What does it mean to be Catholic today?
The ancient story in John’s Gospel of the Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at the well resonates with Catholics after two millennia. The woman was there to quench her thirst at the village’s source of water. Yet she came alone, apart from other women of the village. In their encounter Jesus saw in her a greater thirst than for mere water: he saw her need for living water, her need for community, her need to understand her own vulnerability and her need to be understood. Our own needs, and the needs of the world, are much like those of the Samaritan woman. We come desiring an encounter with Jesus. We come with a thirst for living water.
As Catholics, united by the Gospel, and with a common faith and tradition, immersed in the sacramental waters of Baptism and the sacramental nature of the Church, we stand with others meeting Christ, forming community, seeking to understand and to be understood. Inspired by this encounter with Jesus, we go forth to tell the world Whom we have met.
Pope Francis, in quoting Psalm 96:1, “Sing to the Lord a new song,” asked, “What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.”
To be a Catholic in the 21st century is to sing the song of our life as we encounter Christ in the Church and in the world. It is to embrace the world’s poverty and struggles, and to delight in the world’s beauty and goodness. To be a Catholic is to find ourselves centered in Christ, and to enter the world ready to meet Christ in others and to share Christ with others in a life of service. To be Catholic is to be called into the friendship and struggle of community. The Church is our home, where we find living water, and from whence we bring living water to others. It is a challenge both daunting and exciting, an all-encompassing commitment, and a life-changing encounter to sing the song of our lives as Catholics.