With biblical scholar Dr Laurie Woods as their guide, parishioners explored the story of Jacob in the Old Testament and Jesus meeting the Samaritan Woman at the well, and how these stories provide opportunities of growth for the protagonists and for us as Catholics during the season of Lent. Donnie Velasco from the Mission Enhancement Team offers this reflection on the evening.
At the Diocesan Lenten Scripture Night, Laurie begins, as always, with a story that twists and turns into joke, to break the ice, getting the participants all relaxed and ready to listen deeply to the word of God.
Laurie proceeded to take the Lenten reflection through the twists and turns of a not commonly shared part of the biblical story to reflect our personal journey’s into Lent, looking at the family dynamics of Jacob from the First Testament as a story of growing and healing, repentance and forgiveness.
As the story of Jacob gets underway, it becomes clear that he intends to take the birth-right of his older brother, Esau. After all, Laurie says, Jacob’s name means ‘the taker-over’ or ‘the usurper’. Jacob’s desire to take his brother’s place mirrors the envy that is endemic in the human condition: We want what the other has.
Further into the story of Jacob, we see him punished by his own guilt. For Laurie, this comes to a head when Jacob wrestles with a figure on his way back to reconcile with his brother Esau. Drawing on some insights from Carl Jung, Laurie unpacks this Biblical scene as Jacob wrestling with his shadow side – that side of yourself that you’re not comfortable with. And through that wrestle, Jacob is confronted with a new reality. He has to plot the next steps for his growth. Laurie poses the questions that Jacob perhaps may have asked of himself; and invites us to ponder them too in the season of Lent: Who am I? Who do I want to be? What’s something in your or my character that we want to work on for our own personal growth?
Lent is a season of repentance. A season of ‘metanoia’ in the original Greek. A season of ‘about-face-turning’ toward God. It is a season that allows for healing. It is through healing that we can grow to wholeness.
In the second half of the Diocesan Lenten Scripture night, Laurie parallels the themes in Jacob’s story to that of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Jesus meets a woman seeking water to drink and he offers her ‘living water’, something deeper more permanent and more changing, if you allow it to change you.
In this story, Jesus asks an unlikely character to give him a drink. Laurie describes how unheard of Jesus’ actions would have been in his context. His speaking to a Samaritan woman who is unclean represented three taboos for Jewish interpersonal interactions. Yet it is precisely this person who Jesus makes himself dependent on. This extraordinary action from Jesus showed his followers that Jesus is above human prejudice and taboos, Laurie said, whilst also drawing on the significance of women in Jesus’ ministry.
To Laurie, Jesus the master of encouragement. “He places people before regulations”, Laurie emphasised. It’s about seeing Christ in the other. And to put this into practice, it could be as simple as asking daily, ‘Did I encourage anybody today?’ Laurie suggested. ‘If the answer’s no, tomorrow I’ll fix that.’
Both stories of Jacob and the Samaritan woman offer encouragement to growth in different ways. How might we grow ourselves this Lent?
The Diocesan Scripture Night is a work of the Mission Enhancement Team (MET) in the Diocese of Parramatta. For more adult faith formation programs and events, visit www.pfparra.org.au.
To get in touch with one of the MET Facilitators to run these programs and events at your parish for free, email email@example.com to book in a conversation time with Alison, Rachael or Donnie.
Donnie Velasco is a Facilitator for the Mission Enhancement Team in the Diocese of Parramatta.