By Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.
(This Sunday there are two possible Gospel readings. This reflection is based on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4:5-42.)
The Gospel story of the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well is a powerful story of reconciliation. And each of the two main characters in the story, Jesus and the Samaritan women, give us examples of the ministry of reconciliation for our reflection and imitation.
We expect Jesus to have a ministry of reconciliation; after all, that was his mission on earth. It is worth our reflection to note the manner in which Jesus conducts himself in fulfilling this mission. In a couple of weeks, we will focus on the “big picture” of reconciliation that is given to the whole world through the paschal mystery, but today we focus on one concrete encounter of Jesus that led to the reconciliation for the Samaritan woman.
The encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman defied social norms and religious custom. A good and righteous Jewish man of that time would not have interacted with a woman who was an outsider (non-Jew) and a woman of ill repute (which we can assume by her multiple marriages). Jesus recognized her as such, yet chose to engage with to her, when others might disregard and ignore her.
In an example of radical hospitality, Jesus opened himself to her with love and engaged her in honest dialogue where truth was spoken with love. And the grace of this encounter is shown as “the one who was far off, was brought near” (Ephesian 2:13) through the loving non-judgment of Jesus. This example of Jesus invites us to reflect on how social and religious customs, which contain inherent judgments, might prevent us from loving others in a manner that brings forth reconciliation. Who do I need to stop judging and start loving in the manner of Jesus?
The grace of the encounter with the loving Jesus is visible in the change of behavior of the Samaritan women. Her example is one of receptivity to be encountered by Jesus and to allow his word to be transformative. She who was a receiver of the word of God became one who testified to the word of God.
While Jesus did not explicitly send her forth to preach the Word, the gift itself commissioned her to be an apostle to the people of her village. She gave testimony as an ambassador of Christ and they too came to know Jesus. Through her testimony, other came to be believe in Jesus; they were brought near to Christ. Her example invites us to reflect on the gift of mercy and reconciliation that God has given to each of us and to accept the commission that comes with that gift. To who am I called to be an ambassador of Christ and give the message of reconciliation? (See II Corinthian 5:19–20.)
We all recognize that we live in a world that is in desperate need of reconciliation. It is easy to be discouraged and the temptation to despair can be strong. We lament the state of a world in the throes of a pandemic. We are a nation polarized beyond belief, yet need to respond with belief. The constant news of civil unrest, mass shootings and racial violence has made us numb to the horror that victims face. Our Church also needs reconciliation and healing as we carry the weight of shame for the sexual abuse that has been and continues to be revealed.
But today we remember that God has the power to make water flow from a rock; to make life come forth from death. And St Paul encourages us to not despair and be discouraged, but be at peace because we can boast in our hope in the glory of God; because hope does not disappoint. God’s message to believers, to us, is very simple: Trust my love. Trust the power of my love to save you.
May the gift of that love commission us to be ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. William Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., is the former moderator general of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.