The woman therefore left her water-pot, and went her way
into the city.--John iv. 28.
This woman, once Christ had instructed her, became an apostle. There are three things which we can gather from what she said and what she did.
1. The entirety of her surrender to Our Lord. This is shown:
(i) From the fact that she left lying there, almost as if forgotten, that for which she had come to the well, the water and the water-pot. So great was her absorption. Hence it is said, The woman left her water-pot and went away into the city, went away to announce the wonderful works of Christ. She cared no longer for the bodily comforts in view of the usefulness of better things, following in this the example of the Apostles of whom it is said that, Leaving their nets they followed the Lord (Mark 1. 18).
The water-pot stands for fashionable desire, by means of which men draw up pleasures from those depths of darkness signified by the well, that is, from practices which are of the earth earthy. Those who abandon such desires for the sake of God are like the woman who left her water-pot.
(ii) From the multitude of people to whom she tells the news, not to one nor to two or three but to a whole city. This is why she went away into the city.
2. A method of preaching.
She saith to the men there: Come, and see a man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not He the Christ?--John iv. 29.
(i) She invites them to look upon Christ: Come, and see a man--she did not straightway say that they should give themselves to Christ, for that might have been for them an occasion for blasphemy, but, to begin with, she told them things about Christ which were believable and open to observation. She told them He was a man. Nor did she say, Believe, but come and see, for she knew that if they, too, tasted of that well, looking that is upon Our Lord, they, too, would feel all she had felt. And she follows the example of a true preacher in that she attracts the men not to herself but to Christ.
(ii) She gives them a hint that Christ is God when she says, A man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done, that is to say, how many husbands she had had. She is not ashamed to bring up things that make for her own confusion, because the soul, once it is lighted up with the divine fire, in no way looks to earthly values and standards, cares neither for its own glory nor its shame, but only for that flame which holds and consumes it.
(iii) She suggests that this proves the majesty of Christ, saying, Is not he the Christ? She does not dare to assert that He is the Christ, lest she have the appearance of wishing to teach others, and the others, irritated thereat, refuse to go out to Him. Nor, on the other hand, does she leave the matter in silence, but she puts it before them questioningly, as though she left it to their own judgment. For this is the easiest of all ways of persuasion.
3. The Fruit of Preaching.
They therefore went out of the city and came unto Christ.--John iv. 30.
Hereby it is made clear to us that if we would come to Christ, we too must go out of the city, which is to say, we must lay aside all love of bodily delights.
Let us go forth therefore to Him without the camp (Heb. xiii. 13).
It is by the Passion of Christ that we have been freed
from the punishment due to sin
Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.--Isaias liii. 4.
By the Passion of Christ we are freed from the liability to be punished for sin with the punishment that sin calls for, in two ways, directly and indirectly.
We are freed directly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ made sufficient and more than sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race. Now once sufficient satisfaction has been made, the liability to the punishment mentioned is destroyed.
We are freed indirectly inasmuch as the Passion of Christ causes the sin to be remitted, and it is from the sin that the liability to the punishment mentioned derives.
Souls in hell, however, are not freed by the Passion of Christ, because the Passion of Christ shares its effect with those to whom it is applied by faith and by charity and by the sacraments of faith. Therefore the souls in hell, who are not linked up with the Passion of Christ in the way just mentioned, cannot receive its effects.
Now although we are freed from liability to the precise penalty that sin deserves, there is, nevertheless, enjoined on the repentant sinner a penalty or penance of satisfaction. For in order that the effect of the Passion of Christ be fully worked out in us, it is necessary for us to be made of like form with Christ. Now we are made of like form with Christ in baptism by the sacrament, as is said by St. Paul, We are buried together with him by baptism into death (Rom. vi. 4). Whence it is that no penalty of satisfaction is imposed on those who are baptised. Through the satisfaction made by Christ they are wholly set free. But since Christ died once for our sins (1 Pet. iii. 18), once only, man cannot a second time be made of like form with the death of Christ through the sacrament of baptism. Therefore those who, after baptism, sin again, must be made like to Christ in His suffering, through some kind of penalty or suffering which they endure in their own persons.
If death, which is a penalty due to sin, continues to subsist, the reason is this: The satisfaction made by Christ produces its effect in us in so far as we are made of one body with Him, in the way limbs are one body with the head. Now it is necessary that the limbs be made to conform to the head. Wherefore since Christ at first had, together with the grace in His soul, a liability to suffer in His body, and came to His glorious immortality through the Passion, so also should it be with us, who are His limbs. By the Passion we are indeed delivered from any punishment as a thing fixed on us, but we are delivered in such a way that it is in the soul we first receive the spirit of the adoption of sons, by which we are put on the list for the inheritance of eternal glory, while we still retain a body that can suffer and die. It is only afterwards, when we have been fashioned to the likeness of Christ in His sufferings and death, that we are brought into the glory of immortality. St. Paul teaches this when he says, If sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him (Rom. viii. 17).
