Third Sunday of Lent, Year A-2011
- Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me (Ps. 51:4—NAB)
As I already said in my previous reflection, we examine our conscience that we may return to the Lord (Lam. 3:40). To return to God, to be converted and converse with him face to face, this means transformation, even if it does not necessarily imply the shining face and the clothes, white as light, of the transfiguration (cf. Mt. 17:1; Ex. 34:29-30).
But, yes, part and parcel of transformation is behaving like the good Samaritan, the one considered unclean and a pariah because of his ethnicity, yet was the one who showed himself a neighbor to the robbers’ victim, treating him with mercy and going out of his way to help (Lk. 10:25-37). One transformed cannot play the priest or the Levite, each of them was supposed to model neighborliness, but passed by on the opposite side, self-absorbed and keenly aware of the legal prescriptions regarding ritual purity. To be transformed is to believe in Jesus, the Lord even of the Sabbath, who taught, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27-28). Jesus is the Lord too of the holy orders, the hierarchical structure, the sanctuary, the tabernacle, the sacramentary, the lectionary, the hymnal, the liturgical vestments, the books, the codices and all things pertaining to the Church, all of which have been made for the people of God, not the people of God for them. One transformed acknowledges, in other words, that no commandment is above love, since on love depend the Law and the prophets, in love are they summed up and through love are they fulfilled (Mt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:9-10).
To be converted is to follow Jesus, the Good Samaritan par excellence. Made to be a curse and sin for us to ransom us from the curse of the law and to make us the righteousness of God, this despised and rejected by men is the one who approaches us to bandage our wounds and heal us by his wounds (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Is. 53:3, 5; 1 Pt. 2:21-24). Geography does not demand that the one who identifies with the despised passes through Samaria, but he does so anyway. Morally speaking, Jesus has to reach out to the Samaritans, although Jews are not supposed to have anything in common with them, since they are looked down upon as heretics, schismatics, spurious worshipers of the God of Israel and worse than pagans. One who is converted imitates Jesus who died for us ungodly human beings, through which God proves his love for us. One who is converted does not ignore nor does he scorn strangers no matter how different or even how immoral they may be. One who is converted does is not afraid to engage them in a conversation and does not readily fulminate censures, even though they show lack of intelligence and are slow to understand (not altogether unlike the disciples who wondered whether someone could have brought Jesus something to eat), worshiping what they do not understand and apparently confusing “living water” with “flowing water” .
One who is converted does not, of course, compromise his faith; rather, he affirms unambiguously and indicates clearly from whom comes salvation. He is not so focused either on the center or headquarters of worship that he fails to help bring about the true worship of the Father in Spirit and truth. A converted person goes to meet where the mistaken and unknowing others are at, reaches out to them and leads them slowly and patiently to him who gives the assurance, “I am he,” and into becoming eventually preachers of the good news to the poor and marginalized.
One who is converted does not let himself be tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching, but he is not afraid of innovations any more than he wants to quench the Spirit or despise prophetic utterances (Eph. 4:14; 1 Thes. 5:19-20). Like St. Vincent de Paul, one who is converted is aware of the dangers of novel and personal opinions but without losing the inventiveness that makes for the resurgence in the Church of something wholly new and never seen before, as Sisters, for example, whose monastery is the abode of the sick, whose cell a hired room, whose chapel the parish church, whose cloister the public streets or the wards of hospitals, whose enclosure obedience, whose grate the fear of God, whose veil holy modesty .
To be transformed is to allow oneself to be surprised by God’s new works, like those done in Samaria and Caesarea (cf. Acts 8 and 10). And true and transformed disciples of Jesus are we, if instead of murmuring about him and among ourselves, we let ourselves be nourished and amazed by the teaching that in order not to die of hunger and thirst in the desert, we have to eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn. 6:41-54). Indeed, God is in our midst!
-  Cf. footnote 6 on Jn. 4:10 in The New American Bible.
-  CRCM XI, 7; RDC I, 2.