The Good Fruit of Encountering God – Raised Catholic episode 59

Photo by Kerry Campbell

The following is a transcript from a Raised Catholic Podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.

Today is episode 59: The Good Fruit of Encountering God

Well hello friends.  Today is the third of four episodes in a short series on mysticism.  If you’d like to check out the earlier conversations, there’s episode 57: Into the Mystic, which is a sort of primer, followed by last week’s episode, number 58: Mystical Union, in which we talked about the spiritual encounters of some of our friends who art in Heaven.  Today we’re looking at the fruit of mysticism and then next week we’ll wrap up this series with some practical ideas to help us to develop our mystical lens for ourselves.  And I hope in all of this, we’re slowly moving away from the idea that mysticism is for old dusty saints or for people who are holier than us.  Mysticism really is for everyone.

As Fr. Richard Rohr said, mysticism is just experience-based religion and that is to say that our individual and personal encounters with God matter – they inform what we know and believe but they also fortify us in our faith. And what we do with these experiences is fortification for our sisters and brothers in the beautifully simple way in which the early Church modeled the life of faith: experience God for yourself, then go tell others the Good News. Well, today I’d like us to take a look at the story of the Woman at the Well, and as we look at the details of her encounter with God, I hope we will consider our own. I’ll read from the Book of John, Chapter 4, and I’ll also link for you a beautiful recreation of this scene from The Chosen series in the show notes, which I hope you will watch, it is so good. Okay, here it is.

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Friends, this is the Good News, the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

You know, when I first considered this episode on the good fruit of mysticism, I thought of all of the wisdom, teachings, art and music that have come from mystical encounters between God and His people, and I wanted to tell you about all of my favorites. But here, I’d like to take a closer look at this one woman’s encounter with Jesus and pull out some details that might help us to consider the good fruit of our own mystical experiences, too.

First let’s consider who this woman was.  She was a Samaritan, which is a sect of Jews that were held in contempt and shunned by the Jews of Jesus’s time as ‘impure’. This particular woman had issues within her own community as well, as evidenced by her going to draw water in the heat of the middle of the day.  Typically, the women would carry out this task together in the cool of the morning to make it easier on them and also, to protect each other in the group, but this woman was alone, an outcast. Culturally speaking, the idea that Jesus would go out of His way for this woman to give her not only the gift of Himself and His attention, but also His mercy plus a word He had not spoken publicly before about His identity as Messiah and then on top of all of that, the huge job of telling others about Him as His first public evangelizer – well, it would have been unthinkable.

Maybe we feel unqualified to experience an encounter with God.  Maybe we feel we aren’t educated or informed enough.  We aren’t priests or religious sisters.  Maybe we believe our sins make us unworthy to experience God for ourselves, or maybe we’ve been told that our gender, race, or relationships are the things that disqualify us from encountering God for ourselves. In the story of the Woman at the Well, we see God’s perspective on all of those concerns.  Because not only does who we really are not impede us from encountering God, but it’s our history and our real-life situation and yes, even our sins, that make us open to experiencing Him in the first place, and which make us reliable narrators to tell others that Good News.

Because, friends, not one of us is perfect, are we?

Jesus did not have to go through Samaria that day.  He did not have to stop at that well, and culturally speaking, it certainly would have been considered out of bounds for Him to speak with a woman alone. Yet there they were, and in God’s economy, this was no accident. She asked Him questions and He answered them.  She challenged Him and He responded in love.  She was stubborn and He changed her mind. He knew everything she had ever done, and He offered her mercy and acceptance. She felt known, seen, and loved because of that mercy.  

We don’t have to hide who we really are, friends. God comes to us where we are, as we are, if we are open to Him. 

It’s also good to know that this woman met Jesus in the midst of an ordinary chore on a regular day, not at a temple or a church.  She wasn’t dressed up, she was dirty and sweaty in the heat of the day, she had no expectation about worship, she was just trying to get stuff done, and friend, we can meet Him in the course of our daily experiences too.  God will meet us in unexpected places and when we’re not shiny and no matter what we’ve done, and when we receive these encounters, it really can change everything.

Jesus honored the woman by telling her something He had not yet said to anyone else publicly, that He was the Messiah.  He entrusted her with the job of telling others, and the Scripture tells us that “many more became believers” because of her actions. When we experience God for ourselves, our testimony is so powerful, friends.  We can share a loving God with a hurting world because we know Him first-hand, and we know that we know. That woman left her water jar behind and with it her identity as an outcast, a sinner, and as somehow less-than others.  Following her encounter with God, she had a whole new vocation and identity.  Centuries later, we don’t know her by her relationships or her failings or her community status or her difficult past.  We know her as the Woman at the Well, because it was that experience that changed everything from that time on. 

The account from the Book of John ends with many Samaritans drawing close to Jesus because of the woman’s words.  She told them the Good News, and then they went to see for themselves.  They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Friend, that’s how the Gospel was designed to work.  We experience God, we tell others, and then they experience Him for themselves – that one-to-one evangelism is modeled so well for us in this story. I truly believe we’re at a time in the Church when people will no longer believe just because of what others say – we have to hear and know for ourselves.  It’s time. As Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” And as Christians, friends, that is our work. That is what mysticism, or experience-based religion is all about and that is the very good fruit that will serve us, the people around us, our broken church and a waiting world in this time in which God will come to us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done.

Ah friend, it is very good news.

Thanks so much for listening today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com.  If you’d like to financially support this podcast, you can do that on my page at buymeacoffee.com, and I’ll link that for you in the show notes.  A reminder to register for an upcoming roundtable I’ll be a part of called Claiming Your Faith In the Midst of a Broken Church. I’ll have a link for that in the show notes plus lots of resources to help you explore today’s topic in a deeper way for yourself, so do check that out, but for now let’s pray together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

God, you come to us where we are, as we are, in the course of our every-day lives.  You do this on purpose and with intention.  You reveal things to us about our lives and about you that are for our benefit and growth, but also for the people around us, for our Church and for the world.  And this makes our lives a colorful and beautiful adventure with you who loves us, so help us to open our hearts, our eyes, our ears, and our minds to experience you for ourselves, and then to go tell others the Good News.

We pray all of this in the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of His mother, Mary, amen.

Friend, thanks for listening today, and I’ll see you next time.

Please follow and like us:

One thought on “The Good Fruit of Encountering God – Raised Catholic episode 59

Add yours

  1. Kerry…as always, you write a compelling, thought-provoking piece on bringing us closer to God. I thank you for that. Let us be open to letting Jesus meet us where we are.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

error

Like what you're reading? Please pass it on!

Instagram
%d bloggers like this: