A Blank Canvas

A sales manager called his sales people together to try to encourage them to have a greater vision for their company. He had a big white poster board set up in the conference room, and in the middle of that poster board he had drawn a
black circle about the size of a quarter. He asked each one of his sales persons
to come and to tell him what they saw on that poster.

The first one said, “I see a black dot.”

The second one said, “I see a black dot.”

The third one said, “I see a black dot.”

All thirty-five sales people in that room said the same thing, “I see a black dot.”
The sales manager looked at them for a moment and then said, “Isn’t it strange
that all of you saw the black dot, but none of you saw the white all around it.”

Everyone could see the black dot in the life of the woman at the center of today’s
gospel. Her multiple marriages and present living arrangement made her a social outcast. She was not a part of the community social gathering around the well that occurred in every village early in the morning before the day’s heat arrived.
She was there at high noon, when no one else would be around.

But as she arrived at the well, Jesus was sitting there waiting for her. The conversation quickly goes downhill. It starts out with her asking how he would dare ask her for a drink of water when everyone knows that centuries of prejudice and animosity separate their two peoples. Then he reveals that he
is aware of her troubled marital history.

So, she tries to pivot the conversation to a discussion of liturgy as she brings up a question about the proper location for the worship of God. It all ends with a remarkable revelation. This woman is the only person recorded in the gospels to have Jesus say to her directly that he is the Messiah. And she in turn brings that message to the people of her village.

Through her efforts, Jesus stays for several days and touches many lives. Her experience gives us great hope. Jesus knew well that she was imperfect, not a likely candidate to have a positive influence on the people around her. That possibility seemed to be lost in the fog of her past decisions. But, Jesus offered her living waters – he sees in the imperfect the powerful effect that his grace can
have to change a life. And he sees us in the same way.

During this third week of Lent, we have the opportunity to adopt the attitude of Jesus in our life. It is easy to focus on the struggle we have with a child who isn’t doing their best in school or in participating in family life. But, nagging does not move a heart nearly as quickly as positive encouragement of their involvement in a sport or hobby that interests them. Deepening family ties also deepens the possibility of drawing them into the more important things of life.

We don’t have any problem recognizing people who are different, someone from a foreign culture, people who have a living arrangement or lifestyle of which we do not approve. But prejudice or condemnation is not reflected in the attitude of Jesus. There is a bigger picture to see – hard working people, people who are committed to loving each other, the contributions that a person makes to improve our society that would be lacking if they were not with us. The picture is bigger than simply what we like.

The woman at the well was not the type of person we would consider to be put in charge of evangelization – too much baggage! But, she did not pause to consider what people thought of her, she invited them to come meet the man who had changed her life. During this third week of Lent, her example suggests that we follow her lead. Every week here at St. Monica our dynamic parish community gathers around the Altar to worship and share wonderful music and hear inspiring words. And, if we are honest, we know someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbor – who has been away for a time, and may just simply need to be invited to join us next week. Lives can be changed with such a simple thing, because the Lord does not focus on the black dot. He sees the blank canvas surrounding it, upon which he can have wonderful effects.

–Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk