Grace Meets Us Where We Are

By Melissa Carnall, alumnus of Amate House

Third Sunday of Lent
John 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42
“One does not live on bread along, 
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Writer Anne Lamott tells us, “Grace meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.” Jesus demonstrates this truth about God’s grace in today’s Gospel reading.  Between the world and our own selves, we experience barriers to encountering God. Jews regarded the Samaritan woman as ritually impure, and she also would have been an outcast in her town, given her five failed marriages.  Those were some of her barriers. We too, experience the barriers that can block our experience of God’s living water; it could look like busyness, fear of the “other,” feelings of unworthiness, or unresolved hurts that close off our hearts to the fullness of love. But these barriers do not daunt Jesus, just like He was not daunted by the woman’s purity status, nor her shame. God is not daunted by our personal and societal barriers to encountering Him.  We can learn from the Samaritan woman as she allows Jesus to overcome barriers and break down her defenses. She lets God in, to meet her where she is. 

But Jesus also shows us something more in this encounter. God not only meets us wherever we are, but we are sent on mission to share the grace and freedom after our encounter. If we only read the abridged version of today’s Gospel, we miss that many of the Samaritans began to believe in Jesus “because of the word of the woman who testified.” She was met in the chaos of her life and transformed into a messenger of the Living Water. She was sent on mission to spread the good news. 


God of boundless life, You who quenched the true thirst of the Samaritan woman at the well, and offer us still the Living Water of Your Son, grant that we may be open to Your grace in the chaos of our lives and the world, undaunted by the barriers we experience. Encounter us in our messiness and send us forth to spread Your love, Your freedom, and Your peace to all those in need. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Living Water of our lives. Amen.

Focus on: Simple Living: And her mission continues today as she teaches us we can find abundance in simplicity. The woman lacked everything by most standards (status, stable marriage, equality), yet in her lack, she had room for the abundance of life that is the Living Water Jesus offered her in Himself. We find this in our years of service. When we remove the distractions of excess, when we learn from those who have fewer resources and less privilege, we create space for true abundance based on grace and relationship with God, instead of false abundance based on acquisition and status. 

Service Inspiration: My friend and “big sister,” Sr. Christa Parra, IBVM, is a motivation and encouragement to me as I strive to live a life following Jesus, serving others as He did, especially those on the margins. Sr. Christa inspires me because she lives a life rooted in the Love of God that extends to everyone she meets. She lavishes love upon everyone she encounters, without distinction, without regard for supposed worthiness or potential reciprocity. Christa is filled with the Living Water of God and she lets that love flow from her into all her encounters and relationships. 

Forty Days with the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: This reflection is part of our annual Lenten Reflection Guide, a collection of reflections written by current and former volunteers. We are pleased to offer this resource through our partnership with the Catholic Apostolate Center

To download the Lenten Reflection Guide, please click here. 

About the Author: Originally from Gainesville, FL, Melissa graduated from Furman University in Greenville, SC with majors in Religion and Economics. She moved to Chicago for her year of service with Amate House, the young adult volunteer program for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Melissa fell in love with the Windy City and stayed for her Master of Divinity degree at Catholic Theological Union. Melissa now ministers as a Pastoral Associate at Old St. Mary’s in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. 

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