Lenten Reflection – God is Present in the Tender Places

In this annual series, current and former volunteers reflect on the Lenten Gospels and the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: Social Justice, Simplicity, Community and Spirituality. Presented by Catholic Apostolate Center and Catholic Volunteer Network.


Third Sunday Lenten Reflection By Molly Linehan Belcher, CRISPAZ

“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
“You do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
Where then can you get this living water?”
John 4:9,11

In today’s Gospel, John reminds his readers that Jews and Samaritans share a common origin story. Both communities are descendants of Abraham and Jacob. Both anticipate God’s action to bring justice in the midst of Roman occupation. As John’s narration begins, both Jesus and the Samaritan woman are in the heat of mid-day. Jesus initiates an out-of-place conversation and the Samaritan woman might be described as incredulous. She is right to be skeptical. In the social order of the day, she is a woman and a Samaritan, both statuses beneath Jesus. Her guard is up. Jesus’ invitation to eternally satisfying water sounds like a platitude, maybe even dismissive of the long and complicated story that brings her to the well that day. Only when he knows the details of her life – her sins, no less – does her heart soften to allow the possibility that the message of Christ includes the likes of this Samaritan woman.

The more we know of the distinct experiences of those we serve, the less we find we can paint their solutions with broad brushes. The details of each life matter. God is present in the tender places. God was with the Samaritan woman through the heartbreak of five husbands and in the reasons she chooses the current man. We, too, are to encounter those with whom we serve as bearers of distinct and revelatory stories. As we serve, we may hope to solve problems at hand. But our deeper Christian vocation is to allow those we serve to be known and to hold those stories, along with our own, in a place of tenderness.


Gracious God, soften our hearts. In our weariness, we sometimes settle for solutions rather than love. Lift us from the burdensome search for certainty. Bring us to a place to trust in you.

Focus on Simplicity

There is a place for the examination of social structure that can change systems of injustice. There is also a place for seeing the person before us as a dynamic soul whom God is comforting, caring and guiding. Simplicity calls us to intentional moments of wonder and awe at God’s work in the person before us.

Service Suggestion

Soften your heart to hear His voice. Select on acquaintance you have in the domain of your service or professional life. For the sake of this service suggestion, select a person with whom you are not already emotionally invested. It could be a community member, a coworker or someone you serve. It could even be the person who refills the vending machine or delivers the mail. Say a prayer for this person. If appropriate, begin a conversation. As you are aware of this person, allow yourself a sense of awe. God is alive in the history and hopes of this person. Rest in your softening heart.


Molly Linehan Belcher spent two years in service in El Salvador working in the Diocese of Chalatenango. A native of northern Ohio, she has chosen to live and serve in Appalachia. Molly is a member of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and is the Director of Campus Ministry at Charleston Catholic High School. She and her husband, Jesse, live in a small house in a hollow next to a large state forest.


Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Lenten Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can also find an extensive library of Lenten resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website – click here.

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