All concern that overrides all other issues in life is our worry about the corona virus. We will leave this theme, its practical implications, to the end of mass-notices. It is real shock to all of us. This week end I was thinking a lot about it. A lot is in our power about what happens, and a lot is not. I concluded that our faith is the biggest support, and it is wise to embrace this sustenance.
That is why it is so important to keep our heads above the water. Our Lenten season offers this so required distance from all our genuine fears. That is why it is so good to know that the divine flow of hope - the wisdom of the church, its set prayers, the Biblical readings for the week - is uninterrupted. It is not an escapism. We prayed the stations of the Cross on Friday, we had our morning and evening prayers and daily mass (online and in person) - and these prayers were about similar anxieties about life and salvation. We can feel how God breathes both the call for repentance and hope upon the people of the covenant. We should not miss this contact.
The Benedictine nun of Stanbrook Abbey, sister Laurentia captures this moment of contact beautifully. In her Lenten meditation for today she highlights one single moment. This is the birthplace our faith, hope, and love in God. ‘The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shimmers with the same unexpected energy: there must surely have been eloquent eye contact between this woman and the divine-human Word who emphathises with our deepest need. In “The Samaritan Woman”, a poem he published before he was elected Pope, Karol Woytila writes: Within your eyes, I,/ drawn by the well,/am enclosed.’
In our coming week, let us meditate on two aspects of this encounter. Lent has the powerful look of Jesus, actually, as a spiritual encounter, Lent is when our eyes can meet God’s eye. So, let us ponder on what this exchange of glance might feel, and what conscious change can it bring about. Sister Laurentia suggests ‘removing other things which may be clogging up the interior well, especially busy-ness and false desires, and giving ourselves space and silence to be aware that we are “thirsting for God.”’ She continues, ‘It can be tempting to fill the void with other, shorter-term satisfactions… If, like the Samaritan woman, we can enter into honest dialogue with Jesus through prayer and openness to the Scriptures, none of these blockages need be a barrier; all can be removed by the Word who knows us and thirsts for our love… the heart will begin to function as it was made by God to do!’ (The Tablet, 14 March 2020, p.10.) Let this latter be our desire and objective in this Lent: what it means that ‘our heart will begin to function as it was made by God to do.’
In order to be set on this journey for the remainder of Lent, let the following image from Saint Francis de Sales assist us. He has a beautiful image describing how love is practiced in hope. ‘When the falconer removes the hood from his bird and it sights its prey, it immediately launches itself upon the wind and if held back by the leash, it struggles with extreme ardour on the falconer’s hand. So too when faith has dawn aside the veil of ignorance and has made us see our supreme good, which we still cannot possess because we are held back by the conditions of this mortal life, it is thus that we desire it./ When our intellect has been properly turned to consideration of what faith presents as its supreme good, the will immediately takes great joy in this divine object. Even through it is still absent, it begets an ardent desire for its presence. Hence the soul utters a holy cry, “Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth. It is God for whom I sigh/For him my soul does cry.”’
So let these two images remain and challenge us, ‘the exchange of glances’ in today’s Gospel, and the moment when the ‘falcon is set free’.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..