We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.--Rom. v. 10
The Passion of Christ brought about our reconciliation to God in two ways.
1. It removed the sin that had made the human race God's enemy, as it says in Holy Scripture, To God the wicked and his wickedness are alike hateful (Wis. xiv. 9), and again, Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity (Ps. v. 7).
Secondly, the Passion was a sacrifice most acceptable to God. It is in fact the peculiar effect of sacrifice to be itself a thing by which God is placated: just as a man remits offences done against him for the sake of some acknowledgment, pleasing to him, which is made. Whence it is said, If the Lord stir thee up against me, let him accept of sacrifice (1 Kings xxvi. 19). Likewise, the voluntary suffering of Christ was so good a thing in itself, that for the sake of this good thing found in human nature, God was pleased beyond the totality of offences committed by all mankind, as far as concerns all those who are linked to Christ in His suffering by faith and by charity.
When we say that the Passion of Christ reconciled us to God we do not mean that God began to love us all over again, for it is written, I have loved thee with an everlasting love (Jer. xxxi. 3). We mean that by the Passion the cause of the hatred was taken away, on the one hand by the removal of the sin, on the other hand by the compensation of a good that was more than acceptable.
2. As far as those who slew Our Lord were concerned the Passion was indeed a cause of wrath.
But the love of Christ suffering was greater than the wickedness of those who caused Him to suffer. And therefore the Passion of Christ was more powerful in reconciling to God the whole human race, than in moving God to anger.
God's love for us is shown by what it does for us. God is said to love some men because He gives them a share in His own goodness, in that vision of His very essence from which there follows this that we live with Him, in His company, as His friends, for it is in that delightful condition of things that happiness (beatitude) consists.
God is then said to love those whom He admits to that vision, either by giving them the vision directly or by giving them what will bring them to the vision as when he gives the Holy Spirit as a pledge of the vision.
It was from this sharing in the divine goodness, from this vision of God's very essence, that man, by sin, had been removed, and it is in this sense that we speak of man as deprived of God's love.
And inasmuch as Christ, making satisfaction for us by His Passion, brought it about that men were admitted to the vision of God, therefore it is that Christ is said to have reconciled us to God.
Christ by His Passion opened to us the gates of Heaven
We have a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ.--Heb. x. 19.
The closing of a gate is an obstacle hindering men's entrance. Now men are hindered from entrance to the heavenly kingdom by sin, for Isaias says, It shall be called the holy way : the unclean shall not pass over it (Is. xxxv. 8).
Now the sin that hinders man's entrance into heaven is of two kinds. There is, first of all, the sin of our first parents. By this sin access to the kingdom of heaven was barred to man. We read in Genesis (iii. 24) that after the sin of our first parents God placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubim and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. The other kind of hindrance arises from the sins special to each individual, the sins each man commits by his own particular action.
By the Passion of Christ we are freed not only from the sin common to all human nature, and this both as to the sin and as to its appointed penalty, since Christ pays the price on our behalf, but also we are delivered from our personal sins if we are numbered among those who are linked to the Passion by faith, by charity and by the sacraments of the Faith. Thus it is that through the Passion of Christ the gates of heaven are thrown open to us. And hence St. Paul says that Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by His onw blood entered once into the holies, having obtained a redemption that is eternal (Heb. ix. 11).
And this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, where we read (Num. xxxv. 25, 28), the man-slayer shall abide there, that is, in the city of refuge, until the death of the high priest, that is anointed with holy oil. And after he is dead, then shall the man-slayer return to his own country.
The holy fathers who (before the coming of Christ wrought works of justice earned their entrance into heaven through faith in the Passion of Christ, as is written, The saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice (Heb. xi. 33). By faith, too, it was that individuals w r ere cleansed from the sins they had individually committed. But faith or goodness, no matter who the person was that possessed it, was not enough to be able to move the hindrance created by the guilty state of the whole human creation. This hindrance was only removed at the price of the blood of Christ. And therefore before the Passion of Christ no one could enter the heavenly kingdom, to obtain that eternal happiness that consists in the full enjoyment of God.
Christ by His Passion merited for us an entrance into heaven, and removed what stood in our way. By His Ascension, however, He, as it were, put mankind in possession of heaven. And therefore it is that He ascended opening the way before them.