Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

This past weekend was an interesting one in the church's year. It started Friday with the Feast of the Annunciation. Because of Canon law the feast falling on a Friday dispensed the traditional abstinence from meat rules for Lent. The readings for this, the third Sunday of Lent, hit their highpoint with St. John's account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-43).

We are told Jesus had to pass through Samaria. Usually the Jewish people would have avoided Samaria and gone from Judea to Galilee through Jordan. However John 4:4 says Jesus had to pass through the area. In this we see the workings of the Divine Plan as well as Jesus himself reaching out to the Gentiles.

Everything about the story breaks some convention or rule. In the first place a Jew likely wouldn't even talk to a Samaritan, especially male to female. Yet Jesus asks her for water, risking touching the same utensils as her, thus making himself ritually unclean. Besides the fact that the woman is at the well around noon, which shows her to be an outcast. Since the only people who went to the well in the heat of the day were usually travelers (Jesus), prostitutes (not her), or outcasts (bingo!)

The woman has had five husbands and is currently living in an unmarried state with a sixth man. Jesus limits rebuking her and merely asks for a drink. The two discuss the "Living Water" that Jesus will give. By now the poor woman is all sorts of confused looking for some kind of garden hose that Jesus must be hiding.

Then they get to the heart of the matter, as the woman, probably uncomfortable for being called out by a stranger switches topics. She asks Jesus about right worship noting that her people have long worshiped on that very mountain, yet the Jews say Jerusalem is the place of worship.

Jesus replies to her in John 4:21-24. In essence the Lord tells her that it will shortly be a moot point whether to worship on that mountain (Garizim) or in the Temple at Jerusalem. Because God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth. Jesus is foretelling the rise of his new church, as well as accepting and saving the first Gentile convert.

Even in the context of announcing a change of worship Jesus tells the woman, that "Salvation is from the Jews." (John 4:22).

Of course this is in fact correct as all of Salvation History is played out between God and his Chosen People. From Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David to the New Covenant made through Christ's suffering, death and Resurrection.

I am sure that this particular passage holds even more than I have dealt with here as it is one of the meatiest parts of the Bible.

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