Into His Marvelous Light (through Mary’s Seven Sorrows)
“…that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Woman at the Well
I am a woman at the Well of Jesus’ Heart. No, I am the woman at the Well of Jesus’ Heart. Of course, I am not the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at Jacob’s well, as recounted in John 4:4-42. Yet, I now know that every woman who seeks to receive the living water of Jesus’ Heart is the woman whom He has called to be intimate with Him, to receive His unconditional love—His infinite mercy—for all eternity. Likewise, every man who comes to Him, thirsty for His love and mercy, is the man He is calling--the disciple—the brother, the intimate friend—whom Jesus loves unconditionally for all eternity, whom He knows in all of his uniqueness.
“…O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1)
I would like to share with you some excerpts from my prayer journal, in which I dialogue with Jesus through sharing my heart with Him, and listening to His Heart’s thoughts, emotions, and wisdom. Here is a part of my journal entry of 11-2-13:
“…It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ “
It occurs to me, Lord, that before we can receive the living water of Your Spirit, we must give You a drink by opening our hearts with desire to receive Your gift.
Will You say more to me about this, Jesus? Jesus responds: “Know My Heart, My child.” What must I do to “know Your Heart,” Jesus? “The more you open your heart, the more you will know My Heart.”
Then on 11-5-13:
“The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How is it that You, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (John 4:9)
There is a place deep in my heart, Lord, where I wonder how You—the Holy One of God, the Son of God, “One in being with the Father,” so perfect—can be so intimate with me, a great sinner. And You know better than anyone else that I’m a great sinner, Lord, and yet You cherish me and embrace me.
Will You speak to me about this, Jesus? I feel so unworthy to be intimate with You. Jesus says, “My love creates you beautiful.” My understanding is that You see what is good and beautiful in me—created by You—and You increase my goodness and beauty, as Your goodness and beauty penetrate me.
I think that You also have communicated to me that it is only your view of me that is a clear, true view. Neither I nor others can see me clearly. You want me to accept Your view of me as good and beautiful…
[When, as a young, single woman I had so many loveless, uncommitted sexual relationships, I was robbing myself (and being robbed) of the goodness that the Lord had created in me, and marring my soul to the point that the beauty in it was covered like a house that is completely covered by the soot of a fire.]
I reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s description in The Interior Castle, Chapter 2, about the effect of mortal sin on the soul:
1. BEFORE going farther, I wish you to consider the state to which mortal sin brings this magnificent and beautiful castle, this pearl of the East, this tree of life, planted beside the living waters of life which symbolize God Himself. No night can be so dark, no gloom nor blackness can compare to its obscurity. Suffice it to say that the sun in the centre of the soul, which gave it such splendour and beauty, is totally eclipsed, though the spirit is as fitted to enjoy God’s presence as is the crystal to reflect the sun.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (John 4:10)
I knew the gift of God, Lord, when as a seven year old child I made my First Communion, and I experienced Your loving, holy Presence filling my heart, and my heart fell in love with Your Heart. Every time I walked into a Catholic church after that, I felt Your holy Presence, and I felt loved and secure. Even after I left the Catholic Church at the age of thirteen, following my father’s lead into the Church of Christ, I knew the gift of God when I encountered You in Holy Scripture, which I read daily. You were my Constant Companion and my Best Friend.
But then, as I shared in the last chapter, after I lost my beloved youngest sister, I rejected belief in that gift. I turned away from You, Lord, and, in doing so, I lost the grace that had sustained me. My heart was totally empty without the living water of Your Presence.
And it became easy for the enemy to seduce me into empty relationships, as I tried futilely to fill my heart’s emptiness, but as each transient relationship ended, my heart became ever more empty.
“…for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? (John 4:11)
Without the gift of God, who is the Holy Spirit, we cannot see eternal reality, the treasures buried beneath the surface. We can only see the things of this world; we can only hear audible words, and cannot distinguish between those that are true and those that are the lies of the evil one. We can only feel with the flesh, not with the heart’s more subtle “hands,” which the Lord takes in His to lead us.
“Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" (John 4:12)
Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we receive in Baptism and in Confirmation—the gift that grows in us through a Heart to heart relationship with Jesus—we cannot see that there is only One who is truly great, “One who is good,” One who can fill the deepest yearnings of our hearts. Without that relationship with God, our hearts (which were created to worship) make idols out of creatures, or other forms of God’s creation. The more we idolize creation, instead of our Creator, the more we distance ourselves from Him.
Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)
I share a little more of my prayer journal with you:
What do You want me to write about this Scripture? Jesus responds: “Know My Heart.” What do You want me to know in Your Heart, Jesus? “You know, My child, My mercy and love. You know, because it lives in your heart, and it has ‘become…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ “
How do You want me to share that “spring of water,” Jesus? “In all of your relationships you share it. It flows out constantly like an artesian well.”
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." (John 4:15)
Paradoxically, the emptiness that grew ever more painful in me during my young womanhood became the bucket that I carried to the well of Jesus’ Heart—the bucket filled with my seemingly insatiable thirst for love.
I remember that, somewhere in my late twenties, I began to feel desperate for a meaningful love relationship. At the time I worked as a secretary at an insurance agency, and it was not a very busy place. So I had plenty of time to read, to think my own thoughts, to write, or whatever. One day I decided to internally ask the question—to whomever would answer me internally, because I still didn’t believe in God: “How can I find love? I asked that question, silently, over and over again, for hours. Then the God that I didn’t believe in decided to answer me: “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick…”
It was an answer that obviously did not come from my own mind, because I was not ready for it at all. How was that going to keep me warm at night? That was not what I was looking for—I thought. Did you hear the question wrong? I was too immature at that time to realize that we find love, not through focusing on our own needs, but by lovingly meeting the needs of others.
And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said, "All these I have observed from my youth." And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. (Luke 18:18-23)
I was sad that day that God tried to lead me back to following Him, because I was not yet ready to give up my own false expectations of what was good for me. I thought I was “rich” with my own ideas about what would provide the love I was searching for. It took me another two or three years of reading popular psychology books, eastern meditation books, and whatever else that caught my fancy, that I thought might contain the answer I was looking for—two or three more years of “hewing out cisterns for myself, broken cisterns, that can hold no water”—before I began to realize that what I was looking for is what I had left behind: the gift of faith, the precious gift of Jesus, who is our Hope; the gift of God, who is Love.
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." (John 4:16-18)
I have pondered these words many times. What I have desired, as I pondered them, is to hear Jesus speaking them. I have wondered, “What was His attitude and His tone in speaking them to her?”
If those words would have been spoken by one of her neighbors, most likely there would have been a note of self righteousness, judgment, and maybe even contempt in them. That neighbor would probably have considered herself better than her. After all, the neighbor was probably married to one man all of her married life; she was probably a very respectable woman.
That was why the Samaritan woman came to the well at noon time, and that was the time of the greatest blessing of her life. Because she would not go there in the early morning, when most of the women of the village would be drawing water, and she would have had to endure the pain of being shunned over and over…she had the gift to come there when she could encounter Jesus alone, and receive from Him the gift of God. It is a beautiful example of how our pain can become our medicine when we encounter Jesus.
Though I have never audibly heard Jesus’ voice, my experience with Him in my heart gives me the knowledge that His attitude toward the Samaritan woman, when they met at the well, was the polar opposite of the judgmental attitudes of her neighbors.
For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)
My experience tells me that every word He spoke to that woman was a loving word. It was His love that moved Him to reveal the truth of that woman’s life. It was His desire to set her free from her sin, from her guilt, from her shame, and from her isolation, that moved Him to speak openly to her about the truth of her life. In addition to that, in pondering that passage repeatedly, I have come to the conclusion that He respected that woman for her honesty and sincerity. Jesus, who is the Truth, respects all who speak the truth.
Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly."
When I began to seek to come into a relationship with Jesus once again, He knew all of my sins. If He would have had the attitude of this world, He might have said, “You are a sinner; what makes You think that you are worthy to even be in the presence of the Son of God?” Or, at best, He might have said, “Go clean up your act first, and then come back, and I might consider accepting you.”
“…the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Only the Lord can look on the heart; we cannot see inside a person’s heart, and that is one of the main reasons that we are not qualified to judge. The Lord, who knew every sinful relationship that I had had, also knew what in my heart had led me into those relationships. He saw my wounds. He saw my distorted image of womanhood. He saw the darkness in which I was lost. He saw my desperate loneliness. I am not denying that I committed mortal sins. It was in confessing my mortal sins that I was forgiven and freed from them. But the Lord also knew that it is only through His grace and mercy that I could “clean up my act,” and, when I returned to Him thirsty for His love, His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy, He poured them out freely on me.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
He also has always known the plans He has had for my marriage of almost 27 years to my faithful husband, who loves all of me: my body, my soul, my heart, and my mind…my husband, who cherishes me.
And, at the same time, Jesus also knows that He is the Husband of my soul, the one that I cling to and will cling to for eternity. He is the gift of God to me.
The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” (John 4:19)
What do you perceive that Jesus is, little handmaid? No, I didn’t ask: “What do you believe that Jesus is? Most likely your parents taught you from an early age that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and you believed them, and that is good, because it is the truth. But Jesus is calling you to go beyond belief to “perception”, and that “perception” can only come from a personal experience of Him.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli'jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13-15)
Jesus is asking you that question, and He wants you to answer, not just based on what your parents, your pastor, or your religion teacher taught you. He wants to know what your experience of Him is? He wants you to grow up in your faith by coming into an intimate relationship with Him, so that you will truly know Him. He wants you to express your heart to Him.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:20-24)
We Catholics who believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church believe that the Holy Mass is the place where true worship is offered to our Heavenly Father, the place ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper, the Sacrifice and Paschal Banquet that continues at every Mass.
Yet, I believe that the Lord has given me the understanding that, for us to worship the Father in spirit and truth, we must do more than attend Mass. We must do more than to make all of the correct postures and gestures; more than to pray all of the correct words; more than to listen to the Scriptures and the homily (with our minds, but not with our hearts); more than to receive the Consecrated Bread and Wine.
The Father is calling us to do more, even, than to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. That is a foundational belief of our faith, and without that belief we cannot come into an encounter with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist,; but we must learn to—not just believe in His Real Presence—but to be present with Jesus and, in this way, experience His Presence with us. Though we cannot physically see Jesus, we are called to be present in our hearts with Jesus, like the Apostles were present with the Master whom they loved at that first Eucharistic meal. If we receive Holy Communion without encountering Jesus in our hearts, it is as if we are receiving a “hand-out” from a stranger; a situation in which we do not have any special feelings for the food or the giver of the food.
The Father is calling us to be true worshipers.
At the Last Supper Our Lord communicated to His Apostles, who had been His faithful servants, doing whatever He told them, that He now called them friends.
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
As little handmaids, Jesus and Our Sorrowful Mother have called us servants, because we have fervently desired to do God’s will and have been endeavoring to do so. That is a great honor to be called a servant of the Lord. Now Jesus is calling us to be more than servants, to be His friends, so that He can “make known to each of us all that He has heard from His Father.” In order to become Jesus’ friends, we must first be faithful servants; we must trust that He is our Friend; and we must come into a Heart to heart relationship with Him. To be called His friends, we must truly desire to be His friends, and we must do our best to become His true friend, worthy of His confidence.
The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."
The Samaritans, like the Jews, had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah to come. I believe that the woman was speaking at this point with the desire of her people, and her own more personal desire, to be delivered from all that held her captive. Jesus responded to her desire by revealing Himself to her.
Likewise, if you fervently desire to have a Heart to heart relationship with Jesus, He will grant you that gift. If you do not yet desire that gift, and you would like to desire that gift, pray that the Holy Spirit will grant you that desire. If you come into that Heart to heart relationship with Jesus, you will no longer just believe He is the Savior; you will experience Him as your Savior in your heart. You will experience Him as your Brother; your Master; your Friend; and maybe one day—as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called Him, your All in all.
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world." (John 4:39-42)
I am the woman at the Well of Jesus’ Heart, and the joy of the Lord is overflowing from my heart. I hope that through this chapter, His living water is flowing from His Heart, through me, to you. And, most of all, I hope that my testimony will help to move you to seek your own Heart to heart relationship with Jesus.
To come into that relationship, you must commit to spend time in the Lord’s Presence each day. It can be time spent before the Blessed Sacrament or time at home. Your heart is meant to be His tabernacle. You must find a time and place of solitude and silence, separate from others and from external distractions. You can begin with as little as five minutes each day, and, if you pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you, He will enable you to gradually increase your time to the amount that Our Father has planned for you. I pray you will give yourself and Him that gift this Advent.
“And they shall not teach everyone his fellow or everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrew 8:11)