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God of our dyings and our risings,
we pray as another Lent gives way to Easter glory.
Bathe us in your mercy; flood us with your light;
transform us into your Easter people.
Hold us close to your heart, dear Triune God,
for, safely sheltered there,
our deepest longings are fed and fired.
From your holy haven,
may we come and go to serve your people
until all are brought finally home in you,
our journey and our journey’s end. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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The Easter Triduum begins on Holy Thursday and concludes with the Eucharist of Easter Sunday. The Easter Vigil, celebrated on Holy Saturday, begins at night with the lighting of the new fire, ideally outdoors, a reminder that we are moving from death to new life! In the early Church it was indeed a vigil; the congregation slept over for the three days of the Triduum; they came in and out of the assembly, stopping to eat and sleep as needed. Traditionally on Holy Thursday, the catechumens—those who had spent the Lenten season fasting and in penance seeking to enter the community—gathered with the deacon at a source of living water, such as a lake, river, or sea. The catechumens would be stripped naked and submerged in the water and held down, symbolic of dying to a former way of life. As each rose up from the water, the deacon would ask, “Do you believe in God the Father?” The catechumen would answer yes and be dunked again. Then he or she would be asked, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son?” The catechumen would respond, “I do,” and be dunked a third time. Finally, the catechumen would be asked, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” After responding, “I do,” the catechumen would come out of the water and be wrapped in a white, towel-like garment (the white symbolizing peace; baptism removes all sin and gives us peace). Then the deacon and the newly baptized would process into the midst of the community gathered in prayer with the bishop. The bishop would anoint the catechumen with oil in front of the community, confirming in public what had been done in private at the water source. The newly baptized and confirmed would then join the community for the remainder of the Eucharist. Remember that in our time during Lent the catechumens leave Mass before the Gospel and do not participate in the Eucharist. The sacraments of initiation would be then completed.
 
The Liturgy of the Word at the vigil is long; there are many readings telling the entire story of our salvation history. It starts with Genesis from the Hebrew Scriptures and ends with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The gospel reading is the story of the resurrection.
 
Many churches celebrate the Easter Vigil in two or three languages to acknowledge the demographics of the community. We are one Church, one Body of Christ, no matter what our language.
 
The Easter Vigil is our most sacred liturgical feast and celebration. It celebrates God’s unconditional love and our long history of articulating that love in sign and symbol, word, and song. Knowing why these symbols are used encourages us to reflect on their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual meaning in our daily lives. May we truly rejoice this Easter!
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).
 
Every canonical Gospel makes it clear that the empty tomb was discovered by women, and in each account, Mary of Magdala is among them. In John’s Gospel, she is the only one to discover the empty tomb. She runs to tell Simon Peter and “the other disciple,” and they set out for the tomb. When they arrive and enter, it is the other disciple who “saw and believed.” Peter does not yet believe. Both, however, “did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
 
It is indeed a dark moment for them. Mary, already overcome with grief, finds that her beloved teacher has been taken from his resting place. She runs to her companions, but they too don’t understand what has happened and offer no comfort. The empty tomb is the bridge between Jesus’ earthly ministry and his resurrection. It is through this dark moment of unknowing that the disciples must pass to encounter the risen Jesus, the life that will come from death.
 
It is ironic that on this day, the summit of our Christian celebration, we are presented with an account of the confusion, uncertainty, and sorrow of that first Easter. This gospel reading speaks to our own experiences of sadness, grief, and death. Often, we don’t understand, we don’t see how or where God is working in these situations. We want to trust, but we find ourselves lost in the darkness, hoping to find a light. In the readings that follow Easter we are given the hope that ultimately light and life will have the final word.
 
- How have you been able to find God at a time of darkness or grief?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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That we may grow in our desire to give ourselves over in love to God and God’s people as we pray for and reflect on the grace to let ourselves be loved.
 
