Today’s readings serve as a kind of instruction manual in how to lead a life of faith.
The psalm, for example, lays out the starting point of faith, reminding us of the importance of being receptive to the Word of God, to keep our hearts from hardening so that we can celebrate the gift of our salvation.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans then lists of the benefits of faith, noting that faith brings us both peace and hope.
But it is both the first reading and the gospel that show us actual examples of faith in action. In the First Reading, from Exodus, we find a Moses who appears pretty much at the end of his rope. The journey into the wilderness is clearly not an easy one and everyone is complaining to him about his leadership. Moses cries out to God, “ What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
In spite of this challenging climate, though, Moses still turns to God for answers and follows God’s instructions on how to answer his people’s needs. Rather than seeking an easy out, Moses trusts in God. (Lest we are left with the impression that Moses possesses a superhuman faith that we couldn’t possibly emulate, he proves he’s human by naming the place where his flock has stopped Massah and Meribah, which translate to testing and quarrelling. Courageous – but human!)
Then, in the gospel, we encounter another extraordinary example of faith, this time, from a Samaritan woman whose background does not predispose her to hear the message of Jesus. The woman is very direct in her questioning of Jesus. Clearly, there is something in the discussion of living water that appeals to her, transcending the enmity that existed between the Samaritans and the Jews. She exemplifies the message of the psalm, remaining open to—and open-minded about—Jesus’ message.
Like Moses, the Samaritan woman also shows her human side. When she returns to the city and speaks of her encounter with Jesus, she is so amazed at her experience that she has to ask: “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
As people of faith, we will question, as questioning is part of the process that leads to spiritual growth. We have to recognize what we profess in order to embrace it. Clearly the Samaritan woman embraces her belief, because she succeeds in drawing many others to believe as well. And it truly is belief, because, as her audience tells her, “ we have heard ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.”
-Catherine Mulroney, Editor of Living with Christ, Canada’s companion to praying and living the Eucharist.