Tired, but putting others needs’ first
“Jesus, tired from His journey, sat down there at the well… A woman of Samaria came to draw water.”
In 1923, the Jewish theologian Martin Buber wrote an immensely influential little book entitled I and Thou. Buber’s main point is that there are two ways of relating to other people in our lives: We can see them as objects to be used — what Buber calls an “I-it” relationship; or we can see others as having feelings, dreams and needs as real and as important as our own that can be the basis for dialogue and relationship — an “I-Thou” relationship.
In his memoirs, Buber tells the story of how he came to his theory of I-Thou and I-It. When he was a professor of philosophy at a university in Germany, a young student came to see him. The student had received his draft notice to serve in the German army in World War I. He was a pacifist by nature and afraid of being killed in battle, but, at the same time, he was a loyal and fiercely patriotic German. He asked Buber what he should do: serve his country and risk being killed or claim conscientious objector status and perhaps leave another young man to be killed in his place.
Buber was in the midst a difficult theological-philosophical treatise and was annoyed at the young man’s claim on his time and attention. The professor said something along the lines of That’s a serious dilemma; do what you think is right.
The young man, in despair for lack of guidance, committed suicide, and Buber, for the rest of his life, felt a measure of guilt for not being more present to that young man, for seeing him only as an interruption and not as a human soul in torment. Buber felt he had sinned against the image of God in that young student by treating him as an object without needs and feelings.
In today’s Gospel, we hear about Jesus and the conversion of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
The Gospels, particularly St John’s gospel, sometimes give us little bits of information which seem irrelevant, but really are not. Like us, Jesus did get tired, He needed to take regular rest, He felt hunger and thirst; but despite His tiredness He does not waste an opportunity to do good to souls.
Jesus Christ, perfect God, perfect man, is tired out from His travels and His apostolic work. Perhaps there have been times when the same thing has happened to you and you have ended up worn out, because you have reached the limit of your resources. It’s a touching sight to see our Master so exhausted. He is hungry too: His disciples have gone to a neighboring village to look for food. And He is thirsty.
Suddenly, a Samaritan woman approaches to draw water from the well.
The origin of the Samaritan people goes back to the period of the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians in eighth century B.C. They were foreigners who very quickly integrated with the Israelites in the region. After the Babylonian captivity they tried to ally themselves with the Jews for political reasons and to contribute to the rebuilding of the temple, but the Jews would have none of them. From that time onwards the Jews and the Samaritans were always hostile to each other
Jesus has come to save what was lost. He spares no effort in this mission. The hostility between Jews and Samaritans was proverbial; but Jesus embraced everyone, He loved all souls and He shed His blood for each and every person. He begins this conversation with this woman, by asking a favor of her—which indicates God’s great respect for us: here we have Almighty God asking a mere creature to do Him a favor. “Give me a drink”: Jesus makes this request not just to share His physical thirst but because His love made Him thirst for the salvation of all people. When nailed to the cross He again said: “I thirst.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, whenever we get tired – in our work, in our studies, in our apostolic endeavors – when our horizon is darkened by lowering clouds, then let us turn our eyes to Jesus; to Jesus who is so good, and who also gets tired; to Jesus who is hungry and suffers thirst.
How well Our Lord makes Himself understood! How lovable He is! He shows us that He is just like us, in everything – in everything but sin, so that we can feel utterly sure that, together with Him, we can conquer all our evil inclinations, all our faults. For neither weariness nor hunger matters, nor thirst, nor tears… since Christ also grew weary, knew hunger, was thirsty, and wept. What is important is that we struggle to fulfill the will of our heavenly Father, battling away goodheartedly, for our Lord is always at our side.
It’s so easy for us to treat others as objects, to measure their worth by what they are able to do for us. We carelessly dismiss as unimportant if not undesirable those who distract us from our own agendas, who demand too much from us, who make us uncomfortable, who fail to live up to our expectations. We expect a great deal from one another — sometimes too much — and it seems there is no end to our disappointment in our spouses, our children, our parents, our coworkers, and our neighbors. Our standards of what is right and proper often drive some people to the edges of society, far away from us. The Samaritan woman is one such person. Her religious background and her nationality make her a nonperson in the eyes of Judaism; her lifestyle makes her a pariah among her own. But rather than reject her, Jesus calls forth from her a sense of faith and joy that enables her to confront her life, and in telling others of her encounter with Jesus, she becomes a source of faith and joy for others. May we be able to do the same: to move beyond the failings of others and our disappointment in them in order to call forth the good they possess and make it possible for them to use those gifts for the good of all.
So on this 3rd Sunday in Lent, I would like to leave you with this brief and touching story: Late one evening, St. Theresa of Lisueax, a great spiritual giant of the Carmelite order and doctor of the Church was on her way to bed for the night. It had been a rather stressful and exhausting day and she was extremely physically tired and emotionally weary. As she walked towards her cell, she noticed a piece of paper on the floor in the hallway. At first, she intended to ignore it because she was so so tired, but then she decided to pick the piece of paper up and throw it away in the trash outside, in spite of her weakened condition. St. Theresa offered this simple act as an act of love for Our Lord.
After she fell asleep, she was awakened by a spirit of a man who had just died. This man then thanked St. Theresa. St. Theresa of Avila, did not recognize the man and simply asked “why?” The spirit of the man who had just died replied, “because of your simple act of love for Jesus, for picking up that piece of paper and throwing it in the trash when you were tired and didn’t want to, Our Lord gave me special graces on my deathbed which allowed me to repent and ask for His forgiveness. Instead of going to Hell, my soul has now been saved!”
Even the simplest act, like picking up a piece of paper when you’re tired, done out of love for Our Lord, is pleasing enough for Him to grant sufficient grace to convert a sinner on their deathbed.
Mary, Mediatrix of all graces, pray for us!