Everyone is called to enter the Kingdom (CCC 543).
The Kingdom is here and now where
God’s will is done. May I live to serve now and
patiently await the everlasting joy to come.
No one is excluded from our Lord’s invitation to the Kingdom. Not the rich—who find it difficult (Luke 18:25). Not the poor—who are beloved and blessed by God (Luke 6:20). He came to call all people to Himself. Yet not all will heed this call. Not all will come to repentance and reconciliation. This is a work of the grace of God… to be drawn to Christ.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:44).
Our Lord gives us many contrasts in Scripture that give us a taste of the choices before us. One of those contrasts occurs early in the Gospel of John. In the third chapter, He is approached by Nicodemus and challenged on salvation. In the fourth chapter, He encounters St Photina (the Samaritan woman at the well) who accepts salvation. The conversations follow similar patterns with differing conclusions.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night when he won’t be seen by his peers. He challenges Jesus on the works that He does. Jesus counters with His own argument.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:1-3).
Nicodemus scoffs at the words of our Lord and proposes a preposterous scenario. Our Lord dives deeper into His argument.
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:4-8).
Nicodemus expresses his unbelief and our Lord explains the mission of the Son of Man in terms a teacher of the law should understand.
Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God (John 3:11-21).
Our Lord next encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritan woman comes to Jesus at the middle of the day. It’s an odd time for such a meeting. Usually, women drew water in the morning and it was a great social gathering. Drawing alone and in the middle of the day suggests that she is an outcast from her peers. Jesus was left alone by His disciples and He initiates their interaction because it is likely it would not have happened the other way. He asks for water. She counters Him with their cultural divisions. Our Lord engages her with a challenge of His own.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:7-10).
The woman scoffs at His words because they seem preposterous. She asks whether Jesus thinks He is greater than Jacob. He dives deeper into His argument to answer that He is indeed greater than Jacob.
[The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:11-14).
At this, the woman goes a different direction than Nicodemus. Rather than persisting in her unbelief, she responds with trust and asks Jesus to give her what He offers.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).
In response to her trust, Jesus shows His identity and proves to her He has come from God—and she believes.
Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet” (John 4:16-19).
At this, the woman asks Jesus a pointed question on faith and the division of worship between Samaritans and Jews. Jesus dives deeper and tells her that the hour has come when worship will not be confined to one place or one people.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:20-24).
She has come to believe and reaches out to Jesus in faith. He responds to her faith with truth.
The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you” (John 4:25-26).
At this the disciples returned and the woman ran to tell the town what she has discovered. At her faith, the town came to see Jesus and many came to believe at His word. St Photina is counted as Equal to the Apostles in gathering the harvest as our Lord used her to teach His early disciples. Before them was the harvest Jesus came to reap and this woman set about to eagerly draw in her neighbors.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest (John 4:35).
In these parallel stories is a lesson for those who are so comfortable and arrogant in their faith they would laugh at God and persist in self-absorption compared to one who hears and believes. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?” Then tells St Photina, “You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes from Christ (Rom 10:17). Many refuse to hear what challenges their assumptions.
Salvation is from the Jews… but not exclusively for the Jews. They, like us, must respond to the invitation and come to salvation of their own accord. The Kingdom is for those who produce the fruits of love (Matt 21:43). Here, in the Samaritan woman, Jesus calls someone despised by the Jews. The animosity between them is so great that Jews barely considered Samaritans human! She is surprised that Jesus even gave her the time of day. He gave her much more than that! In this story is a lesson for the Jews of His day and for us… who do we reject? Who do we consider beneath us? Is there anyone with whom we wouldn’t share the good news? Anyone we wouldn’t want sharing Heaven with us? The Gospel is for all people. The invitation goes to every man equally. Man responds unequally in his free will.
In the story of St Photina at the well, we find a wonderful example of discipleship. When she heard and believed, her first act was share her faith with others. They came to find Jesus because of her testimony and embraced Jesus at their own hearing.
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world” (John 4:39-42).
This is where converts excel over “cradle Catholics.” Why? Those who know the faith from birth tend to take it for granted as easily as breathing. Their instruction in the faith may take on a flavor of schooling to be avoided. There is no searching because what the world seeks, they already have. The convert, on the other hand, has found the pearl of great price and the treasure in the field. All that they had before pails in comparison. Their joy is infectious and brings others to come to the Lord. Those born in the faith have much to learn about evangelization from those who have been convinced by truth and love.
Our Lord was born from the Jews in the fullness of time in fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants. He is here to bless all people (Gen 12:2-3). Who needs to hear your testimony of faith? Who can you draw into the Kingdom?
Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.” The King walked the Earth in Spirit and truth. He is the King drawing all people to His Kingdom. Where is this Kingdom? It is present in those who do the will of God (Luke 17:20-21). It is present in St Photina who brought others to meet our Lord. It is present in the martyrs who died rather than give Him up. It is present in a mother feeding her child. It is present in a father providing for his family. The Kingdom is present in thousands of great and small people serving in thousands of great and small ways every day.
Man, created in the image and likeness of the God who is Truth, responds to truth. Many people came to believe at the words of Jesus. He traveled from town to town with His open invitation to put aside the ways of the world and walk in the way of truth and love (Luke 4:43). That wasn’t the end of His mission, though. It is through His cross that He opens our way to Heaven.
And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die (John 12:32-33).
Entering the Kingdom is a choice we must make. We choose between light and darkness; between truth and lies; between blessing and curse. This is the test of our free will. This is the requirement of love… making the choice to give of ourselves to others. Our Lord gives His love to us in His life and death and calls us to follow Him. We must choose in every day and every moment to give our lives to Him and unite with Him in death.
The life we live is a life of service. We serve our Lord and His Kingdom by loving Him and our neighbor. In love, we sacrifice. We give to others what they need from us. In doing so, we give up this world for the next where we have been promised paradise. We love because He first loved us and in that love we are called to love our neighbor (1 John 4:19-21). May I see this brief sojourn of life as a place to learn and practice sacrificial love so that I may rejoice forever in the embrace of love and life everlasting.