By Andy Costigan
We all have many identities--that is, many roles we play in our lives. Each of these roles calls forth from us various gifts, emotions, and parts of ourselves, all to be used in doing God's important work and
making us more fully alive.
Some of the more prominent identities in my life include: grandson, campus minister, higher education professional, graduate student, runner, traveler, mentor, colleague, and friend. I cherish each of these roles in their own way and for the many blessings they have brought to my life.
One particularly special identity I have come to treasure is that of uncle.
I was granted this role for the second time just two weeks ago when my newest niece, Emma Riley, was born. I come from a small family who has endured a great amount of loss over the years; accordingly, the addition of my two nieces (Emma and her big sister Charlotte Lynn) has been an incredible gift beyond anything I could have imagined, nothing short of a miracle. I get very excited as I think about planning my next trip out to Los Angeles to meet Emma for the first time. I look forward to encountering the beauty of her smile, discovering the uniqueness of her personality, and watching her be cared for by her big sister.
But as much as I cherish the role of uncle, this is also one of the roles in my life that makes me feel most anxious and unsure of myself
and my abilities: am I really "good enough" to take on such an influential role for two children? Does merely being the brother of two people who decided (and were blessed) to have children actually make me "qualified" to serve as such a significant role model for two young girls? Am I truly patient enough to accompany my nieces as they navigate the ups and downs of childhood in today's world (suffering from impatience has been my lifelong struggle)?
All of these anxieties plague me as I strive to be fully alive and do God's work through the important role of uncle.
Reflecting on today's Gospel passage helps alleviate some of my fears and uncertainties. One thing in particular I appreciate about this passage--which is truly a theme in many Gospel passages--is Jesus' use of "unlikely suspects" in conveying his message and spreading his word.
In looking at the Samaritan woman, we see someone who is seemingly "unworthy" (perhaps "not good enough" or "unqualified"): she belongs to a different social group than Jesus, has been married five times, and even openly doubts and questions why Jesus asks anything of her at all. "'How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?' – for Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans" (John 4:9).
But the truth is that Jesus loves us and believes in us without pausing to question whether or not we are worthy or good enough or qualified.
As the passage unfolds, we see that we all have much we can learn from the Samaritan woman: though she doubts her own worthiness, she listens to Jesus with an open heart, she desires the fullness of what Jesus offers ("Sir, give me this water you speak of."), and she shares the joy of her encounter with Jesus widely with others ("Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman.").
Ultimately, I hope to follow the example of the Samaritan woman in my identity as uncle and living to the fullest in my many roles in life: listening to God's call with an open heart, desiring the fullness of what this beautiful life has to offer, and sharing the joys of my experiences with others. In my quest to be a "living person," rather than dwelling on the ways I perceive myself as unworthy, I strive to focus on the gifts I do have and what it is I can do to spread God's message of hope and love in this world--just as the Samaritan woman did--for "the hour is coming is now here" (John 4:23).
The time to live fully is always now.
And so the same goes for all of you: what your greatest fears and doubts? How can you learn from the Samaritan woman to cast aside your feeling of being unworthy to be more open to sharing the fullness of yourself and God's love with others? How can you have hope to begin doing God's work and living more fully alive, for "hope does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5) and the hour is now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy proudly serves as the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at John Carroll University where he coordinates Ignatian retreats and immersion experiences. He considers the opportunity to minister to college students in this capacity one of the greatest blessings of his life. He enjoys traveling, laughing, and eating his grandmother's cooking. Andy fully supports The Living Person's mission of living every day with deeper intentionality.