On January 26th, at the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama, Pope Francis celebrated the Eucharist with priests, consecrated men and women, and members of lay movements. The Gospel of the day was that of Jesus and the Woman at the Well. The Pope sets a context:
The Gospel we have heard does not shrink from showing us Jesus, wearied from his journey. At midday, when the sun makes all its strength and power felt, we encounter him beside the well. He needed to relieve and quench his thirst, to refresh his steps, to recover his strength in order to continue his mission.
The words which the Holy Father spoke to those gathered on this day dealt with the weariness which can accompany the attempt and desire to be faithful to one’s vocation in a “changing and challenging world.” Many of us know that feeling.
I find it amazing that Pope Francis can so often find words to describe our world so astutely. I rejoice in his ability to open God’s word and to recognize the way in which it speaks to our time and experience. The “weariness of the journey” can capture the sense of so many of us who take up the responsibilities for our Church, communities, and families. Long hours, daily commitments, little problems, and stressful pressures challenge the resolve of hearts and bodies which strive to dedicate themselves faithfully to the Gospel. Yet, the Holy Father points beyond these drains on our energies to a “weariness of hope.”
This weariness is felt when – as in the Gospel – the sun beats down mercilessly and with such intensity that it becomes impossible to keep walking or even to look ahead. . . It is a weariness that paralyzes. It comes from looking ahead and not knowing how to react to the intense and confusing changes that we as a society are experiencing. . . . (these changes) call into doubt the very viability of religious life in today’s world. . . . What was meaningful and important in the past can now no longer seem valid.
This weariness of hope can lead to a certain pragmatism, to a sense that the Gospel has nothing to say to the world of our time.
In his weariness from the journey, the Lord says to the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink.” He invites us to say these same words with which he invites her to seek the living water. Francis encourages us to allow our wearied hope “to return without fear to the deep well of our first love,” “to be purified and to recapture the most authentic part of our founding charisms,” to recognize that “we need the Spirit to make us men and women mindful of a passage, the salvific passage of God.”
I read with gratitude the words of our Pope who has his fingers on the pulse of our Church and who hears in the Gospel the continued summons to hope and ministry. As Vincentians, that summons takes on a particular form and focus. As we drink profoundly at the well of the Lord, we hope to slake our thirst during our daily and lifelong journey.