The Visit

                She gazed at her left hand which was caressing her growing belly.  Such a study in contradiction, she thought.  This belly so smooth and taut beneath her plain work-a-day garment – the badge of a young woman with the first of many children within her; then there – her hand, swathed in unexpected blotches and wrinkles (she tugged her sleeve down a bit) – the badge of an old woman with few and dwindling years foreseen.

                She fretted, and was shamed that she should do so.  It had been said – there could be no doubt – that her son, John, would have a momentous future.  Yet she worried.  The babe had not stirred, had not pressed against his confines even once.  Could he . . . could her babe be merely waiting to be born for the grave?  Was he resting within her, or was he already d…

                “Zechariah!  Husband.  How are you today, my Love?”  His shoulders shrugged, his wise old hands out, palm up; well-known, well-loved lips tightened in a self-depreciatory half-smile.  Elizabeth’s thoughtful hand grasped his – gave it a reassuring squeeze.  He, with his free hand, gently patted her distended belly.  His eye was quizzical.  Elizabeth’s head drooped.  A tear fell, darkening the fabric obscuring the object in question.  “No.  Nothing . . . yet,”  Elizabeth forlornly admitted.  Zechariah’s age-smoothed, gentle fingers stroked her forehead with just a wisp of connection, lovingly tucked a stray lock of grey-lightened hair back under her head shawl.  His thumb passed beneath her damp eye and lingered on her cheek.

                “Elizabeth?” a soft, almost childlike enquiry, wary of intruding perhaps.  Elizabeth violently swayed sideways and back.  Zechariah frantically gripped her shoulders to keep her on her feet.  Alarmed, he hastily questioned her eyes with his own – What’s going on?!  Are you alright?!  Surprisingly, Elizabeth’s face was alight with joy!  ‘The baby!’ she mouthed, ‘Our John!’

                The sweet voice behind her, “Elizabeth, I’ve. . . I’ve come for. . . for a visit.  I thought I could be of some – help?”

                Elizabeth turned, Zechariah keeping a cautionary hand on her shoulder, “O Mary, sweet cousin!  Don’t question how I know, but . . . I do know.  It has been explained to me in the most wonderful way!”  Hands extended, she laughed.  Her son was rolling, and pushing, and kicking!  “Mary.  Mary, you are the most blessed of all women!”  Mary stepped back in astonishment as Elizabeth continued, “The fruit of your womb is blessed!”  Mary shook her head in puzzlement.  How could Elizabeth know – and Zechariah, too, standing behind is wife, holding her shoulders and grinning wide enough to display the missing tooth which he was always at great pains to conceal.  How could they know?  “I am a humble woman . . .”  Elizabeth glanced back and up at her dear husband, “We are just ordinary people!  How does this happen to me – to us?”  Mary’s eyes, no longer confused, were steady, serene, radiant. 

                “How does it happen, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Elizabeth giggled like the girl that Mary was.  “The moment – the very moment – the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped!  He.  He who had not yet moved to admit to life – he leaped for joy!”  Elizabeth approached Mary with a rolling gait as her John still cavorted within her.  She embraced Mary’s slight form and whispered with elation into her ear, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”

                Mary leaned away from Elizabeth’s embrace, yet held tightly to her hands with nervous fingers.  It was true then.  It hadn’t been a dream or a hallucination.  It was . . . True.  Mary drew in a deep breath.  Then her breath burst out in synchrony with Elizabeth’s.  They locked eyes, grinning and laughing in their shared joy.  Elizabeth’s son was alive!  And . . . the Messiah was on his way!

Ms. Catherine Lambert, O.P.

Incident at Jacob’s Well

God couldn’t have been happy with the split between the Southern Kingdom of Judah – ruled by Solomon’s heir and the Northern Kingdom of Israel – the rebellious majority who broke away and established their own kingdom.  The North . . . Israel . . . was indeed rebellious.  It would not consent to be ruled by Solomon’s heir, would not acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital, would not even worship the True God but degenerated into idolatry.  No.  God-the-Father could not have been happy with them at all.  And yet . . .

