Biblical scholar Rosalba Manes came to Tre Fontane to study the story of the Samaritan woman with us. L.Sr. Marianna wondered, “I know this passage so well, what can she possibly tell us that would be new?”
When Rosalba got to the part where it says, “The hour is coming when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23), she stopped to speak to us about idolatry. And I sensed we were about to embark on something very profound. I wasn’t expecting that subject. It opened up another way of looking at and relating to this passage, which I love so much.
Like her I am also invited to recognize the sins and temptations that have me in their grip, and which keep me from worshipping God and recognizing his presence within me. That afternoon became an occasion to set off again on the road with the Samaritan woman, from the place where I am today to a place of deeper knowedge of Jesus. The process, which leads to worship, requires entering into a paschal journey, allowing oneself to be emptied out.
All of a sudden it became very concrete. What if coffee had become an idol for me? Lately I had felt that I had become addicted to my morning cup of coffee. I couldn’t start my day without it. It was the first thing I thought of when I woke up. When I travelled it got even more complicated, because I’d be already worrying the night before about how I was going to be able to prepare that cup of coffee in the morning. I had become a slave to coffee. I felt chained to it. So, I was able to make a choice to stop.
The first days were not easy. I didn’t feel well, because my body was clamoring for its caffeine fix. I realize that I’m not as awake now in the mornings when I go to pray. But I am more clear with myself about myself. I’m there before God, more empty. I’m less “together,” but more in touch with what’s weighing me down, with my tiredness; or, on the contrary, with the fact that I slept well and that I feel good. I am in touch with what my body is living, with the happenings which inscribed themselves on my being the day before—what I lived the previous day that left its mark, that I haven’t come to terms with. Coffee was giving me energy, but I was less in touch with my own reality. Now, I feel freer to be there for God.
Thanks to Rosalba I also made the link between the different stages of my life as a little sister. At certain moments I could be guilty of the idolatry of worshipping my personal mission; or on the other hand I could completely lose the desire to pursue it. Sometimes I developed an exaggerated pride in my community, my charism, my apostolate. At that moment I was being invited to let myself be emptied, to dare to look at our failings, our difficulties in community life, to admit that the reality we were actually living no longer corresponded to the ideal. The opposite tendency was to lose all enthusiasm, to lose the joy and trust in what we were trying to live, to the point that I’d just want to reject it all. I recognized both impulses in myself.
I also discovered that “worshipping in spirit and in truth” is a path to be undertaken together, and not all by myself—precisely to avoid falling into either temptation. Together, in the reality we’re actually living, we have to open our eyes to discover the presence of God, his footprints in my sisters’ lives and in my own.
With the Samaritan woman, let us continue letting ourselves be questioned: what are the idols that prevent me from encountering God in spirit and in truth?