Gracious and compassionate God,
as your Christian people,
we have been signed with the cross of your Son.
Place us once again near the cross of Jesus
to learn the lessons you long to teach.
Continue to re-form us by the life, death, and rising
of the Master who called us “friends.”
Stir in us the memory and power of his life.
May the gospel we cherish
become the sacred gift out of which
we fashion our lives anew.
We pray for wholeness
for ourselves and for our Church.
Do not allow our fears or resistance
to limit the power of your Spirit.
Bring forth in us the new life
that you see bound up
within our ignorance and pride.
Weep with us and over us again
until we unleash the contagion of your love,
and release those bound
by their own fears or others’ greed.
Make us eager to be among your people
as those who serve in love.
Through, with, and in Jesus, we give you thanks,
O lover of us all and giver of our loving. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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“The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest’” (Matthew 21: 8-9)
 
“They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him” (Matthew 27: 30-31).
 
Holy Week is a week of paradox. It begins with the triumph of waving palms and shouting hosanna to the son of David. But it soon becomes a very sad scene. The same king whom the crowds glorified is betrayed with a kiss, arrested, tortured, and finally crucified. Triumph is quickly transformed into tragedy.
 
How do we understand this paradox of the Lord’s Passion? The names “Palm” Sunday and “Passion” Narrative are not contradictory terms but rather are melded together in the Paschal Mystery which inseparably unites the dying and rising of Jesus. It weds tragedy to triumph, shame to glory, sorrow to joy.
 
It is here that the Paschal Mystery has a connection to our lives. We cannot wait for all our crosses to be lifted so that we can experience only complete joy. For us, joy comes mixed with sorrows; roses bloom, but the thorns remain.
 
Through the Passion readings we see that Jesus lived the full gamut of human reality. He expressed happiness with his family and friends, satisfaction in accomplishing his mission, fulfillment from seeing the fruits of his labor. Jesus also experienced the pain of disappointment, anger, betrayal, rejection, and both physical and mental torture. By walking closely with Jesus in these days of Holy Week, we remind ourselves that he is walking closely with us through every step of our sorrow and joy.
 
- What lesson does the suffering of Jesus teach you about your own suffering?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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That we may discover new reverence for the mystery of the Communion of Saints which transcends time and space to unite us with one another.
 
O Holy Trinity, God of love,
breathe in us, move among us,
gather us into you.
Resettle us on the soil of our earth
to free one another
through the mutual exchange of the varied gifts
with which you bless us.
Unbind us from our fears,
unite us in our shared sorrows,
enlarge us with the deep and simple sharing of our joys.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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A couple of months ago I gave the opening keynote address, entitled “Evangelization Matters,” at the Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leaders in Baltimore. To begin I shared the story about Pope Francis celebrating his first Holy Thursday liturgy as pope in a juvenile detention center in Rome. For me, this is a story of the New Evangelization and why it matters. Pope Francis washed feet in a prison instead of Rome’s grand Basilica of St. John Lateran. Instead of the traditional 12 priests, he washed, dried, and kissed the feet of 12 young inmates—outcasts who live on the margins of society. He went even farther—he dared to wash two young women’s feet and the feet of a Muslim. He did not have to say anything—he just did it! His simple, loving action reverberated around the world. Speaking to the young offenders, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service. “This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service. Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us,” the pope said.
 
I can only wonder what this encounter with Christ through the pope’s gesture of foot washing meant to these young people. And what will this encounter with the welcoming and merciful Christ mean for their lives in the future? Yes, evangelization matters. The pope’s example at that prison was not only a living out of the indiscriminate love of Christ but a call to everyone who witnessed it to do the same. The pope was renewing the challenge we hear first from Jesus, succinctly expressed in a song of Weston Priory: “The Lord Jesus after eating with his friends washed their feet and said to them: Do you know what I your Lord have done to you, I have given example so you must also do.”
 
As the pope reminds us in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), evangelization is the joy-filled work of touching peoples’ minds and hearts and lives with the saving, healing, liberating good news of Jesus Christ who came not to be served but to serve. Evangelization is bringing the joy of the Gospel to the heart of our world by making God’s reign of justice and peace a reality in all of creation. Yes, evangelization matters.
 
The unlimited love of Jesus bends before us, washes us clean, and urges us to go forth and be foot washers especially to the least among us. Jesus sends us out with the joy of the Gospel: will you go?
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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get_organizedDon’t know where to start as you launch small Christian communities in your parish? If your parish team has been in place for a while, is it still all it needs to be to help your small communities stay relevant and vibrant? Wondering how to tell what effect small communities are having on the parish at large and how to maximize their impact? Here are some ideas that can help answer those questions.
 