            I think that God-the-Son had a soft spot in his heart for the remnant of the Northern Kingdom – those left behind as the greater number was led into Assyrian exile.  There’s always a ‘remnant’, right?  Well, this remnant was not the ‘faithful few’ who often become the seed of a resurgence of worship and loyalty to God.  No; this remnant became the scorned Samaritans.  The  Assyrian exile had come and gone.  The staunch Southern Kingdom ended up molding generations Jews would rather walk m-i-l-e-s out of their way to avoid stepping foot in what was no longer the Northern Kingdom, but what had become the disparaged Samaria.  And yet . . .

            Jesus and the disciples were travelling, as they often did.  They came to the border town of Sychar.  Heading for Galilee, it was time to walk the wearying detour around Samaria.  However, despite the disciples’ sound advice to the contrary, Jesus not only stepped foot in Samaria, but actually rested on the lip of Jacob’s Well which was just on the edge of town. 

            While Jesus’ followers had been sent on into town to scare up something for them all to eat,  Jesus had a nice little chat with not just any Samaritan, but with a Samaritan woman.  A woman who even her fellow Samaritans agreed was ‘fallen’. . .

            The woman approaches the Well with an empty water jug on her right shoulder.  It’s not the usual time for getting one’s daily water – already it’s mid-day.  It’s staggeringly hot.  The sun pries at the woman’s eyes; she idly squints at her sandaled feet as they scuff up little puffs of dust with each tired step.  She’s not in a hurry.  Why should she be?  She’s wondering if it is worth the effort to cook an evening meal – her husband has not deigned to grace his home in two days.  Maybe he won’t come home tonight either . . . maybe he won’t ever come home.

            The woman rests her water jug on the Well’s rim.  There’s something not quite right, she thinks.  She narrows her eyes a bit more, trying the figure out what is different.  The sun is beating down on her head making a sharp, little pain over her left eye.  It’s hard to think . . . but . . .   there’s a shadowy silhouette upon the Well’s sun baked stones . . .  Someone must  be . . .  there’s never anyone here at this time of day!  That’s why she comes at this hour!  She knows right enough what she is . . . she doesn’t need to hear it shouted out by sundry and all.  Haltingly, she raises her sun-narrowed eyes.  Which of the village women is casting that shadow?  The one with the strident shriek that pierces her ears?  Or the one who says nothing but is dismayingly accurate with her spit?

            It is neither.  It’s a man.  He’s looking at her in no particular way . . . just looking.  Most unusual.  By his dress, he’s a Jew, one of those hated and hating people.  It’s a puzzle.  The man says to her, “Give me a drink.”  It’s not unusual for a man – for any man to make this demand . . . though his words are soft, gentle.

            “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  She’d more expect a flung stone than a soft spoken request from any Jew.  It was a mystery. . . a curiosity which – as considerable as it seems now – becomes all the larger as the kindly man continues to speak with her.  By the conversation’s end, there is a catch in her chest.  She can hardly draw breathe! 

            Then she’s running, running in the stifling heat, the blinding light of the noonday sun.  She’ll tell someone . . . anyone!  There.  There is her husband-who-is-not-her-husband.  Somehow, she’s no longer angry with him.  She grabs his sleeve with urgent fingers.  “Come see a man who told me everything I have done!”  He starts to shake her off but is captured by the elation in her face.   “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” she asks.

            You know the story.  Sure you do.  Jesus and the boys stayed in Sychar of Samaria for a couple of days.  Jesus boarded at the woman’s house with her sometime husband hanging on his every word.  Of course, there wasn’t enough room for all of them there, so the rest were parceled out to the neighborhood; neighbors were amazed at the riveting conversation and cheerful comradery of these Jews.  The people became thoughtful – these rowdy men, these hard-faced women, these rough day-laborers and poor traders, these idolatrous, sinful people – as the man who told the woman at the Well all she had ever done, spoke to them . . . to them . . .  of the things of God and of the things soon to come.   Jesus was no respecter of persons – which is a funny way of saying that he respected everyone – equally. 

