Give Me This Living Water: RC Women Priests Reflect on the third Sunday in Lent
Today the Gospel is John 4:4-42 a powerful passage generally titled “The woman at the well” but this is more than a story of a woman at a well. It is a story of a woman, yes, of a woman from a despised culture, a Samaritan woman; of a woman who sinned, yes; of Jesus who against his religion interacted with this woman and offered her himself as the living water; of a woman once despised who, encountering Jesus,the Christ, evangelized her community and brought them to Jesus and of the relationships between cultures and religions and nations and those who usually despise one another. In this passage Jesus in dialogue embraces the woman and the people she represents who have intermarried and mingled Judaism with other notions of God. She is able to hold forth in a good dialogue with Jesus and each sharpen their thinking as the dialogue continues. She literally runs to share Jesus with others. Her people flock to him and see and believe for themselves. Jesus restores to her the God who loves, accepts and includes all people, the God we all thirst after.
There are many levels of meaning here, a despised woman is invited to dialogue with Jesus- Wow! Score one for Jesus and another for the worth of women in general and this woman. As a result of the dialogue Jesus and the woman move toward each other, Jesus reaches out to the Samaritans and they in turn respond and are blessed with life. This is dry season here and brush fires and wild fires frighten and dispossess many people. Yesterday a mobile home park where many poor people live coulld have burned to the ground, were it not for quick intervention of Fire personnel with water. Water gives live, puts out death and quenches our thirst. Jesus Christ and his Abba God brings us to life, saves us from our dryness and death–Thanks be to God! May we as individuals receive this living water this lenten season and may all who do not have dialogue with one another, individuals, families, communities and nations reach out to one another in love no matter how hard that may be.
On another level the woman IS Samaria and Rev. Beverly Bingle helps us to understand the meanings in that outreach by Jesus. May we life in the hope described in the passage from Romans 5:1-2,5-8 as we contemplate God speaking to us today.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev Dr. Beverly BIngle’s Homily:
> Another transfiguration this week.
> Last week the disciples saw the change in Jesus
> and his closeness to God
> through their law and their prophets.
> This week the transfiguration comes through dialogue.
> The meeting at the well shows both the woman and Jesus
> transformed from their exclusive native religions
> to allow both to embrace one faith in one inclusive God.
> The woman learns to give up
> worshiping the multiple gods in her Samaritan tradition.
> Jesus learns how to give up
> his Jewish attachment
> to Jerusalem as the only proper place to worship God.
> She stays a Samaritan, and he stays a Jew,
> but they are both transformed.
> Did this really story happen?
> Fr. Raymond Brown doesn’t go very far towards a yes on that.
> He writes that “It is not at all impossible
> that even in the conversation
> we have echoes of a historical tradition
> of an incident in Jesus’ ministry.”
> Most scholars doubt that this gospel story ever took place.
> They think the point is to explain
> how the hated Samaritans came to be included
> in the Jesus movement.
> There was a long history of dissension among the tribes of Israel,
> nearly a thousand years of it between Samaritans and Jews. When the
> city of Samaria fell to the Assyrians,
> many of them were led off into captivity,
> but some were left behind.
> Both Israel and Samaria failed to keep to the way of Yahweh.
> When the Jews came out of Babylon nearly 400 years later,
> the Samaritans tried to welcome them back,
> but the returning exiles despised the Samaritans
> because they had intermarried with the Assyrians.
> By the time Jesus came around,
> there had been over 500 more years of hate
> between the Jews and the Samaritans.
> Scripture scholar John Pilch says
> that some knowledge of Mediterranean culture
> helps to focus on the shocking pieces in the dialogue.
> For one thing, the well was a space open to both men and women
> but not at the same time.
> Women came only in morning or evening…
> but this woman is there at noon.
> Also, it was very questionable for a man
> to speak to an unchaperoned woman in a public place.
> And it was scandalous for a woman to talk with a man in public,
> but this woman talks with Jesus
> and then heads off to the marketplace,
> a place reserved for men, where she talks to the men there.
> The improper details of the story let us know
> that something extraordinary is going on,
> and other details give us clues about their meaning.
> It’s significant that Jesus and the woman meet at Jacob’s well,
> a place whose tradition is shared by Samaritans and Jews.
> Those five husbands and the one she’s living with now
> refer to the many gods that Samaria had historically worshiped
> along with the God of Israel.
> They discuss the question of whether worshiping God
> is proper to Jerusalem or to Shechem…
> and Jesus’ insight is no.
> Not exclusively in those places
> but anywhere and everywhere, in Spirit and truth.
> They’re talking theology.
> Through their mutual acceptance of the other,
> the walls, boundaries, hostilities, and hatreds
> which had long separated Samaritans and Jews
> melt away and disappear.
> And what about us?
> Think about the 400 years of hate
> between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland,
> or the 1,400 years of hate
> between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East.
> Think about the 482 years we Christians spent hating each other
> from Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses in 1517
> to the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Declaration
> reconciling our differences on that “justification by faith”
> that Paul talks about in today’s second reading.
> How often do we just talk at one another!
> Genuine conversation is hard work,
> but it opens up encounter with the other
> and brings life-giving transformation.
> This past Tuesday our Muslim neighbors
> at Masjid Saad Foundation up on Alexis Road
> opened their doors in gracious hospitality
> to help us Christians begin to understand Islam.
> We talked about having very different perspectives,
> different contexts, different rituals, different readings—
> and all converging on faith in one God
> that has to lead to action in the world.
> We agreed that God—by whatever name—is everywhere.
> And we agreed that our traditions converge
> on the need to put our love for God and neighbor into action.
> We’ll be meeting again on the next four Tuesdays
> to continue the conversation.
> We have much in common.
> We share a thirst for meaning,
> sometimes feeling abandoned by God
> in the desert of our lives.
> We share a thirst for freedom—
> the need to leap out of the slavery of our Egypts
> into the promised land.
> We share a thirst for truth—
> looking to get away from the polluted water
> of outmoded parts of our traditions
> to drink from fresh, clean springs.
> We share a thirst for justice—
> to stand in right relationship with one another
> and with all of creation.
> Above all, we share a thirst for love—
> the burning desire
> for a world that follows the Great Commandment—
> love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
> Psalm 95 tells us, “Harden not your hearts.”
> We must not live our life against any person,
> against any religion,
> against God.
> We must live in peace with all.
> Holy Spirit Catholic Community
> Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
> at 3925 West Central Avenue
> Toledo, OH 43606
> (Washington Church)
> Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
> Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006