How would we feel when somebody confronts us about our mistakes and “not-so-nice-things” in our life? For most of us we would feel embarrassed and shamed that sometimes we would resort to denial and rationalization.
Today’s gospel about Jesus’ encounter with Samaritan at the well, strikes me for it offers us a radical way of engagement with others. When Jesus chose to engage with a conversation with the Samaritan woman, he broke many taboos during his time: Jews and Samaritans hated each other and as such avoid any engagement, for the Jews despised the Samaritans who were thought of as not true worshipers of the one true God; and men and women in general keep a relatively safe social distance from each other.
Transcending these barriers, Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman and started building a relationship of trust. He knew everything about her, both the good and the bad, and welcomed her. In a sense, Jesus acknowledged the inherent dignity of the woman and was never judgmental to her especially on her marital issues. Rather than ignore, pity, or critique her, Jesus recognized and named her challenges. As such she sees her for who she is and values her. In doing so, he conveyed to her that she is important—that she is significant and has value. She must have felt that Jesus truly cared for her and had her best interests that she trusted him and consequently opened herself to listen to him.
In response to her questionings Jesus invited her on the nature of true worship: that God must be worshiped in Spirit and truth. I think Jesus is reminding the woman that rituals and religious practices mean little if they do not facilitate or lead to a loving relationship with the living God. Furthermore, Jesus offered himself, the Living Water, to quench the woman’s thirst and it sure did change her. Having encountered the source of life, the woman left her water jar behind to proclaim who she found.
Jesus engages with us in a similar manner to that with the Samaritan woman. He sees where we are--- truly and deeply, never makes judgments on us (but he does not ignore our sins), accepts and loves us, challenges us and offers Himself to us. We are like the Samaritan woman in the gospel for we always thirst for water that gives life. We desire a good life and a better future. We yearn for peace of mind and heart. We long for real joy. We thirst for a lot things and sometimes look for it in the wrong places and in the wrong people. Jesus continuously offers himself to us for he is the only one who can fill us and really satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.
Just as Jesus engages with us in compassion, so he challenges us to do the same. In engaging with those we meet in our lives, our first concern is not to confront immediately the mistakes and sins of other people, but to enter into a relationship of trust and respect, recognizing the value and dignity of the other and from there engage in a dialogue. People will be more open to hearing the truth of the gospel when they are in relationship with us. We need to show that we genuinely care for these people (and not simply for the structures or the laws of the institutional church). It is only in genuine love and concern that we will be able to engage in deeper and harder conversations and people will be open and listen to us.
Before we bear witness to the truth of the gospel, let us allow ourselves first to be filled and be transformed by the Living Water, and leave our “old jar” behind.