           The Northern Kingdom had been most thoroughly punished.  Those who were hauled off to Assyria made poor decisions.  They intermarried with the locals and disappeared as a people.  Those who had escaped being exiled became the hated and scorned dregs of Jewish society.  But God-the-Son (with his Father’s nod and the Spirit’s go-ahead) loved them anyway. . . loved them as his own – which, of course, they were.

by Ms. Catherine Lambert, O.P.

Death Insurance

            You’ve heard the joke, right?  You know, it goes like this:  All religion is, is Death Insurance!  You pay the premium, but when it’s time to make a claim . . . The Insurance Company is more than willing to pay up – but YOU are NO WHERE TO BE FOUND!  YUCK.  Yuck.  Yuck.

            Weird thing is – that’s not far wrong.  No, no.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going to go all atheist on you.  But.  The fact of the matter is that Death is the Big Scary – and that’s for sure.  We don’t know what’s on the other side.  We think.  We hope.  We believe . . . then we hope some more. 

            But I say, “Why worry about it!”  It happens to us all – at least at this point in time (yeah, I do read sci-fi).  We’re going to go whether our Grand Exit is accompanied by organ music:  “duh-duh-duh – DUH!” or by a choir of angels:  “Ahhhhhhh . . . “

            Yup.  Yup.  Yup.  But that’s not really The Thing, is it?  It’s not so much how we are going to die or where we go after that (well, it sorta is).  It’s how we make our way there, don’t ya think?  We don’t need Death Insurance . . . we need Gettin’-Through-Life Insurance!  And Brother…  Sister…  do I have a policy for you!

Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

Be Fair!

            Mama said . . . Mama said!  “Be fair to your brother, sister, cousin, friend (you fill in one one that Mama most often referred to).”  Be fair.  It’s probably the very first social law that any of us ever struggled with – starting at three and ending with a sharp realization around ten (give or take) when we notice with great indignation that Mama is not fair with us.  It evidentially has something to do with, “I’m the adult, you’re the child.  Do what I say!”  And that’s not fair.  Then Mama tells you something she kind of left out when you were three:  “Life is not fair.  Deal with it!”

            Deal with it?  Deal with it?  How do you deal with the end of an Era?  …with the death of all you thought was true?  But we do deal with it, don’t we? 

            So – an eon later, we’re bored and fidgeting at Mass.  “Sit still.  You only get from Mass what you’re willing to put into Mass!” says your brother, sister, cousin, friend, mama . . . spouse.  And that kinda makes sense, you think.  It clicks right into place with something you learned long ago.  Yeh.  It does make sense.  You only get back from Mass what you’re willing to put into it.  You like the sound of that – it seems fair. 

            So you join a prayer group.  Man!  That feels great!  Let’s do some more . . . You join a service group that collects gently used baby and kid clothes for single parents.  Wow.  That feels even better.  You commit to the midnight-to-one, first Friday Adoration slot.  Yep . . .  Well, truthfully – Nope.  Not feelin’ the love on this one.  Hey.  I’m puttin’ in, but I’m not gettin’ back.  That’s not fair.  I’ll quit.  I mean, it’s only ‘fair’, right?  But that thought doesn’t feel . . . ‘right’.  Well, who cares?  There are other people in that particular Adoration slot . . .  Hey!  Joe and Sally don’t show up every first Friday.  How would me not showing up any first Friday be so different?  It would be okay.  It would be better than okay – it would be fair.

            But here’s the thing.  If Life isn’t fair.  Maybe spiritual life isn’t fair either.  Now wait a minute.  Hold on.  It wasn’t fair that Jesus – the sinless one – died a horrific death to give us the chance to get to heaven.  No, not fair at all.  But he did it.  Why do you suppose that was?  Uhh, hello!  He loved us.  Could it be that Love trumps Fair?  Could it be that when Mama told me Life wasn’t Fair – she was speaking quite loudly at the time because her head and arm were in the washer trying to reach that laaast sock – could it be that she also meant Love trumps Fair . . . ?

Ms. Catherine Lambert, O.P.

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