March 15 – 3rd Sunday of LentReadings: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95, Response: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; Gospel: John 4:5-42
The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel could not have come at a better time. It is about breaking barriers, overcoming biases—even prejudices—and entering the world, “the chaos of the other.”
We are aware that historically there was great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans during the time of Jesus. It therefore is quite unusual for Jesus to talk to the Samaritan woman, and even more unusual for him to ask for water from her.
Yet, it was Jesus starting a conversation with her that broke down the first barrier. This allowed the overcoming of biases and prejudices by opening lines of communication. It was not sudden, but gradual.
Then the second breakthrough is in the deepening of the process of conversation into what I would call the emerging of the truth, the truth of Jesus’ identity and the truth of the woman’s personal life.
When these truths were revealed, with Jesus telling the woman what he knew about her personal life, she cites the truth of their shared faith and hope, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” (John 4: 25)
Then Jesus reveals his truth, “I am he, the one speaking with you.” (John 4: 26)
This leads to the third breakthrough, conversion, which brings with it the leading of others to the Christ, and the building of the community of the Kingdom that begins in Christ.
“Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.’” (John 4: 41-42)
Power of conversation
The power of conversation to begin to break down barriers, opens us to the truth, and leads us to Christ and to the building of the Kingdom here and now in our world.
Pope Francis in an early 2017 interview called the world’s attention to this, that we must talk to one another and cited the disaster the lack of conversation can bring.
The Pope cited the example of Hitler in the 1930s when in a time of great crisis, a loss of identity and dignity after a humiliating defeat in World War I, the German people looked for a “leader-savior.” And because they did not talk to each other, Hitler filled in the vacuum.
Pope Francis: “That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another.”
Crisis, without conversation, leads us to disaster. We see traces of this now in the midst of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic. We perhaps are looking for the “savior” in the cure or the vaccine, but since the reality of science tempers this, we look for someone to blame; even demonizing the victims of the virus.
The World Health Organization raises the hope that this pandemic can be contained and eventually overcome if nations will work together. It all begins with conversation that leads to truth which is the foundation of building a community of the Kingdom.
The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman gives us the process that can keep this hope alive and eventually build that community of the Kingdom.
Genuine conversation begins with openness to the other and an acknowledgment of our deeply held personal views, that can evolve in biases and even prejudices. One needs a safe space to do this, where one feels he/she can be open and reveal his/her truth without fear of judgment or attack.
It is only in this safe space that we can reveal our truth. Yes, including our biases and prejudices, our darkest secrets, our brokenness and sinfulness. It is in this revelation that we discover our shared humanity in its totality. We are allowed to share what Carl Jung would refer to as our “shadow self.”
Notice how hidden in the shadow self of the Samaritan woman was also her deepest hope, her hope in the Messiah, “when he comes, he will tell us everything.” And this was a hope that evolved into her salvation because he entered this conversation with Jesus.
Here we see how the safe space transforms into sacred space when Jesus enters this space proclaiming he is the Christ. He is the foundation, the cornerstone of the Kingdom we are to build here in our world.
In the midst of this global crisis, this pandemic that has changed and will continue to change how we live and relate to one another, we must turn to conversation. Is this a blessing or a curse? Perhaps we can still choose the outcome.
Seek each other and Jesus the Christ in the well, in the safe and sacred space.
In this safe and sacred space, may we carry our conversation that will lead us to the deepest truths of our shared humanity, both the good and the bad, and in this discover the vision of the Kingdom, a Kingdom of justice and equality, of peace and joy, of compassion and love. —CONTRIBUTED