It was the very edge of civilization, this village, this well. The white hot dust of anonymity swirls, specter-like, a host of ghosts, dancing through noon-heat ravaged places. She comes in the heat of the day to be alone at the well, with her thoughts, with her past, with her doubts. She hopes to find no one there. But he is there. The stranger is there. The Jewish man, the foreigner, the threat.
Their conversation sounds like idle banter, echoing off the stone walls of the well and then -- She tells a lie about herself. And he tells her the truth about herself.
Now she must tell what she knows:
Here is a man who told me everything I ever did.
Here is a man who tells us everything we ever did.
How does God know us?
He knew us before we were born. Before our first gasping, our first mewing, his designing finger traced providence in the sand of our souls. He saw the grasping babe and pronounced it very good. He schemed. He planned. He envisioned.
He knew us in our toddling years. We struggled to stand as if we could ever stand on our own. He placed his omnipotent hand in the small of our infant backs. He looked with the Father’s love on us, a big brother’s pride. He prodded, pushed, he plied. He let go and fretted. He watched us walk, run, walk away, run away. We guarded our childhood games as we dressed up in the rags of independence. We tried to hide, and he pretended to seek, but only pretended, because he knew us.
He knew us as we learned to sin, experimented with the little league vices of bullying, petty theft, the lie, and then, more. Accusation, ridicule, derisive laughter, the easy target, then we’re the target. We learned to inflict pain in the most painful places, twisting the blade of self-image in to the hilt.
He knew us in our confusion as we struggled with relationships, with vocation, family.
He knows us in our doubt in those moments of shear panic when we can hardly remember where we have been, hardly recognize ourselves in the mirror, and believe without utterance that God is dead.
He knows us in our selfishness, our grasping, our groping through the treasure troves of self-promotion, gripping tightly to the handles of a golden cup called ego.
He knows us in our compulsiveness, our complacentness, our neediness, our laziness, our restlessness. our carelessness
Here is a man who told me everything I ever did. He knows us more ingloriously than we know ourselves. He knows what lies hidden in the secret recesses of our hearts, our imaginations, our histories. He knows us. How can he who formed the heavens from nothing and placed the water in the well, and stirred the white dust through those noon-hot perilous streets not know us? Can he whose gaze penetrated the cosmos not see through our lies?
And still the words come: Drink and live!
Drink, drink injured soul from the source of healing itself, feel your wounds tightening as you learn from me, listen to me. Feel the open skin of your injuries, your self-inflicted injuries close around the balm of providence.
Slake your thirst, your insatiable thirst for truth, for faith, for love, for authenticity, for respect by speaking the truth, living the faith, loving the unloved, being authentic and respecting your fellow men and women.
Satiate yourself at this well with the liquor of the intellect, the pure draught of spiritual renewal, the cordial of conversion, the living water of service and sacrifice. Imbibe, drink, drown yourselves in the flood of baptismal water that flows from the pierced side of Jesus.
Drink and live!
Live into the mystery of salvation that is the unfettered, love of God, that bottomless well of grace, mercy, forgiveness,
Live and find real meaning in your life, meaning that commandeers the quixotic wanderings of pleasure, happiness, liberty, freedom.
Brothers and sisters, today we discover ourselves at the very edge of civilization, this village, this well, this place called Saint Meinrad.
We might like to view this village in all of its pristine, Potemkin perfection, but we know its dark recesses, we know the secret places where uncertainty lurks. We know its sharp corners where we are likely to careen into each other. We know the hazards of turning down the dark unfamiliar alleys of new knowledge, of formation, of chance taking, of authentic prayer.
This community is a community of real people, of flesh and blood people, of striving people, of fallen people, of hopeful people, of desperate people, of hiding people, of shame-filled people and of difficult people, proud people, set-in-their-ways people, docile people, belligerent people.
But this is also a community that longs for something more, something greater.
Why have you come here? To learn a little something, to take a little drink, to get a little wet?
Or to be transformed, converted, changed forever?
That change which we want will never come without some growing pains, some setting aside of opinions, some listening, some benefiting of the doubting.
Today and every day we are called to raise our gaze and see that shimmering ray of light, the light of revelation, the light of authentic humanity, the light of the Word made flesh that pierces the white hot dust of anonymity and shines, beams on this well, the well of divine offer, the well of suppliance, the well of the formation, the opportunities we experience here.
Here is that well and in this place we find out the truth about ourselves in our common life, our academic pursuit, our prayer and our celebration of the source and summit of our reality, the Eucharist.
In this Eucharist is the source of life where the words of the Gospel are proclaimed without compromise, words that speak peace in a world torn apart by war, words that utter calm in a landscape quaked by natural disaster, words that give solace. The words of Christ.
In this Eucharist is the source of all being in which the First Cause insinuates himself into the tight form of bread and wine, the bread of angels, the wine of the new and eternal covenant.
In this Eucharist that well, that fountain of mercy pours out over us, comforting and sustaining. We need it so desperately not only for ourselves but that others may drink and live. Take that drink to them. Give back to them what you have received at this well, this font of grace.
Give to the hungry. Give to the naked. Give to the desperate. Give to the outcast. Give to the ones who wander aimlessly through towns and villages, not trodding the path of salvation but bound on other journeys, journeys of thirst, journeys whose name we can only speak with shame. Bring that living water of faith and love to your tired brothers and sisters here. The good news is not only what we have received from the Jesus who knows us, but the gift we have of giving that back to others so that this well of salvation, flowing down from the Father of Lights, cascading, careening, gaining momentum becomes a tsunami of salvation, flooding the dark places of our collective landscape, filling in the furrows wrought by our sins, bubbling up with the promise of the future even in the midst of remembrances of things past. Do this in memory of me. Here is the Lamb of God. Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, in this village, at this well, but only say the word and I shall be healed.