3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (Jn. 4:5-42).
Perhaps one of the most intriguing accounts of all of Jesus in the gospels is the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. First of all, He crosses a social boundary: at that time it is inappropriate for a man and a woman to converse in public. Then He crosses an ethical boundary: Jesus strikes up a conversation with a woman who everyone knows is openly living in sin. In the city, she is known as a dangerous woman, a femme fatale. Then He crosses an ethnic border: this woman is a half-blood (half Jew, half Gentile) and Jesus is a full-blooded Jew. Finally, He crosses a religious boundary: Samaritans pray on Mount Gerizim, while Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter.
God is looking for people; Jesus wants to meet every person who he finds in bondage so often inflicted by those who claim to know him. This liberation leads to life and happiness. The image of the well and the water is very suggestive. What does Jesus want to talk to us about? About deeper things. About our thirst for life. And that thirst for life, Jesus reads in the eyes of that woman, very merciful and gracious as only Jesus can.
Jesus points to the heart of that woman and it weighs heavy on her heart This is the point where Jesus wants to make his living water flow. Precisely at the point of our deepest misery, where everything is stuck in our lives, Jesus wants to tap into a new well, a well of life, where we can come every day to draw and renew ourselves. Truth can be hard and confrontational at times, but at its core truth shared in love brings healing. Through His attitude, Jesus manages to gain the trust of this woman. By His words, He does not push her away from Himself but draws her to Himself. As He exposes her life, she does not feel rejected by Him (verses 17-18). On the contrary, even though He calls out her pain, she does not feel judged. His omniscience does not embarrass her, but gives her confidence to continue to listen to Him (v 19).
Worshiping God is not limited to time and space, not to a particular culture nor to a particular people, although Jesus clearly says that salvation comes from the Jews. (cf. Jn 4:22) But a real encounter with God can take place in the midst of everything that worries and concerns you, this is something that Black folks understand. Black people have been able to find the goodness of God even in the most difficult situations and circumstances.
The coming of the Holy Spirit into the heart of the Samaritan woman is immediately visible. Two notable changes are taking place: (1.) The Holy Spirit shuts off her ancient sources of bondage. This is exemplified in the phrase 'Now the woman left her water pitcher...' (verse 28). (2.) The Holy Spirit taps into new sources. This becomes apparent when she returns directly to Sychar. When she arrived in the town, she gathered her fellow townspeople around her and cried out with joy: 'Come, see One who has told me all that I have done; would he not be the Christ? (verse 29).
Christian spirituality gives us the life of God, communicated through Jesus and his Spirit, but also brings us back to our humanity. A sign of mature spirituality is that the human is integrated into it and it comes to full bloom. It has sometimes been thought that spirituality meant letting go of all that is human this is false. Authentic spirituality deals with our experiences and memories, our upbringing, the situation in which we find ourselves, our feelings and emotions, the injuries we received in our lives. It has to do with the depth of being human.
Authored: Fr. Kareem R. Smith, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, 1377 East Main Street,
Shrub Oak, NY 10588