Commentaries on Jeremiah 1:4-9; Ps 89; John 4:31-38
The Gospel reading comes from the 4th chapter of John which mainly deals with the beautiful encounter that Jesus had with a woman of Samaria beside the well of Jacob. As a result of this conversation, she was the first person in this Gospel to learn that Jesus was the Messiah and she was also the first person to bring people to Christ, when her whole village came to see him and to believe in him.
However, today’s passage forms a kind of interlude in the overall story. After discovering who Jesus was, the woman had gone back to her village and, while she was away, there is a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, who themselves had just returned and were surprised to find Jesus talking alone with a woman, something that was not done in that society. As soon as the woman had gone, his disciples urged Jesus to have something to eat. He had earlier asked the woman for water but he clearly had no food (which is what the disciples may have gone away to get).
Jesus then takes the opportunity to tell his disciples that there was a much more important food with which he was concerned. And that food was “to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work”. He then invited them to look up and “see the fields ripe for the harvest”. And the harvest is the result of two kinds of work – sowing and then reaping. Jesus is the Sower of God’s Word but it is the duty of his disciples and other followers to bring in the fruits of what he has sown. This, in fact, is just what the Samaritan Woman is doing right now. Jesus had planted the seed of his Word in her and she immediately went off to bring her village people to Jesus.
This is the work of the Church community through the ages. There are still those who sow the Word and there are those who bring in the harvest. And this is not just something for priests and religious to do. Every baptised person is called to join in this work, either by sowing or by reaping. It is something that parents will do with their children, something that parish communities will do in the area where they live.
This was the life of Jose Maria Rubio. He was mainly a sower of the Word through his pastoral work, his preaching and spiritual direction. But, the many lay people who joined him in his mission especially to the poor and needy were the reapers. Together they brought in a great harvest. What can my parish learn from the example of Fr Jose Maria?
The First Reading speaks of the calling of Jeremiah to be a prophet, to communicate God’s Word to his people. It was a calling that went back to the time before he was born. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” All of us have actually been called in this way. And it is probable that our reaction will be similar to Jeremiah’s: “‘Ah, Lord God!’, I said, ‘I know not how to speak; I am too young.’”
But the Lord brushes this protest aside: “Say not, ‘I am too young’. To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak… Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying: ‘See, I place my words in your mouth’.”
This was the call that Jose Maria received and to which he responded totally. And he did learn how to be a spokesperson for his Lord – his long hours directing penitents and others who came to see him, the sermons that so impressed many people and the work he did for the poor and needy was another way of speaking the Lord’s message of love.