Today’s post begins with some sage advice from the Book of Sirach. It will end with two passages from the Gospel of John. The first verse for today covers the importance of wise counsel:
16 A wooden beam firmly bonded into a building
will not be torn loose by an earthquake;
so the mind firmly fixed on a reasonable counsel
will not be afraid in a crisis.
You can never go wrong by surrounding yourself with other wise people. Think of it as mutual reinforcement of each others mental and spiritual structures.
27 O that a guard were set over my mouth,
and a seal of prudence upon my lips,
that it may keep me from falling,
so that my tongue may not destroy me!
Something I wish I was better at was keeping silent. While I’m not exactly gregarious, I have a problem with speaking when I shouldn’t. As Scripture is oft to remind us, rarely do we do better by speaking than bridling our tongue.
15 Slander has driven virtuous women from their homes,
and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.
I found this verse interesting, because my initial interpretation of what was likely not what the author intended. He probably warned against slander as it ruined the name of virtuous wives, whose husbands divorced them thinking that they had committed adultery. An understandable worry against an evil thing, certainly. My take, at least at first, was to think of those who slander husbands- which causes wives to leave them and break up families. While it wasn’t what he intended at first, I would suspect that Ben Sira would warn against that slander all the same.
This brings me to the Gospel of John, and this passage:
44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Reading this passage made me think back to my latest Tradition Thursday post. I saw the influence of St. John in St. Cyril’s explanation of Satan, and how is the father of lies. Really, when you think about it this passage of Scripture is one of the most forthright ones when it comes to the nature of the Evil One.
Finally, we close with another passage from John, the woman at the well:
Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 He had to pass through Samar′ia. 5 So he came to a city of Samar′ia, called Sy′char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 There came a woman of Samar′ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar′ia?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 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.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain;[a] and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 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.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
27 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city and were coming to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
This passage was the Gospel reading at the parish that I attended last week. Not that is any great surprise- the readings during Lent follow a pattern every year. But what was new was the homily that followed. The priest explained that he had heard from a Biblical scholar that there is a key piece of information that most people lack when reading this passage. It concerns why the woman went to get water from the well at noon (the sixth hour from sunrise).
Noon was not the usual time to get water from the well. It would have been the hottest part of the day. Certainly the most unpleasant time to go and lug around a heavy water jar. Some might think that the woman choose that hour because she wouldn’t want to be seen by the other women collecting water. That she went when no one else would be there. Not so. A Jewish person living at the time of Jesus or John would have understood exactly what was going on.
You see, at noon the men would have stopped working and taken a break (what we here in the Americas might call a siesta). Rather than going at noon to avoid been seen, the woman was at the well to ensure that she was being seen. The woman, who had been married 5 times, and who wasn’t married to man number 6, was out there looking for man number 7. She was out there searching for something. Only she was looking for the wrong thing. This is why Jesus talks about the harvest later- she was someone who needed someone to help her find her way. Just like all of us. In fact, the priest quoted G.K. Chesterton, who noted that the man who knocked at the door of a brothel was looking for God… only he was looking the in wrong place. Thus it was for the woman at the well. She was looking for God, only she was looking in the wrong place. Fortunately for her, God showed up and made it the right place.
This leads to the lesson for all of us: We are all looking for God, whether or not we realize it. The question we should be asking ourselves is if we are looking for Him in the right place.