 
First, let’s identify the challenges:
- We need to plan effectively, but we are not sure how to proceed.
- How do we improve on what’s out there?
- How do we keep the small communities together?
- How can we address some of the areas that need improvement?
 
Mind mapping
Draw a circle in the middle of a page and write a goal in it. Draw lines radiating out from the circle and on each line list a task that is required to reach the goal. Then below each line write the name of a person who will accomplish the task. This is a simple method that works.
 
Review your Parish Team
If your parish team has been in place for two years or more, has it lost some important elements? Is it still representative of the parish? Do you still have young adults involved? Teens? Is the ethnic/cultural diversity of the parish reflected on the parish team? It will be hard to organize effectively without these pieces in place and these voices being heard.
 
Focus groups
Feedback from others can help pinpoint areas for growth and improvement. A helpful way to secure this, especially if your parish is large, is through focus groups. Using the parish directory, assemble a few random groups that are a representative sample of the parish and ask them to meet for 90 minutes to discuss several questions, such as, “How would you describe our parish to others?” “What could we do that would make you feel more involved in the parish?” “Have you considered joining a small community? Why, or why not?” “Has the parish done a good job of letting you know about small communities?” Record their answers, and arrange a meeting of the parish team to discuss and act upon these findings.
 
Small community bulletin boards
Consider putting up a bulletin board for each small Christian community. Put these somewhere in the parish hall or in a hallway that is frequently used. Each small Christian community could use it any way they want. They could put up pictures of their members, report on mission activities, advertise for new members, etc. This simple, easy-to-do idea is the single best way to help the entire parish to think of itself as a “community of communities.” Once the people begin to see the communities as real, united entities, rather than collections of individuals, you are on your way.

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“When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’
Martha said, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’ He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’ And Jesus wept.
Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, ‘Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.’ And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go’” (John 11:17, 21-27, 33b-35, 39-44).
 
When Lazarus first fell ill, Mary and Martha probably became pretty worried. Then again, they were good friends of Jesus of Nazareth, the one sent by God, who had cured so many people. They believed that all they had to do was let Jesus know and he would come heal their brother. Imagine their disappointment, their feelings of betrayal, when Jesus did not come soon enough, and Lazarus died.
 
When Jesus finally arrived, Martha and Mary each greeted him with the same accusation, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
Jesus accompanied both sisters in their own experience of grief, confirming the faith that Martha spoke aloud and joining in Mary’s tears. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus encounters people in dark moments and invites them into a new fullness of life through physical and spiritual healing. His journey through death to resurrection offers us hope in new life no matter what darkness may come. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said.
 
“Lazarus, come out! … Untie him and let him go.” These words carry meaning for us, too. We may be living in the dark, dank, dreary tombs of our bad habits and wrong choices, bound by prejudices, desires, attachments, and addictions. Even when we become dead to the fullness of life or to the needs and feelings of others, Jesus can resurrect us. The witness of history is that he has resurrected millions from sin, from inertia, from insensitivity, from selfishness, and his touch has not lost its ancient power.
 
- When have you experienced resurrection, or new life, coming from an experience of death or darkness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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That we may discover new areas or old resistances in our lives in need of God’s renewing touch. That we may let ourselves be healed and grow to greater wholeness for the glory of God and the sake of our world’s salvation.
 
Light of Truth, Beacon of Hope, Fire of Love,
in your light we see light.
Without you, we grope in darkness and shadows.
Be with us, Radiant God.
Give us new eyes,
that we may see the sufferings of others
and our tendency to be comfortable with injustice.
Give us new eyes,
that we may glimpse our own self-righteousness
and the self-interest that strangles compassion.
Give us new eyes,
that we may recognize you
in the face of the stranger,
the outcast, the haughty,
and serve you in serving them.
Give us new eyes,
that we may look on the world
that God so loves
with forgiveness, patience, and hope.
Give us your eyes,
O Light of Truth,
Beacon of Hope,
Fire of Love,
Christ, our Savior and Brother. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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Blind_Man“They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.’ So some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a sinful man do such signs?’ And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, ‘What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’
They answered and said to him, ‘You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?’ Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered and said, ‘Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped him” (John 13-17, 34-38).
 
Jesus was a busy person. Crowds thronged around him, and people constantly demanded his attention. And yet standing in the midst of a big crowd around the Pool of Siloam, Jesus gave his undivided attention to one blind man. This man was important enough for Jesus to give his time and complete attention to helping him. Jesus not only cured him but also gave him new hope and a new purpose in life. Jesus teaches us that each person has dignity and must be respected no matter what his or her condition. Measuring or judging others by achievements, good looks, success stories, wealth, talents—whatever—is not fitting for children of God. In doing that, we too are blind, without real sight. We need insight to see the worth and dignity of every human being. Without insight, we stay enclosed in our comfort zones with those whose presence puts us at ease. Jesus challenges us to move out of our safe harbor, to be “uncomfortable,” and include the excluded.
 
The blind man in the story went through a process to come to an understanding of who Jesus was. First, he saw Jesus as a man who did something wonderful for him. Then, he called Jesus a “prophet”—someone called by God to carry a divine message and who works for God’s vision on earth. Finally, the man came to confess that Jesus was the Son of God. He realized that Jesus was not someone who could be explained in human terms. In his closeness to God, his unfaltering love and care for others, Jesus lived more faithfully our human nature than any other human being ever has. He remains not only our greatest model but our greatest support as we strive to live as “more than human.”
 
- How can I overcome my own “blindness” to see the worth of others?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Gift us with greater freedom and simplicity in coming to know ourselves as beloved children, loved unconditionally by the God from whom we have nothing to hide.
 
Fountain of Life, Flood of Forgiveness,
Overflowing Cup of Mercy,
we drink from you, O Holy One.
You make our dry hearts moist again,
bring us back to life, and stand us up in grace
Confidently and joyfully, we look forward to the day
when we will become all that God has intended for us.
To this end, the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts in love.
If only we knew the gift we have been given.
O Spirit of Wisdom, teach us how to unfold.
You, who know us better than we know ourselves,
disclose us to ourselves.
Safely sheltered in you,
may we discover your merciful gaze
loving us in all those places
where we find it difficult to love ourselves.
O tender God, send us out to love others
from that place of mercy where you bathe us all.
We praise you and thank you for the gifts we can scarcely
understand and only barely imagine,
through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 

 
 
Excerpted from
Lenten Longings – Year A: Let Yourself Be…, available from RENEW International

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“The Church is essentially human and divine,
visible but endowed with invisible realities…”
Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), 2

 
The Catholic Church has traditionally relied upon symbols and sensual experience in order to convey the truths of its greatest mysteries including Christ’s Incarnation, his Crucifixion and Resurrection, the resurrection of the faithful at the end of time, the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine, the power of prayer, and the sacredness of all of creation.
 
The Lenten season and its liturgies provide us with ordinary elements and materials of life that point to deeper religious meanings.
 
Water—On the Third Sunday of Lent we hear the story of the Samaritan woman who is ultimately thirsting for new life but asks Jesus merely for a drink. He invites her to a new understanding of living water that goes beyond the literal, beyond what she can see and touch. We are reminded of the embryonic water of our mother’s womb, the baptismal water that made each of us a child of God and disciple of Christ, and the water in the font where we dip our hand as we enter the church and sign ourselves with the cross. Increase our thirst for you, O God.
 
Light and Darkness—On the Fourth Sunday of Lent we hear of the man born blind. There are many allusions to seeing and blindness in this reading, to choosing light or living in the dark. For many of us, judging by appearances is the primary obstacle to seeing the light. Sometimes clinging to our own partial piece of the truth and refusing to listen to God’s voice in another person highlights our blindness in everyday experiences. We need desperately to be healed of the blindness of our resistance, the prejudices that exclude others from our circles, our inability to see as God sees. Help us to see as you see, O God.
 
Bindings—The Fifth Sunday of Lent we meet Lazarus bound and already buried. In response to the request of his sisters, Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the grave to new life. For Christians, the cycle of dying and rising characterizes all of life. Each night we close our eyes and die to the day; each morning we rise to a new day of possibilities. Each spring we bury seeds in the ground only to see them burst forth as flowers and fruits, vegetables and grain. The risen life does not begin simply after we die. Eternal life breaks into time. There is so much more to life than we can see; there is so much more to love than we can hold; there is so much more to our intimate belonging to each other than we can contain. Symbols can help. When the eternity of God invades our mortal time-bound bodies, loosens our bindings, and sets us free, we begin to live as resurrected people. O God, set us free.
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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On the 2nd Sunday in Lent, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Sr. Terry received an email from an old friend: “The morning meditation in The Living Gospel suggested that I remember a transformative experience and share it. Okay, here it is.”
 
