“If you only knew the gift of God…”

The Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch

If you only 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 4:10).  These were Jesus’ words to the woman at the well and also the words that echoed in my own heart as I knelt before the miraculous image of the Face of Jesus, Il Volto Santo, at the Shrine in Manoppello, Italy, several years ago.  Like the woman at the well, I encountered there the Face of Mercy. “If you only knew the gift of God…” 

Pope Francis has incorporated these very words into his official Prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy:

“Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you, sees Him.  Show us Your Face and we will be saved!  Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.  Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:

“If you only knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests His power above all by forgiveness and mercy:  let the Church be your invisible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.  You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:  let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.  Amen.

To know the gift of God, like Peter, Matthew, Zacchaeus, the adulteress, Madgalene, the repentant thief, and the woman at the well we must first look at the Face of Jesus and linger a moment in a mutual loving gaze.  Whoever sees Him sees the Father (John 14:9.) Under the gaze of the Father we will “feel sought after, loved and forgiven by God.” Jesus wants to give us the Gift of Himself, to draw us into His divine life, fill us with the “Living Water” of the Holy Spirit, so that we may then give Him to others. To “bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind”–in other words, by performing the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy. We need only to take that first step by contemplating His Face.  “If you only knew the gift of God!”

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde

“While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face.”  ~ Pope Benedict XVI

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