250. Food for Life (John 4:31-42)
“The best way to become a saint is to plunge ourselves in the will of God, as a stone is immersed in the water. We must allow ourselves to be tossed like a ball here and there according to his good pleasure.” – St. Clement Hofbauer
John 4:31-42: Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said: ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work. Have you not got a saying: Four months and then the harvest? Well, I tell you: Look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest! Already the reaper is being paid his wages, already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, and thus sower and reaper rejoice together. For here the proverb holds good: one sows, another reaps; I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for. Others worked for it; and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’ Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done,’ so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the savior of the world.’
CHRIST THE LORD The Samaritans recognized Jesus as the “Savior of the world.” The Samaritans were descended from Jews who had intermarried with non-Jews and abandoned the Jewish faith when the Kingdom of Israel was splitting up. They didn’t get along well with the Jews. Jesus’ stop here in Samaria, their generous response, and the phrase “Savior of the world,” therefore, all come together to point to the universality of Jesus’ mission. He has come to reestablish communion between God and all mankind. He has come to plug all lost hearts back into the source of true happiness: the love, truth, and mercy of God.
Jesus is consumed with longing to fulfill this mission. His hunger, which St. John just mentioned a few verses ago, has vanished, because he has been doing what he is passionate about: saving souls. And he wants his disciples to share the joy by dedicating themselves to the same mission. He paints a picture of it for them, likening the spiritual harvest of bringing sinful and estranged people back into communion with God to the physical harvest of wheat. When a crop is ready for harvest, the farmers work eagerly and enthusiastically to gather it in; when a crop fails and the harvest is meager, the farmers are grieved – they wish they had more work. Jesus shows his disciples that the world is full of men and women like these Samaritans who are searching for the truth, whom God has prepared to hear the message of truth. The leaders of Jerusalem were indignant at Christ’s claims to be the Messiah, but the outcast Samaritans drink it all in. Seeing such a huge harvest ready to be gathered in should fill Christ’s disciples with a keen desire to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The Lord came to conquer hearts – the hearts of all men.
CHRIST THE TEACHER Whenever we encounter great individuals, we want to know what makes them tick. We want to discover the source of their greatness, so we can tap into it. St. John knows what makes Jesus tick. John is “the beloved disciple,” who reclined next to Jesus during the Last Supper, leaning against him and listening to the beatings of his heart. As he finishes narrating this fascinating scene of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, he makes clear what Jesus is all about, what is in his heart. In so doing, he teaches us the key to being Christ’s disciples: “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work.” Christ is a man consumed by his mission. Only that mission matters. To fulfill the Father’s will, to complete the mission (the “work”) – this is Christ’s passionate desire. It pushes him on; it fills him with purpose and energy…. It is his food.
When we were baptized, we also were anointed in the name and the Spirit of Christ. When we were confirmed, we were anointed again and sent out as ambassadors of Christ and of his Church to gather in the abundant harvest of souls like the Samaritan woman, who are looking for Jesus and just need someone to point him out. As Christians, we are other Christs, continuing his saving mission in the world, and our food too should be none other than God’s will.
CHRIST THE FRIEND Jesus explains that sometimes those who plant and those who harvest celebrate together. Other times, however, those who plant may never see the harvest, and those who gather may not have labored in the planting. In this way, he gives courage and comfort to those who have decided to accept his offer of friendship and work with him to build the Kingdom; he prepares them for two possible scenarios as they try to gather the harvest.
Jesus: At times you will see success and results right away; your efforts to build my Kingdom will yield abundant fruit quickly and easily. In those times, you must not give in to the temptation that will surely come, that of thinking that your talents and efforts alone have brought in the crop. I was the one who prepared those people to find me and hear my call through your voice. Rejoice then, but remember that the soil had been fertilized, tilled, and planted by other hands, and that I was the one who made the seeds grow. Other times I will ask you to do the fertilizing, tilling, and planting, and you may never see the results. Are you ready for that? I ask that of you because I know you love me, and I want to purify your love. If you persevere even when you don’t see results, you will have to exercise that love, and you will no longer be working for the praise and recognition of others, but solely for me and my Kingdom. Then, as your love grows, you will begin to experience true joy and true freedom. I will be able to fill your soul with my wisdom and love because it will have been emptied a little bit more of the vanity and pride that clogs the flow of my grace.
CHRIST IN MY LIFE I believe that you are the Savior of the world, Lord. And I believe that the world needs a Savior. We are all thirsty for the living water of your Spirit. I am thirsty, Lord. Increase my faith. Deepen my conviction. What does it really mean for me to say that I believe you are the Savior of the world? It made a difference in the lives of these Samaritans. Help it make a bigger difference in my life, Lord…
You lived wholly for the mission your Father had given you. I too have a mission. You have given me life and faith and relationships and responsibilities. You have made me a member of your Church, the extension of your Incarnation. How I long for my life to be focused and ordered, as yours was! Teach me to make your will the compass of my life, the quest of my heart, my anchor and my guiding star…
I want to build your Kingdom. I want to put my talents at the service of the men and women you love so much, the ones you came to save. But you know that my motives are not pure. So much selfishness is still mixed in. Purify me, Lord. Remind me that you are the Lord of the harvest and I am only one worker among many. Help me to find all my satisfaction in loving you by doing your will…
Editor’s Note: This reflection on John 4:31-42 is on the second part of the Gospel to be read this Sunday. Father Bartunek’s reflection here includes the first part of the Gospel (John 4:1-30).
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art for this post on John 4:31-42: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Detail of The Savior of the World, Workshop of Willem Vrelant, early 1460s, PD-US published in the U.S. before January 1, 1923, Wikimedia Commons.
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