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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

The Best Thing to Ever Happen

What’s the best thing that has ever happened to you? Can you think of it right now? (Husbands and wives are looking at each other thinking, “It better be me!”). This thing, whatever it is, is what captivates you – what drives you – what you talk about all the time. What has your heart?

My baby brother, Brian, is a runner. He has that special disorder that makes him strap on bright sneakers and go off at some sort of trot for some insane distance only to end up where he started. Most of the time, when I see his posts on Facebook, they are about “having a great run,” or “made a personal best this morning,” or “great beer at the end of the St. Patty’s Day 10K.”

When someone is ebullient about something they love, it can often be annoying to others who just don’t get it. But, I love hearing about it, because I love my brother. And there are far worse things he could be posting on social media!

But, you? What captivates you? What’s the best thing in your life now? I’d imagine that because you are here Jesus is very important to you. I think He is the best thing to ever happen to me – and that is exactly why I am a priest. Do you think your relationship with Christ is the most important thing in your life? If so, why the heck aren’t we talking about Him all the time?!

In this heart of Lent, we are going to hear about three encounters between Jesus and individuals. Starting this Sunday, Jesus will meet the Samaritan woman at the well, a man born blind, and his good (and dead) friend, Lazarus. Each of these Gospels will be long and detailed, and it is very important that we pay close attention to them. They are models of how that encounter with Jesus happens in our lives – and of what that encounter will do to us, if we see it for what it is.

Today, Jesus stops by a well to rest, and along comes the woman. It was about noon. John tells us the time, because that is important. At noon, folks in Jesus’ time would be pausing for lunch and a midday nap. No one would usually be at the well, as most people would’ve stopped by earlier to have water for the day. The woman deliberately chose to go when she knew that there was little chance of encountering anyone. Why? Well, we learn that her life was “irregular” – what, with several past husbands and a live-in boyfriend now. She was probably used to judging stares and comments: best for her to avoid that drama.

However, she does encounter someone. Jesus is there, and He is thirsty. The conversation starts innocently enough, but it soon turns to the woman’s needs, to her brokenness. Jesus’ words are reassuring and encouraging: “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Even aware of the woman’s “irregular” life circumstances, Jesus does not judge her harshly. He recognizes in her, and He draws out of her, a thirst for God – a thirst for wholeness and meaning – that He can satisfy. And the woman is changed.

Her fear dissolves. She returns to the village – probably stirring folks from a siesta – and she proclaims Jesus to them. “Come, see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” In other words, she becomes and evangelist because of her encounter with the Lord. In fact, the townspeople came back to Jesus and invited Him to stay on with them – so that they could get to know Him better – so that they could have their encounter with Him; and they were changed. They became what Pope Francis calls and “evangelizing community.”

Brothers and sisters, we too are an “evangelizing community.” This church is our town square, and here I tell you, “Come and encounter someone who has shown me everything, who gives meaning to my life, who is the Messiah!” Here, we encounter Jesus and are changed by that encounter. Then, we are sent forth to tell others and to invite them to encounter Him themselves.

If this Samaritan woman would have been around today, she’d have taken a “selfie” with Jesus and posted it everywhere. “Look who I found!” Like, Like, Like….

Are we aware that Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to us? Does that fact make any sort of difference in our lives? Are we ready to share that fact with everyone we know? This is what the encounter with Jesus is all about. God seeks us out; we encounter Him; we become evangelists and an evangelizing community; and we welcome others to invite Jesus into their lives.

That is an encounter worth sharing.

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