The reading is from the gospel according to St. John 4:5-42
Imagine meeting a complete stranger. This stranger has an amazing gift. They know everything about you, even the bad stuff. The woman at the well (who is known in our tradition as Photini) had such an encounter when she met the Lord Jesus Christ. On a side note, we have had many saints and holy men and women within the ranks of the Church who have been granted similar grace and the ability to know much about peoples lives. Some of the modern examples include the elder Paisios of Greece and Cyril VI, Coptic patriarch of Alexandria. Today’s reading is one of the great examples of just how rich and complex a single passage in the gospels can actually be. There are more than a dozen points that deserve our attention today but sadly we will only be able to cover a few briefly.
One of the amazing things about the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well is that it never should have happened in the first place. According to the customs and decorum of the day this was a scandalous event. The woman says as much to Jesus when she remarks “How is it that Thou, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. She is completely stunned by the behavior of Jesus. He has demonstrated that she is in fact a human being although she is not a Jew, but part of a Jewish sect called Samaritans. He treats her with respect and asks her for a drink of water.
One of the things we often forget in our day to day lives is that part of being a Christian is not just to “be a good person” and “go to church.” One of the requirements for living the Christian life is the ability to love others, including strangers. The Lord would have been justified in staying away from this woman and following the norms of His own society, but with Jesus we always see someone who is willing to break the mold and go out of the way to really know others, to interact with them, to love them. We often hold the idea that someone is not worthy of our love. If they are a political opponent we can withhold our love. If they are not of our race, we can withhold our love. If they are not of our religion, we can withhold our love. If they don’t live in our neighborhood, or go to our school, or wear quality clothes or speak properly or look beautiful….we can withhold our love.
We notice also that the Lord doesn’t have to say or do much to begin a dialogue with this woman, He simply asks for a bit of water to drink. Chances are that every time we step outside our house we have the ability to have such interactions with others. We have the chance to show that others have worth by simply paying some attention to them or speaking with them if only for a moment.
When I was running track & field in high school, I would often try to prepare for meets while wearing headphones and listening to my Walkman. My coach Wickman was a rather old fashioned fellow and he would yell “Guirguis, get that anti-social device off your head!” I used to laugh but he was right. That Walkman kept me from engaging and interacting with others if only for those 20 or 30 minutes. Nowadays we don’t go 5 seconds without looking at our phones. We use them as portable offices, entertainment, communications etc. The phones are great, I have one, but our use of such devices makes it less and less likely that we will have meaningful interaction with others and I’m not talking about strangers alone but even with our own families.
As Christians we are called to be evangelists. Yes. Every single Christian is expected to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and His love to the world around us. This world is hurting and lost…just listen to the news for 10 minutes and you’ll be sufficiently depressed for a week. Our neighbors and friends and even the ugly stranger we pass at the post office or the grocery store….all those people are hurting just like the woman at the well. All of them would like to have a genuine encounter with someone who is loving, and caring. They would also like to know God.
As Christians we are called to be evangelists and we are also called to be aware of the present moment. Time is precious to us because it is a gift from above. The Lord went beyond His comfort zone and beyond the expectations of others to reach out to this woman who was burdened by many sins. He gave her the truth and this truth changed her life.
Every person on earth must play the role of the Lord or the woman at the well. Either we are evangelists and prophets bringing the love of God to others or we are the hurting sinner in need of the Lord’s healing power. Either we are ready for evangelism or we must seriously thirst for a heartfelt dialogue with Christ. This heartfelt meeting with Jesus turned Photini into an evangelist. He saw through her many lies and He brought her out of the darkness. A real conversation with the Lord has the ability to begin turning us from our past to our true purpose.
The Lord says to the disciples “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” In the midst of all our running around, dropping the kids off at sports, stopping off for a bite to eat, playing with our phones and tablets….in the midst of all that do we ever say “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me”?
The woman at the well was thirsty for God. Jesus the Lord was hungry to do His will.
May God direct all of our appetites to the One who can truly fulfill them.
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