An encounter with grace
The theme of the Year of Grace is to start afresh in Christ. The beautiful story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the local village well shows how this can happen and what amazing things can flow from it. This excerpt from Bishop Greg O'Kelly's Lenten reflection paints the scene.
To live the love of Jesus leads us necessarily to break down the barriers between ourselves and others, to treat all with dignity and respect.
Let us reflect on this woman of Samaria, whose personality through feisty conversation with the Lord becomes more detailed than most other figures in the gospels. The Samaritans as a race were reviled by the Jews. They were descendants of those left behind when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered and led into slavery by Assyria, more than 700 years earlier.
They had in time intermarried with idolators, pagan peoples who had been introduced into the country. They were hybrid Jews, an anathema to the orthodox.
Jesus breaks down barriers on several levels even by talking to this woman, as the shocked reaction of the disciples shows. First, she was a Samaritan. Second, she was a woman, and no rabbi or devout Jewish male would talk to a woman in public, not even one's wife or daughter. It would defile him.
Third, this woman clearly had a very poor name. She came to a well almost a kilometre's walk out of the village (which had its own well), and at midday, the heat of the day, when there would be few to encounter.
The women of the village probably shunned her because of her reputation; she was now living with her sixth partner, a lot even by our present practices, with never a marriage commitment having ever been made, never a love blessed.
This Samaritan woman transforms from being an aggressive personality, made so by life, to a procession of titles, calling Jesus, first, ‘You are a Jew’, then, ‘You are a prophet, sir’, to an inkling that Jesus is the Messiah, then to be—this disgraced and reviled woman—the first to hear Jesus’ word: ‘I who am speaking to you—I am He.’
It is through conversation with Jesus that this woman changes from rejection to faith. She leaves her water jar to go off and tell the rest of the village about Christ. She changes from opposition to proclamation.
Our daily prayer, a few minutes only, is our means for conversation with Jesus each day. But we ought not fill the time with words. Like the Samaritan woman, we need to listen, to hear Jesus' words. ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’
(First published in Cathnews Perspectives.)