We, the people of Ascension, need the Jesus found in this weekend’s Gospel, John 4:5-42. We need to understand the power of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritans and Jews of Galilee and Judea worshipped on two different mountains. They considered one another to be far from God and the ways of ancient Israel. For a Jew, Jesus, to converse with a lone Samaritan woman in public was beyond scandalous. And a woman with her track record on top of it! But consider what Jesus did in this story.
He broke ancient boundaries. He absconded with centuries of hatred by showing her respect and a warm heart. He sat alone with a woman of “those people” and surprised her, some of the villagers and his own incredulous disciples. It wasn’t just a nice conversation either. Jesus was concerned with her welfare by offering her hope and a different way to live her life. “Sir, I can see you are a prophet.”
Today, 13 March 2020, we experienced an international, new reality. We’ve been immersed into unknown, unchartered territory made frightful by Mother Earth’s children assuaged by the COVID-19 virus in other countries. It is among us now. We cannot celebrate Eucharist in church. Our children cannot attend schools. Stores have already been pillaged. Businesses are closed. Mixed messages, overwhelming statistics, panic mode among some people – it can be very frightening because we see and know our own vulnerability. All solid reasons we need this endearing Jesus who is not afraid to touch anyone considered untouchable. The Lord of the Well, shall we say, reveals the wideness of God’s desire to have us return to the Heart that loved us into existence. Christ reveals a model of discipleship that is unencumbered by fear, free to simply offer light, hope and life to a lone woman’s empty life. This is the Jesus we can be with and to one another in this new reality.
We will always be the community of Ascension. I’ll miss the Eucharist, yes, but we can still read the daily Scriptures to be fed by our Lord of Light. I’ll miss the smiles and hugs but we have our hearts linked by what God has given us in each other. Like the Israelites in the desert we long for familiar things. Yet like this beloved story of the woman at the well, Jesus sits right next to each of us and says “I am he, the one speaking to you.”
Lent is about Baptismal realities. The living water promised by Jesus to the Samaritan woman and to each one of us is the very life of God. Now is the time to break boundaries with gracious care and mutual respect for every person. Good hygiene, common sense, sound medical guidance and a God who is with us at this well of difficult days. Lent 2020 is a time to counter our fears with the confidence of a faith no one can take from us. May our God of promise give us courage and strength to accept what life brings us and the willingness to care for one another. The Samaritans proclaimed: “We no longer believe because of your word; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
-Fr. Bob Hutmacher, ofm