Let’s begin with St. Paul’s words to the Romans: Since we have been justified by Faith… we boast in Hope of the glory of God… and Hope does not disappoint, because the Love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (emphasis added). Instead of the word, Love, however, let’s substitute the word, Mercy, because it has a more powerful ring to it. Love is often confused with good feelings and warm-heartedness, which makes it difficult to connect with Jesus’ admonition to, “love your enemies.” Mercy, on the other hand, contains a sense of action and self-sacrifice, coupled with forgiveness. It helps us better understand the final prayer of Jesus spoken from His cross: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In the first reading, people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” Notice their lack of Faith, Hope and Mercy. Moses, however, expresses all three in his prayer and God answers with water from the rock. Hope does not disappoint.
In the Gospel, the woman comes to draw water from the well, as she does everyday, in hope of satisfying her thirst. Jesus engages her in conversation in the hope of drawing from her a Faith that is not forgotten but has been pushed back to the deep recesses of her heart due to an ungodly lifestyle. Sound familiar? Notice how Jesus couples her Faith with His Mercy (love) and draws her into His circle of believers.
There is a lesson here for each of us who wants to draw a friend or relative back to the Faith. First, our own Faith must be strong. Second, we must have Mercy in our hearts—a Mercy that is active and full of forgiveness and self-sacrifice. Finally, it means going out on a limb with a trusting Hope in God. Trust is necessary because God’s timeline is not the same as ours. We must continually combine Hope with Faith and Mercy, trusting God and confident that hope will not disappoint.
Mercy has another important aspect: it softens hearts and it gives new meaning to the psalm response: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”