HoverflyI think it was the bug that did it. It flew like a hummingbird in short, straight lines with sudden, complete stops—this last one right in front of my face. It just hung there, as if suspended on a wire. Its wings were a blur as it searched me for whatever it is bugs search for. Then, apparently disappointed, it vanished.
 
I had not noticed any bugs on my first trip to Israel. That time I had come laden with thirty-five years of hopes and expectations and preconceived notions of The Holy Land: not Israel, not even Jerusalem, just “The Holy Land.” I had no room for bugs. I had come to find Jesus. I had come to renew my faith. Now don’t get me wrong. I was in no way disappointed with my first experience. In fact, at many sites I was profoundly moved. I was not disappointed, and yet…
 
Back to the bug…
 
I was playing guitar at a mass on the Northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. We had walked through the trees from the church to be right next to the water and out of sight of the tour buses and the other pilgrims. There was a pause after Communion to give us a time for silent meditation. And then, there it was, hanging in the air, shining golden in the sunlight. I wondered if Jesus had seen a bug like this. Of course he had. He had experienced everything that was present to me right now. That was my moment. I was totally captivated by the thought of this connection and, in that instant, time stopped. Everything else faded away. Two thousand years disappeared. Then, very slowly, I became aware—first of the sounds: the rustling whisper of the wind blowing through the trees, the gentle rhythmic rippling of the water against the rocky shore, the soft bright chatter of the birds in the trees. My eyes were the next to be opened. A tall, white bird walked slowly through the gently waving reeds by the shore. The glass clear water deepening to blue as the small cove opened out into the Sea of Galilee. The mottled browns and greens on the opposite shore, rose to the grey of the rocky Golan Heights with the sea blue sky and the soft, white clouds floating above. Warm, dry air with a faintly cool breeze on my face completed the moment. It was beautiful. Not because Jesus had been here. Not because a tour book had called it a “holy place.” No wonder Jesus had come here to rest with his friends. And though there certainly had been changes, the spirit of the place was the same for us as it had been for him two thousand years ago. In fully experiencing the moment, I had found Jesus.
 
I spend much of my life finding only what I expect to find: in people, in places, and even in myself. With God’s grace, may we all let go of our limits and find what God has hidden right in front of our eyes.
 
Jaime Rickert is a pastoral associate at St. Ann’s Church, Ossining, N.Y. Along with RENEW’s Sr. Terry Rickard and Sr. Maureen Colleary, Jaime was also a member of the Archdiocese of New York Parish Mission Team.

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Samaritan_Woman“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—Jesus answered and said to her, ‘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.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Go call your husband and come back.’ The woman answered and said to him, ‘I do not have a husband.’ Jesus answered her, ‘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.
What you have said is true.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one speaking with you.’
The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and came to him.
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me everything I have done.’ When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world’” (John 4:7, 9–18, 25-26, 28-30, 39-42).
 
The enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews was centuries old. Communication or contact with Samaritans was totally unacceptable to the Jews. And a strict Jewish man did not speak to a woman in public, lest it be misinterpreted and ruin his reputation.
 
This woman Jesus met at the well was not merely a Samaritan and a woman, but a woman of “ill repute.” So it is no wonder she was surprised that Jesus, a Jew, would speak to her, never mind request water from her.
 
Jesus tossed aside the conventions of the day to engage her, to draw her out until she admitted her own sinfulness. But rather than judge or condemn, Jesus treated her with the understanding and compassion central to God’s universal love.
 
Through this encounter, this transformative experience, this woman became the first person in the Gospel to recognize Jesus for who he truly was. She became not only a disciple but an evangelizer inspiring others to become his followers.
 
The Samaritan woman had a thirst to understand the meaning of her own life, to be treated with dignity, to feel love, to find inner peace. All these and more were quenched by that chance encounter at the well where she came to understand that Jesus is the only one who can truly satisfy all our inner thirsts.
 
- Where do you go to draw water to quench your inner thirsts?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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