“God, where are you?” This was the question that was repeatedly dropping from the lips of a certain widow who lost three of her kids in a carnage while they were returning from school. A motorist suddenly lost control and rammed into the defenseless children who were holding each other and waiting for the right time to cross the busy road.
You may be asking the same question looking at your finances, relationship, marriage, job, education, plans, aspirations, and other things. Perhaps you have committed your situation to God in prayer, but no answer seems to be coming. You may have given up finally; you are in doubt if God exists?. You are not alone, but you have a message from this reflection.
The people of Israel asked this question in the wilderness as the First Reading today tells us (Exodus 17:3-7). Let us quickly point out the fact that the question came from their wilderness location. Geographically, the wilderness is a desolate and inhospitable place. Wilderness in this context represents a region of lack and needfulness.
The wilderness experience was so frustrating that the Israelites lost their cool and started to chide Moses for making them leave Egypt. They suddenly forgot that Egypt was torture and bondage for them. They suddenly forgot what God did to bring them out from the land of Egypt (Exodus 7-14). We are often like the people of Israel. We often forget all the good things we have received from God when we face one challenge or the other.
It is important to note that the people of Israel were rebelling against God, not Moses. Moses was God’s messenger and servant. The accusatory question they asked finally confirmed their frame of mind: “is the Lord in our midst or not?” This question is banal and amounts to an insult. Through Moses, God responded by giving them fresh water to soothe their thirst and those of their livestock. For their unfaithfulness, God remained faithful because He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13). For their challenge, God gave them a chance. For their sin, God gave them mercy and forgiveness. For their lack, God supplied all their needs (Phil.4:19). For their trouble, God gave them peace (Phil. 4:7).
We ask the same question as the people of Israel when we have a disconnection from God; when we get lost in some wilderness like the woman in the Gospel of today (John 4:5-42). The unnamed woman in the Gospel shares some characteristics with the Israelites:
- They were both in need.
- They were both having a disconnection from God.
- They were both unfaithful.
- They needed divine intervention in their situations.
In the long discussion, our Lord had with the woman we understand that she came to draw water from Jacob’s well by noon time. Our Lord Jesus Christ was already there, and he requested water from her. She gave some religious and cultural reasons why she would not give water to our Lord Jesus Christ.
From the narrative, we can see that she, like the people of Israel, is stuck with the same question: “is the Lord in our midst or not?” Her pattern of life does not present her as someone who is actively waiting for the Lord to come; though she is aware of the coming of the Messiah at some point per the books, it does not have a personal impact on her private life.
Her life was thirsty not necessarily for the water from the well but for the eternal water; the one that quenches our soul’s thirst for God like a dry, weary land without water (Psalm 63:1).
The woman at the well presents most of us who mistake spiritual thirst for physical thirst. She represents most of us who are going about with “jars of water” looking for temporal water while there is an eternal water that will forever quench our thirst there before us. She represents most of us who are still asking the question: “is the Lord with us or not?”
- The Lord is in our midst because He says the He is the Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
- The Lord is in our midst because He says I will bless those who bless and those who curse you I will curse (Gen. 12:3).
- The Lord is in our midst because He promised that He would be with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9).
- The Lord is in our midst because He says that we should not fear; He is with us (Isaiah 41:10).
- The Lord is in our midst because He says that He will be with us till the end of time (Matt.28:8).
- The Lord is in our midst because He says that even when we walk through the shadow of the valley of death, He will be there to comfort us with His rod and staff (Psalm 23:4).
- The Lord is in our midst because nobody can be against us (Romans 8:31).
Are you still in confusion whether God is in our midst or not? There is a challenge of faith here. In the Second Reading (Romans 5:1-2,5-8) St. Paul tells us among other things that faith justifies us when we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. My dear your faith will never fail you. Faith favors the faithful followers.
A good time does not indicate God’s presence and a bad time, the absence of God. God’s presence is constant and unchanging. The problem is that we are often not with God. We depart from God when we embark on the journey into sin. We deviate from God when we, like the Israelites, lose our focus and blame God for our failures.
Now is the time for us to depart from the wilderness of quarreling and testing God and enter the region of trust and obedience to God. The time for that transition is today. The response to the Psalms says If you hear his voice, harden not your heart.
May this third Sunday of Lent enrich you with dependable graces to rise from despair to deep faith in God who is constantly with you in all the circumstances of your life. Have a graceful Sunday and more graces.