What do you get when you squeeze an orange? The answer is easy: orange juice! I recently came across a book where the author took this very simple idea to a whole new level and applied it to human psychology and spirituality. He suggested that in extreme and stressful conditions, when the pressure of life squeezes the “juice” out of people, our behavior, what we say, and how we act reveal our true nature. We have all seen people who respond and act in anger, bitterness, and hatred in such stressful situations. Many might regret such behavior instantly. Some might justify and argue that such reactions and responses do not accurately represent and portray their true nature or who they are. And while we might relate and even agree with them, as Christians and followers of Christ through the Holy Gospel and the life of our Lord, we are invited to reflect and embrace a very different perspective and type of response.
When Christ was betrayed, tortured, and squeezed on the cross by those who rejected and denied him, what was inside of Him came out. But there was no anger or hatred in his response. Instead, it was a prayer of love and forgiveness. If we are created in the image of the merciful and compassionate God, if we carry within ourselves the true likeness of our Lord, then this is the response we are invited to nurture and bring forth in interactions when things don’t work as we hoped and expected, when we are violated, mistreated or betrayed.
In today’s lectionary reading from the gospel of St. John, we hear our Lord speaking to us and teaching us about living waters that will spring from the hearts of those who believe and follow him (see John 7:38-39). Water is an important symbol in the Holy Bible. The Bible was primarily composed in the Middle East, where water is scarce and treasured. Water purifies and cleanses, restores and heals, and brings forth a new life and a new beginning. The gospel message proceeds to explain that the passage refers to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit flows through our hearts and functions much like water by purifying and cleansing us, nourishing and also empowering us to the radiant reflections of our Creator and all that we were created and called to be. When squeezed and pressured, we are no longer overtaken by anger and bitterness, but instead, respond and radiate with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).