My dear brothers and sisters, our Gospel recounts the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. This woman at the well in a way represents all of us in our fallen state. She certainly knew what it was like to be defined by others as someone who did not measure up. She was a Samaritan, and therefore rejected by the Jews as a heretic and a member of a despised group that had intermarried with Gentiles. She herself had been married five times and was now with a man
to whom she was not married, which may have been why she went to draw water at the unlikely time of high noon. Perhaps she went to the well in the heat of the day in order to avoid the other Samaritan women who wanted nothing to do with someone like her. The good news is that the Lord Jesus knows how to meet us where we are. He encountered Matthew, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Paul and this woman where they were. Imagine her surprise, then, when the Savior asked her for a drink of water and then engaged in a conversation about spiritual matters with her. Jewish men simply did not strike up conversations with women in that time and place, and consuming food or drink from a Samaritan was out of the question. He spoke straightforwardly to her and did not shy away from uncomfortable truths that hit her where she lived.
Too many of us today flee in shame from uncomfortable truths, whether we encounter them in our own thoughts or in the opinions of others. Too many of us define ourselves by our failings, weaknesses, and temptations. Too many of us accept some unrealistic cultural standard of “the good life” as the norm we must meet in order to be worthwhile. In the Samaritan woman we see an authentic Christian. In response to her shocking encounter with the Savior, she humbly acknowledged the truth about her brokenness; she did not react defensively or make excuses. She did not end the conversation or run away in shame. Like her, our failures and weaknesses are not good in and of themselves, but we can put them to good use when we let them open our eyes to the truth of who we are, of where we stand before the Lord. If we will use them as ways to humble ourselves without making excuses or otherwise blinding ourselves to what they reveal about us, then we will be like the Samaritan woman. She was open to the healing of her soul, to the possibility of a new and restored life through the mercy of the Lord. She was thirsty for strength and healing that she knew she could not give herself, and she was not ashamed to admit it and thus was filled with “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” from the depths of her soul.
I pray this week that like the Samaritan woman, may we refuse to be paralyzed by guilt and shame before others and in our own minds. May we take our attention off of whether we measure up to some self-imposed standard and instead focus on receiving the healing mercy of Jesus Christ. No matter what we have done, no matter how distorted and corrupt any dimension of our life may be, no matter how anyone else treats or views us, Christ is able to raise us up with Him from death to life. That is not only a future promise, but a present reality.
God bless you,
Fr. Sylvester O.