More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Easter Evening Prayer

Sr. Jane Gaughan, IHM
April 27, 2006

The following reflection was given at a prayer service at the IHM Center during the season of Easter.

"The water I give shall become a fountain within leaping up to provide eternal life."

Good Evening!

Imagine having a fountain within you that is leaping up! I find this image resonates with me. Perhaps it is because I love water. I have always been drawn to water. Water refreshes and cleanses and renews and revives me. Whether it is the power of the ocean, the stillness of a lake, the gurgling of a brook, the flowing of a mountain stream. Water draws me. Maybe it is the same for you. The fountain of this passage in John reminds me of two other fountains. The first fountain may be very familiar to many of you. It is located at the park across the street from Our Lady of the Lake in Verona. I remember walking down the path and beginning to walk around the lake. This spot has always refreshed me. In the middle of the lake is a fountain that leaps up. The water seems to dance and frolic and move very freely.

The other fountain is set in the middle of the city of Omaha. An agricultural company provides the residents with the beauty of gardens and a lake and fountains. At night the fountains are lit up by a rainbow of colored lights. The lights are synchronized and the colors change as the water of the fountains leap higher and higher. Then the waters slowly return to lake level and in a few minutes the water starts to climb air borne to delight the onlookers. The colors and fountains fascinated me. The beauty always takes my breath away.

In the Gospel passage the Samaritan woman is having a breath-taking experience with Jesus, but she does not yet know it. She takes Jesus' words about water quite literally. She desires the water of which Jesus speaks. In William Barclay's book, The Gospel of John: The Daily Study Bible Series, he states: "It was living water of which Jesus spoke. In ordinary language to the Jew living water was running water. It was the water of the running stream in contradistinction to the water of the stagnant cistern or the Jew, running, living water from the stream was always better." So the Samaritan woman wants this living water so she won't have to come to Jacob's well every day to draw water. Jesus however is speaking of living water that the woman does not yet know. Barclay goes on to say: "But the Jews had another way of using the word water. They often spoke of the thirst of the soul for God; and they often spoke of quenching that thirst with living water.

In the Book of Revelation we find: "To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life." (Rev. 21:6) Psalm 42 says: "My soul is thirsting for the living God." In the book of Isaiah the invitation is given: "All who are thirsty come to the waters and freely drink." (Is. 55:1) This water imagery is sprinkled throughout the Bible. In the Jerome Biblical Commentary the author points out that this passage is "another narrative that permits John to develop further the theme of the water of Judaism replaced by the life-giving water of Christ. The rabbinical comparison of the Torah with water (as cleansing, as satisfying thirst, and as promising life) affords the background of John's teaching. Once again Christ is the fulfillment of what the Law could only promise." The writer states that "the water that Christ will give will satisfy forever; whoever drinks of this water will have the fountain of eternal life within him."

A little over two weeks ago we had the privilege to participate in the Easter Vigil, the highlight of our liturgical year. In the midst of this service we have the liturgy of Baptism where the celebrant blesses the water with these words:

Father, you give us the grace through sacramental signs, which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power. In Baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of the grace you give us in this sacrament. At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them a wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of baptism that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. Through the waters of the Red Sea you led Israel out of slavery to be an image of God's holy people, set free from sin by baptism. In the waters of the Jordan your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit. Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from his side as he hung upon the cross. After his resurrection he told his disciples: "Go out and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Father, look now with love upon your Church and unseal for it the fountain of baptism. By the power of the Holy Spirit give to this water the grace of your Son, so that in the sacrament of baptism all those whom you have created in your likeness may be cleansed from sin and rise to a new birth of innocence by water and the Holy Spirit.

Our Church welcomes the catechumens who have been preparing for this moment for months. They receive this wonderful sacrament of initiation. The priest pours water over their foreheads and anoints them with holy oil. Then we, the faithful, are invited to renew our baptismal vows. In this renewal we reclaim the graces of our own Baptism. The grace of new life, of cleansing, of becoming a child of God. The graces of our Baptism deepen our commitment as religious. Our Baptismal vows enabled us to profess our vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It is a wonderful meditation to ponder the initial experience of God in our lives and prove the richness of its meaning.

The water imagery from the fourth chapter of John recalls the sacrament of Baptism, the water of Christ that confers the gift of eternal life. This is the Samaritan woman's first encounter with Jesus. The living water which she desires to receive from Jesus will mean a radical change in her life. The Samaritan woman was called to conversion and so are we. Jack Wentz, OFM, says: "Conversion is a turning away from illusory dried-up wells that do not give life and turning to God, our true fountain of love and abundant life." I believe this perspective on conversion is very thought provoking. It brought some questions with it:

Do we have any dried-up wells in our lives?

Are there circumstances in our lives at this moment that are draining our energies?

Do we fill our lives so full with schedules, agendas, meetings, activities, and business that we have no room for meaning?

These questions may have some value for you as you look thoughtfully at your life.

In an article entitled, "Celebrating Conversion" Patricia Hawkins Vaillancourt says: "Conversion is at the heart of the Christian message. It is also at the heart of the jubilee this jubilee year, we are being called to look at some of the attitudes that flow from our way of life. We need to look at our culture through the lens of the Gospels. This is not an easy task. However, as we look at the message of Jesus, it becomes apparent that there are large areas in our thinking that need conversion." It seems clear that this Holy Year is a clarion call for conversion. What a wonderful way to celebrate the Jubilee by responding to the grace of changing our hearts. With the Samaritan woman we are each called to leave our dried up wells and go in search for living water.

In one of Hildegard of Bingen's visions, God declared:

"I am the breeze

that nurtures all things green.

...I am the rain

coming from the dew

that causes the grasses to laugh

with joy of life.

...I am the yearning for good."

God places this yearning for good in our hearts. In The Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section on "Prayer as gift" it says: "'If you knew the gift of God!' The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us...prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him."

The Jews spoke of the thirst of the soul for God. Sometimes we thirst for more than a drink. For what do you thirst? For what do you long? What will bring meaning and vitality into your life? As the Samaritan woman responded to Jesus, she realized that she indeed was having a breath-taking experience. Because she was face to face with the Son of God. She discovered her living water in him. Our invitation is the same. Jesus is inviting each of us to the water. There he will give us water that will become a fountain within leaping up to provide life. We simply need to create some time and space for Jesus to renew and refresh and revitalize us. How will we discover this fountain within? The fountain will appear in a myriad of ways. It may even surprise us, take our breath away. It may be a twinkle in our eye, a smile on our lips, a warmth in our hearts, a lilt in our steps. It may be a new energy within that seems to dance and frolic and move very freely. Imagine having a fountain within you that is leaping up!