Friday, March 24, 2017
Unless we work the night shift, nighttime sleep is normal for us. Consider last night. Was it peaceful or restless? Full of sweet dreams or nightmares? Did your heart pound in the night with some real or imagined illness or did you wake refreshed? We either welcome the night or we put it off as long as we can. The night is our friend or our foe.
In the rich history of Scripture, the night is often spoken of as a time of holy encounters with God.
Jacob, for example, slept on a stone pillow in the Book of Genesis (28.10-28a) and as he slept, he saw angels moving up and down the ladder which reached from the ground to heaven. Then God came to Jacob, told him of his future and Jacob marveled: Truly God was in this place and I never knew it.
Some of the psalms invite us to regard the night as a holy time. “In the night, my inmost self instructs me. (Psalm 16.7) “You need not fear the terrors of the night ( Psalm 91.4). “By night may God’s song be on my lips (Psalm 42.8).
Nicodemus, a Pharisee came as a learner to Jesus by night and found in his encounter with Jesus the conviction that allowed him to join another Pharisee, Joseph of Arimethea in burying Jesus. At the end of the last supper, Jesus gave Judas a piece of bread, dipped in the dish. As soon as he took it, Judas left to betray Jesus. And it was night (John 13.30).
The night of Judas’ betrayal continued with the agony in the garden, the trial of Jesus, his imprisonment, and the denial of Peter. After the death and burial of Jesus, sometime before dawn on the third day, Jesus was raised up. By the time the women got there at dawn to anoint his body, Jesus was gone, the tomb was empty.
The new life of the Risen Lord of history began in the night in the garden. To borrow from Jacob so many centuries before. Truly, God was in this place, and we never knew it .
As the calendar hurries toward Holy Week and Easter, let the possibility of the holiness of the night become real for us. Let the night be a time to ask questions of Jesus as Nicodemus did. Let us welcome the night as a prelude to new life and welcome the day as the time to see what the night has revealed about God, about us. One night in particular calls us to celebrate it as holy: the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 15 – the nighttime feast of Easter, when all creation, all of salvation history, newcomers to faith, the tried and steadfast, come to greet the Holy One who transforms the night. Don’t be put off by the length of the Easter Vigil. Give yourself over to it. Immerse yourself in it as one is immersed in the waters of Baptism. Plan ahead to be there.
~ Sister Joan Sobala
Monday, March 20, 2017
Social scientists and geo-political analysts say that if there is to be a World War III, it will be fought over water.
Water is essential for life. Mindful of Lake Ontario to our north, and the Finger Lakes majestically spread out across our state, it’s hard to believe that water is also scarce.
The first and third readings for the third Sunday of Lent tell us that God is a water giver. God gives water to the grumbling Israelites through the staff of Moses and God gives it to the Samaritan woman through Jesus. “Whoever gives this water I shall give will never thirst. The water I shall give will become in you a spring of water gushing up for eternal life (John 4.14).” With this water that Jesus gives, our potential for growth and life is beyond our imaginings.
But it is not enough to take what the water-giver offers. We need to become the water-giver, Put on Christ. Become Christ and welcome the Samaritan woman who lives in our day.
Once, when I was working as a pastoral administrator in a rural area, I went to the home of a woman who wanted to have her child baptized. Pam’s home was in a rutted country lane in a rundown mobile home. The smell of ten cats assailed me as I walked in. In a cage across the small living room was a weasel. A half hour after we began our conversation, my eyes drifted to the cage. The weasel was out and about. I had to really concentrate on listening to Pam.
Besides baby Damian, there were three older children…by three different fathers, none of whom were married to Pam. Pam and Damian’s father were married. He was an epileptic. They were very poor.
Four children…four fathers. Today’s Samaritan woman. She wanted the water of life for her child, as she had for her older children.
Maybe we don’t know a Pam – but who is it that we are tempted to ignore because of the accidents of their birth or their lifestyle? Whom do we refuse a drink from our own precious well because they are strangers and we might not have enough? Whose life is diminished by our antagonism or worse, our indifference?
Jesus, sitting at the well at noonday risked rejection by the Samaritan woman. She could have turned her back on him, but they were open to each other and the water of life flowed between them.
Does the water of life flow between us when we meet strangers whose life-stories bear the scars of domestic warfare, crippling illness or more?
Give me a drink, Jesus says to the woman. Give me a drink the stranger says to us. Be ready to share the water of life. Let it flow.
~ Sister Joan Sobala