I once had a conversation with a wise woman in which the subject of humility came up. I don’t remember what I had said—it may have been something like, “Boy, I could sure use more of that!” But I do remember what she said: “Isn’t humility just knowing the truth about ourselves?” That’s been my definition ever since. Especially during this season of Lent, we face the truth about ourselves: we are sinners.
Jesus’s words today speak of a more provocative, even subversive truth about ourselves: “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” This living water, the Gospel explains, is the Spirit. The Spirit shall flow out of the believer’s heart. Like a fountain: the Spirit of God, the River of Living Water flows into us from its source and then out from us. We are conduits of God’s Spirit in the world.
This Living Water flows from us not in some vague, atmospheric way like an odor or aroma, but in concrete, tangible, audible ways. The good we do and the good we say, our words and deeds, are the visible, tangible manifestations of the Living Water, fruits born of the Spirit. The remarkable thing is that we, even in our brokenness, have this capacity: to be conduits of God’s love in the world, like a great fountain.
Yes, we sin. But isn’t Lent about facing unflinchingly the full truth about ourselves? The full truth includes the fact that we have the capacity for goodness. We have a whole season of the year focused on our sin; we have multiple acknowledgments of sin daily. But there’s something lacking in the Church’s liturgy, something which acknowledges the fuller truth about us: we are rooted and grounded in love, as Paul says, and this love is a power working in and through us, animating our words, animating our deeds.
So, let us confess the goodness that flows from us, as a river of Living Water.
Most merciful God: we confess the truth about ourselves. That though broken and incomplete and inclined at times to sin, we do a lot of good in this world. Working hard to support our families, being responsible citizens and coworkers, being kind, patient and gracious to friend and stranger alike. We have given to the poor and visited the sick. We have fed the hungry and advocated the cause of justice and dignity for all people. We have been your hands and your feet in this world. We acknowledge these truths about ourselves and give you thanks for entrusting us with this high calling. We thank you for the high honor of being the fountain of your Living Water in this thirsty world.
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