The Sunday Project
Third Sunday of Lent |
By Patrick Flores
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" So Moses cried to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." And the LORD said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Mer'ibah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the LORD to the proof by saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
So he came to a city of Samar'ia, called Sy'char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samar'ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar'ia?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the city and were coming to him. Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought him food?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, `There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."
It was one of the most defining moments of my life, and it didn’t even happen to me.
Well, I suppose it did.
Years ago, a young man in my parish in Dallas had recently come out - one of the first to do so. He had been incredibly involved in the youth group and stayed active into college. Tall and expressive with a generous smile, he was the type of person everyone loved having around. We knew our community was so much stronger with him by our side. And he began sharing on social media about his sexuality, his frustrations with the Church, his hopes for something better.
A leader in the Church took him out for coffee. It’s always over coffee. If you’re gay, he said, if you date, if you don’t believe Church leaders, if you really feel this way, then you’re not Catholic. The message was clear.
You’re not one of us.
I try to picture the woman of Samaria who wasn’t even allowed to touch an object a Jew might want. “For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.”
Nothing in common.
Jesus and the woman go back and forth as he slowly reveals himself to her. Shows her there is so much more within him than she sees and more inside her than others imagine.
And then the weirdest part of the story happens. The disciples show up and are amazed that Jesus is talking to her. And John’s gospel tells us… what they didn’t say? Click on the link for the reading above and see for yourself. It’s the only time I can think of where the Bible just lists things that didn’t happen.
“[They] were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, ‘What are you looking for?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”
Queer people, we know all about words left hanging in the air unsaid, like silent condemnations.
That moment when one of our parishioners came out, and admitted to a struggle, a defiance even, it was a defining moment of my life because the reaction was so blatant and stark. Question things, admit things, be something you weren’t expected to be, and you’ll find yourself on the outside.
Notice something, though. Not a single disciple of Jesus understood this core truth and command of Christianity - Go out and gather them in.
Jesus told them and showed them over and over again. “When you hold a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” If you’re on the inside, you better be about expanding and inviting exactly those the rest consider outsiders, undeserving, those who “need to change” in order to earn your affection.
What Jesus doesn’t do - ever - is hold the outcast responsible for being on the outside. The only time he places blame it is with those who exclude and condemn thinking the difference between us and them is in the quality of the person, not the wall thrown up to divide.
If you’re in a space where you feel like you’re on the outside of the Church, let me say this as unequivocally as I can.
It is not your fault.
If you don’t feel welcome.
It is not your fault.
If someone has told you communion is for everyone else but not for you.
It is not your fault.
If you feel alone, outside, unable and undeserving to even enter a church. Guess what?
It is not your fault.
That’s on them.
And if you’ve learned to love yourself not in spite of being queer but because of it, and folks inside the Church can’t see or understand why, well that is your fault. Just kidding. But kind of not really.
Set aside for a moment the straight folks who have no experiential reason to understand us. They’re not off the hook, this just isn’t about them.
I want to talk about a group that is often far more vocal, and honestly, harmful. The zealous, closeted, Queer Catholic. That person so infuriating precisely because they look so much like us, and yet preach our deepest fears and darkest pains.
If, like me, you find yourself stifling down a sneer as you avoid anyone like that, grateful for safe Queer spaces where they are not welcome, I’ll ask you a question I have been asking myself lately. This is Lent, after all.
Do you look at them and think, they’re not one of us?
Hear me now. I’m not saying safe spaces shouldn’t be safe. I honestly don’t know that I would be here without them. Only that we should be going out to invite others in. “Go out into the streets,” Jesus says, “and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
Do anger and frustration - justified and necessary emotions - keep you from caring for those who feel the weight of the Church’s judgment and expectations - you know that weight - and so often turn their pain and brokenness outward on the rest of the world? Twitter Catholics. Pious priests and bishops. Single and married folks alike who seem to be squeezing masculinity or femininity so tightly with every ounce of their being as though they are terrified if they don’t make it explode all over us we’ll see right down to their rotten core. Those folks.
When you think of the joy you’ve found, the peace, the self-acceptance, and actual honest-to-God love, where do those folks fit in? Do you want to invite them to your banquet or assume they have no place with you until they change? I’m not talking about inviting them into a gay bar or our Slack V&F community. Safe means safe. But do you want them there? The people? And are you willing to put in the work to help them get there? That’s the work that goes on out in the street.
And that’s the paradoxical quality of Jesus. Once you find something good, you are expected to share it, not hoard it. Not judge those who don’t have it. In fact - and here’s the hard part - that good thing you found, you won’t truly have it until you give it away. You may never know what it means to love yourself as a Queer person until you show someone else how to love themselves too. It’s like a whole another level of self-acceptance shows up.
Jesus loves to turn it around on us like that. When the Samaritan woman asks Jesus how it is he is asking her for a drink of water, he replies, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘give me a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
That’s what we should be saying to those in the Church who don’t yet understand.
If you only knew.
It’s not your fault.
You are one of us.
There’s always room for more at the table.