As the COVID pandemic persists, global inequalities continue to come into the spotlight. Regardless of the constant threat of deadly viral outbreaks, narcissism and greed for power proliferate, fueling political polarization, misinformation, and conspiracy theories that undermine good will and hard work for global health and social justice. Indeed, populism, in hand with racism and misogyny, appear to be burgeoning throughout the world.
While it’s true that people have struggled in this conflict between goodness and corruption, between light and dark as it were, since recorded history, the way to respond has also been open to us and demonstrated by Christ.
This Sunday’s readings speak to this day—how you and I are to be in the world. In the story of the Samaritan woman, Christ comes to rest at an ancient well said to be from Jacob’s time. Being tired and thirsty, Jesus strikes up a conversation with a woman who is there drawing water and asks her for a drink. We know such a public encounter is nothing short of scandalous, since not only does He approach a Samaritan (taboo for a Jew) but also, she is an unaccompanied woman. Even sharing utensils would be prohibited, yet Jesus asks her to let Him drink with her. Naturally her initial response is suspicion, but the Gospel condenses a most beautiful breakdown of barriers. Christ wins her trust through establishing relationship: He requests her service (water) and offers His own too. He wants her to understand Him, but He first recognizes her specific reality. We might think of Christ’s revelation of the woman’s five husbands as a rebuke, yet there is no indication of that in John’s account. Rather, it seems Christ’s observation is a call to honesty and openness. The Samaritan woman is impressed. She welcomes Christ’s conversation and, like the women who ran to tell the apostles of the resurrection, she rushes back to her community and husband and brings them to Christ. She does not keep the wonder of her encounter with Christ to herself, but shares it with those around her. Here we have it.
Christ who is God who is Love enters into a relationship of mutual respect, honesty, and trust with another who is considered “Other” by His own community. This human relationship is the Spirit—the Living Water—that unites all people if we let it. In the reading from Acts, the apostles bring Christ’s message to Antioch—to foreigners. This, it is written, is when they began to be called Christians. Like the Samaritan woman, through Christ’s example, they recognized no male or female, no gentile or Jew, no slave or freeman; before God, we are one.
What does this mean for you and me today? We, who have been baptized in the “living water” are reminded that we can be like the Samaritan woman, our history, our inner selves known by Christ—and welcomed—and loved. As Christians, we accept this divine love by loving in response, by welcoming those even most rejected by our society, by dismantling barriers of culture, gender, race, or creed. Like the Samaritan woman, we include our circles in our joy
Our humanity is nourished and healed not only by food and drink, but by the nourishment of Spirit through getting to know each other in honest and inclusive relationship.