The Gospel of the Samaritan Woman – Notes from Fr. Walter
Finally, words that neither reschedule nor cancel!
To keep us bonded during this time I will make the best of the indirect means of communication that remain to me.
Let me ponder with you a world that grows ever narrower. Two days ago I worked to devise a way to balance the concerns of those who receive communion on the hand and those who desire to receive it on the tongue. That question became moot when, at 2 PM Saturday, public Mass was cancelled. Then we devised a program for ministering to people in the absence of Mass. This conversation lost its point when in person ministry largely ceased. Change follows change in rapid succession as all of us cope with an invisible unknown.
It has come between you and me, and between you and Holy Communion. It has silenced the organ and the choir. Now you are very careful on the street and in the subway, and I give a start when someone coughs. Now you wonder where each person has been and what they have touched? What have you touched? What have I touched, and, Oh goodness, did I touch my own face? The invisible unknown has interposed itself between me and any spontaneity whatever.
Living in such a moment makes me empathize with the Woman of Samaria who is the protagonist for today’s gospel. I invite you to read that Gospel from chapter 4 of St. John’s Gospel. You can also listen to it via the recording below. But take note before you do. Look for the movement in the long text. The woman starts off in a situation we have come to know well. She has self-isolated, coming to the well when no one else does. She is far from her neighbors, from God, and from herself. She is wary of a stranger, of his nature, of his gender, of his intent. He in turn reads her heart and through this long “scrutiny,” causes a torrent of love in her from God, and from her toward God and neighbor.
The Gospel of the Samaritan Woman
The woman’s situation changes radically across these many verses, but not because the world became more accepting, forgiving, or encouraging. Rather, receiving these gifts from Christ she embraced him and herself ending up free. All of this shows up in her water jar. In the beginning we learn that she carries a heavy jar to the well and carries it home heavier for cooking, bathing, and cleaning. Such is the price of survival and the weight of a life lived to get by.
But after she recognizes Jesus she puts the jar down. With it she sets down the weight of fear and suspicion and picks up the freedom to embrace her God and her neighbors. She moves from being a suspicious outlier to being a benefactor in the midst of everyone. She starts out wanting to get magic water that will slake thirst and she discovers that refreshment has come from within that she wants to share.
In the days ahead we may be spending more time alone with ourselves. What if we invited Christ to scrutinize our hearts so that these could become days of concern rather than of fear. Consider how many people will be glad you called or just smiled across the social distance. What does Christ want to amaze us about our capacity for trust and generosity? How can he make a narrow place into a foundation of growth? Such are questions we now have time to ask.
Let me then invite you to be a benefactor of those far and near through the sharing of prayer.
Pray for the church, that in these challenging times grounding in faith may strengthen and become more apparent.
Pray for all those in government and industry who are developing tests and vaccines.
Pray for all the sick, especially those who have contracted Covid-19. Pray for those who tend them.
Pray for those overcome by fear of the virus.
Pray for those who are quarantined.
Pray for those whose livelihoods have been affected by the outbreak.
Pray, of course, for those who have died.
Finally, receive this prayer of blessing from today’s Mass:
Direct, O Lord, we pray the hearts of your faithful, and in your kindness grant your servants this grace: that abiding in the love of you and their neighbor, they may fulfill the whole of your commands. Through Christ our Lord.