3rd Sunday of Lent
Unity is a hallmark of God and the holy angels and the citizens of heaven. Disunity, moving apart from others, selfishness, factions are the objectives of evil and Satan and his fallen angels and the members of the enemy camp. In today’s reflections I hope to explore this theme in today’s gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well, and then see how this theme might apply to the coronavirus and the situation we find ourselves in these days.
I love this story in the Gospel of John. It really brings out the humanity of Jesus and his tenderness and gentleness and love for souls. I believe that when Jesus took on our human condition he wanted to experience it to the full, so he left most of his divine attributes and powers in heaven.
To begin with, we see Jesus plopped down there at the well. He and his disciples have been walking from Jerusalem and Judea in the south, and are making their way to Galilee in the north. That’s a pretty decent walk and Jesus is feeling pooped. The Second Person of the Trinity would have shown no fatigue. He would have been doing some calecentics or stretches or something to burn off all the energy he was feeling. He wouldn’t have rested while the disciples went to town for supplies; he would have let them rest while he himself went to get food. Or, better yet, he would have multiplied the bread and fish again to save time.
Next, we see him interacting with this Samaritan woman and breaking all kinds of taboos. First, she’s a woman. The fact that this was frowned upon is exemplified in the shock of his disciples when they come back and find him talking to her. Secondly, she’s coming to get water at an odd time of the day. It was normally done in the morning or evening and was an opportunity for socializing. Could she have been coming at this hot time to avoid critical words and glances? Thirdly, she is a Samaritan, and there is definitely friction between the Samaritans and Jews. Recall the incident in Lk 9 where the Samaritan village refuses to welcome Jesus and his disciples and James and John say, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
But Jesus cuts through all these barriers and divisions and treats this woman with dignity and respect. He even humbles himself and puts himself in her debt by asking for a drink of her water. She’s kind of feisty in her replies to him, perhaps accustomed to having to defend herself from ridicule and reproaches. But she soon begins to realize that this man is different. Jesus is a lover in the best sense of that word. He sees her as a whole person and endeavors to raise her desires from the physical, natural plane to the supernatural and spiritual plane. John’s Gospel is so good at that!
Jesus is so tactful when he puts his finger on her marital situation. He doesn’t condone it, but also doesn’t shame her. He knows she feels embarrassed about it enough already. He understands our struggles with loneliness and weakness and our grappling with our sexuality. I’ve always loved the way this woman with so much spunk quickly changes the subject to get herself off the hot-seat. And Jesus allows her. By the time the disciples return, the love and tenderness of Jesus have won this woman over. Jesus has completely broken down all the barriers between them and is busy drawing her and the other Samaritans to himself. Unity is at work, divisions are falling — a true sign of God’s Spirit.
Jesus has kindled a flame inside of her, and she quickly goes off to pass that flame on to her fellow-villagers. They come and see for themselves the claims this woman has made. And they in turn are drawn in by the magnetism of Jesus. Far from driving him away, they ask him and his disciples to stay with them for awhile, and he does for two days. And when he leaves they give witness to the unifying Spirit of Jesus by declaring, “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
So now we fast-forward to the present and COVID-19. These kinds of situations can bring out the best in people and they can bring out the worst. I remember after 9/11 and the Twin Towers our country really banded together. There was a lot of patriotism and mutual support. Church attendance went way up. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is causing church attendance to go down, due to the discouragement of large gatherings. But, hopefully, it is causing people to rise above the purely physical plane, as Jesus coaxed the Samaritan woman, to realize that this life is short and tenuous, and that we should be focusing on more than our day-to-day preoccupations.
I am encouraged by the way the global community is sharing information and cooperating with one another to lessen the impact of this new threat. A genuine concern is being shown for the elderly and infirm and those who will be most impacted. It gave me joy to see that President Trump has declared today, Sunday, March 15 a day of national prayer. He wrote on Twitter: “We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these.” And he continued, “No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!”
Obviously, we need to make use of science and do all we can on the human level to slow down the spread of this illness, for example Trump declaring a national state of emergency and thereby releasing large sums of federal money to address the crisis. Joe Biden has made good suggestions on what steps could be taken and said the present administration was free to use any or all of them. There have been so many divisions in our world of late. They bear the stamp of Satan and his evil designs. Hopefully, God will make use of this present tragedy to bring people more together again. Love and harmony are much more desirable than hate and division.