We all too often believe things about other people that have absolutely no basis in reality. This woman just figured that Jesus wouldn’t have anything to do with her, because that was the status quo; Jewish men didn’t speak to strange women, and especially Samaritan women. When she states as much, Jesus challenges her, and he challenges all of us, as if to say, “Hey, you know, that person who you are judging — even though it might be based on really good evidence — may be the one who really brightens your life.”
Our preconceptions of who Jesus is and who other people are keep us from experiencing the refreshing goodness of who they really are and engaging in a deep and rewarding relationship.
As the relationship between Jesus and the Samaritan woman progresses, Jesus really gets to know her. Biblical scholars tell us that the Samaritans were considered somewhat fickle in respect to matters of faith. It seems that they would hang with just about anybody’s god; it was not a trait that the Jews appreciated very much. That might be something that we can identify with, too. What do we really put our trust in? Is it money? Is it possessions? Is it profession? Or, is it really God? Jesus’ deep insight into the heart of this woman was convincing to her; she recognized Jesus as a person who seeks the truth and proclaims it, a prophet.
As we consider our contemporary world, it’s hard not to feel somewhat disenchanted with the way that things are going; our social institutions, political institutions and religious institutions all really let us down so much, and just when it seems that things couldn’t get much worse, something else comes up. Institutions disappoint; they always have and they probably always will. They disappointed Jesus and the Samaritan woman. But there is one thing that will never disappoint us, and that is a living relationship with God, our water springing from a rock in the desert, the living water that springs from knowing Jesus.
Jesus assures the Samaritan woman that true worship is not in a temple in Jerusalem; rather, true worship is worship that penetrates our lives and is expressed in spiritual lives of authenticity and integrity.
The good news that touched the life of the Samaritan woman was so compelling that she shared it with everyone that she knew; she was one of the first missionaries.
The dynamic of conversion is continuous. As our relationship with the Lord of Life deepens, we are continuously compelled to share that good news with others. Let us pray in this season of Lent that the Lord of Life will break down the walls of our preconceptions so that we can see the true beauty in others and that we be renewed by our celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord.
• The Rev. Rex Hays is minister of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.