The Perspective of Justice

Softening the Heart

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises the Samaritan woman “living water which shall become a fountain within her, leaping up to provide eternal life.” The liturgy on this Lenten Sunday places Jesus’ promise within the context of the Exodus account of water coming from the rock of Horeb.

The Responsorial Psalm 95 refers both to the “Rock of our salvation” and also to hardened hearts. On the one hand, there is the Rock from which the water of eternal life flows (God). On the other hand, there are rocks (our hearts) which we seek to soften in Lent by “prayer, fasting and works of mercy.”

We believe, with Paul, that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” That love of God should make us a forgiving people, one that enables the world to “be brought together in unity and peace.”

Our goal is to “harden not our hearts:” to be concerned for the poor and suffering, to forgive the criminal, to welcome the stranger, to love our enemies.

“If only you recognized God’s gift ... ”

By becoming for people a model of merciful love for others, Christ proclaims by his actions even more than by his words that call to mercy which is one of the essential elements of the gospel ethos.

In this instance it is not just a case of fulfilling a commandment or an obligation of an ethical nature: it is also a case of satisfying a condition of major importance for God to reveal himself in his mercy to man: “The merciful ... shall obtain mercy.”

Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 1980: 3


Gerald Darring

Now published in book form, To Love and Serve: Lectionary Based Meditations, by Gerald Darring This entire three year cycle is available at


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson