Exodus 17: 1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:1-42.
May I speak in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Can Jesus give us what we need? Can he change our life?
The salvation starts with a meeting. Every meeting is about at least two people. Those who meet are never the same. One has more to offer, the other less, but one thing is sure, everyone has something to offer.
In our Gospel, today, we are talking about a meeting. We know that one of the characters is Jesus, but the woman does not know who Jesus is. Try to forget everything you know about Jesus. So we have the story of a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. All what they know about each other is just their nationality.
Jesus is tired and thirsty, but he can’t drink water because he has no jar and the well is deep. The woman has the jar. He asks for a drink. His simple request causes the woman to say, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” But to understand her ironic answer I need to take you back in history. For Jews the Samaritans were unclean and they did not share anything in common with them. She knew that Jews might contract ritual impurity by using a common vessel to draw water. What she tries to say is: you, saintly, clean man asks a drink of me an unclean and sinner? Her irony is how she feels inside, a stranger, an outsider.
But Jesus’ request has a clear purpose: to break through all the barriers of race, religion, gender and morality. Here was a Jew who did not stereotype people, not as a woman, nor as a Samaritan, nor as a sinner. He saw her as a person who had come to draw water, but was herself in need of much more than Jacob’s well could provide.
Jesus chooses to ask her help and in doing so open up her heart and that of her community.
The woman’s answer provokes Jesus to say more about himself. He confirms that he need her help to drink water from the well, because he has no jar, but in the same time he explained to her that he can give her a special water.
Now starts, the real meeting, when Jesus and the woman accept that they can help each other. Jesus accepts her water and offers his water, the spirit, the divine life; the water that can address her needs the water of generosity, hospitality, respect, love and forgiveness. The woman feels that what she can offer is accepted without herself being judged.
This feeling open the eyes of her mind and heart and she see in Jesus the one who can give meaning to her life. She understands that she has a past with regrets and sorrow which she feels can not be changed, but at the same time she has an unwritten future which could be better.
She becomes a witness, an apostle of Jesus.
Here, in this history, we have the most beautiful illustration of conversion and mission.
But, even for the apostles was difficult to understand.
This is a powerful lesson about how we can talk about God and do evangelism.
The woman leaves the water jar at the well and goes back into the city. Now she walks full of confidence to make her voice heard in the community, to give testimony about the man who told her everything she has ever done.
To convince the others, she tells the story of her meeting with Jesus.
The most important thing for us is that the woman’s testimony was believed and Samaritans accepted Jesus.
The one whom they marginalized has become the one through whom they believed.
You may have noticed that we have the same structure in the first reading from the Old Testament. The difference is that the people believe that Moses can give them water but they have no patience and start to complain. This is a faith issue which raises the question “Is God among us or not?”
Moses uses his power and the people are saved. From this lesson in history we see that we have a God who does not give up, but we must not doubt this. They became a missionary people telling how they were saved.
These are two remarkable stories, but we are invited to tell our stories too. About our relationship with God. The way that he loves, blesses and forgive us when we are less worthy, the way that He saved us when we felt lost. Telling these stories to others we become missioners, we are doing evangelism, like the Samaritan woman. This means to share the good news: God will never give up on us. This is the truth that we are called to proclaim.
(Sermon delivered on 15th of March, 2020, in the St.Mary’s Ancient Church, Prittlewell, Southend)