wished to cross the river, but the water was too high. So one of the monks lifted her on his back and carried her across the river.
His fellow monk was scandalized. For two full hours as the continued their trip home, he berated him on is negligence in keeping the holy rule – had he forgotten that he was a monk? How dare he touch a woman – and even worse – carry her on his back all the way across the river! What would people say? Had he not brought his holiness into question? And on and on he went.
The offending monk patiently listened to the never-ending lecture. Finally he broke in with, “brother, since the only thing on my mind was charity, I left that woman hours ago at the river. But apparently YOU are still carrying her with you!”
Have we ever held on to something someone else has said or done --- refusing to turn loose of the incident – carrying a grudge --- replaying it over and over again in our minds? Something that should have been left at the river – hours, months, or years – ago?
Someone once wisely said, “holding grudges does no harm to the person against whom you hold these feelings – but every day ---and every night of your life, they are eating away --- at you.”
One day, a child got his hand stuck in his mother’s favorite vase.
The boy’s father tried his best to get the little boy’s hand out – all in vain.
At the point of breaking the vase in order to free the boy’s hand –the father tried one more time. “Now open your hand up, place your fingers together as tightly as you can – and we will see if we can get you unstuck” said the boy’s father.
“I can’t do that, the boy said.” “Why not,” asked his father? “Because I will drop the penny I have clenched in my fist” said the boy. . .
Have we ever held on to something so tightly from our past, refusing to turn loose of it so much – that our hearts, and our lives – cannot move forward?
Again, someone much wiser than I said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. . . Anger, resentment and jealousy don’t change the hearts of others – they only change yours.”
I think our Scripture readings today take us down the path of either clinging to our past hurts and resentments,---- or turning loose of them and accepting the gift of peace that God is offering to each one of us.
First the Israelites – if we follow the story line set out for us in the Book of Exodus – a mere four chapters before the reading were heard today,--
we hear: “the lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt company by company” (12:50) and Moses told them, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, that place of slavery.” (13:3) and six hundred thousand men –
not counting women and children, left Egypt with a glad song of liberation in their hearts. . .
And now--- when faced with a little thirst -- they moan and groan, “why did YOU (Moses) ever MAKE US leave Egypt?”. As if things were so much better there?
And sadly we can find that this is already the second time they have longed for the past – the first time when they were up against a rock and a hard place at the Red Sea – when God miraculously created a way out of their troubles when they saw no way out – they also panicked – and wanted to turn back. . .
What’s wrong with these people??? What’s wrong with us??
Do we really want to be rid of our resentments, our anger, our fear? Because many of us want to cling to our fears, doubts, self-loathing, or hatred-- because there is a certain distorted security in familiar pain. . . It seems safer to embrace what we know than to let go of it --- for fear of the unknown. .
Contrast this – with the Samaritan woman in the Gospel --- who I think was just tired of who she was, and the past she thought would haunt her forever . . . oh, in their back and forth conversation – Jesus showed he knew her quite well – yes she was a Samaritan, yes she was a woman –
a lonely one at that for she had looked for love in all the wrong places -- As Jesus said: “you are right in saying ‘I do not have a husband’ – for you have had five husbands – and the one you have now is not your husband.”
But she was ready for a change – that’s why she says, “Sir, give me this life-giving water you are offering – so that I may not be thirsty again.”
And Jesus accepted her. Jesus blessed her. Jesus changed her. And Jesus gave her the courage she needed to go off and call others to him, “and many Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified.”
--All this --- because she was willing to let go of her fears, doubts, self-loathing, hatred and pain – and embrace the unknown of a new life FREE of all of those things. . .
We come out of the tunnel of darkness – where all the pain, hurts, disappointments, loses, and despairs --- would like to keep us lurking --- into the wonderful light of Jesus Christ when we refuse to give into resentment – which only keeps repeating the aching of our wounds.
We come out of the tunnel of darkness into the wonderful light of Jesus Christ when we come to understand that in harboring the anger, the bitterness and resentment towards those who have hurt us – we are giving the reigns of control over to them.
Forgiving is not about accepting their words and deeds. Forgiving is about letting go and moving on--with our lives. And in doing so, we choose to set ourselves free.
When we make that choice, when we ask the Lord, “give us this water”
We will “have peace with God through Jesus Christ through whom we have access by faith to the grace in which we stand, and we will boast in hope of the glory of God.” [2nd reading from Romans]
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