Pastor's Pen, 3rd Lenten Sunday

During this Lent, I’ve been thinking a lot about the expression of the Christian life. We often think of the Christian life in terms of the moral or ethical life. This means that there are good things that Christians should do and bad things that Christians should avoid. In other words, the quality of one’s faith and its expression in one’s life is often viewed almost entirely on what is seen on the outside. When I studied ethics in theology, my own teacher believed that there was an over-emphasis on actions, that is, the outward practice of our faith. I think that our faith should focus on the inside first, cultivating our hearts and the heart’s reception of God’s love that has been poured into it, as St. Paul writes.

This week’s Gospel passage of the Samaritan woman may make us think of the unconditional love of God. The woman was not a Jew and so was considered unclean by the Jewish law. The woman had had five husbands, and, as Jesus said to her “the one you have now is not your husband,” and so, she was living sinfully. And yet Jesus speaks with her, he asks to drink from her cup and offers her salvation, “the living water.” We can see that for God no one is condemned, no one is excluded; rather all are offered God’s love. In our own lives this truth is hard to accept. Christians continue to believe and act as if a loving relationship with God is like a reward for good and correct action. The woman at the well had neither but was still loved by the Lord. It is for us to know in our hearts that his love is freely given to each of us, whether or not we or others judge ourselves to be deserving. 

The Samaritan woman seems to be an example of God’s unconditional love. I believe in a way, that there is one condition to God’s unconditional love. The condition is not from God but is from us, and that is, if God’s love is freely offered to all then it is for us to receive this, and to know this and to believe this in our hearts. Every word that a Christian speaks, every action that a Christian undertakes should be an expression of the reality of one’s faith in one’s heart. It is fine and dandy to say that God’s love is unconditional, but if it is not known in our hearts it is, in a way, useless. Salvation is both in the life to come and for this life. Our salvation is breathed through the heart knowledge of the Father’s love. I may struggle with my temper, envy, greed, being judgmental, being forgiving, being prideful, and the list goes on, but what is most important is not our sinfulness nor the sinfulness of the Samaritan woman but a desire in faith that asks “give me this [living] water, so that I may never be thirsty.” It is a desire in faith that wants to be saved, that wants to know in each heart that God’s love simply is and is completely given. The Samaritan woman came to know this in her heart. What did she do? She went back to her village and proclaimed that she had seen the Saviour, and that she had been saved. Her actions were an echo of the faith in her heart. In the same way, as we go through Lent, let us continue to make space for God’s free and unconditional love. And by making space, we are more free to receive it. God desires to pour his love into each of our hearts. Let us not have this love simply wash over our hearts, rather let us have it enter our hearts. Despite our struggles and sinfulness, let us know the truth, and that is, that God’s love is real and alive. To this gift let us not say “no,” nor “come back later.” But let us say “Yes,” a yes to his love, let us drink of the living water.

Take Care; God Bless.

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