Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42
What is it that has causes you to follow a man who walked the earth about 2,000 years ago, never traveled too far from his home and died a criminal’s death? Why do you go to church on Sundays and, for that matter, why are you reading this column?
My guess is that a big part of the answer to those questions is connected to a number of people in your life. Maybe the main people who influenced your faith are your parents. Maybe it was one of your relatives, a friend, a priest or youth minister. I do not think there are many disciples of Jesus who got to that faith totally on their own.
In my own case, I can point to my parents, many priests, my youth minister and a number of friends. Each of them in some way witnessed to me about what Jesus had done for them. Their stories had such an effect on me that I decided to surrender my heart to him as well.
Soon after this surrender, I began to encounter Jesus in a more personal way and before I knew it, my faith in Jesus was not based on the words of others but on my own experience of the living God.
This same story plays out in this week’s Gospel. The woman at the well encountered Jesus in such a powerful way that she went back home and told about her experience. Not long afterward, the people of the town say this: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
This is how the Christian faith spreads. We first hear about God from others, but for faith to have its deepest impact we must believe based on our own experience of the God who, as St. Paul puts it, “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, (he) died for us.”
It is one thing to stand on the shoulders of others, but it is even more important to stand on your own experience of God and his saving love.