May 17, 2020

Sermon – Fifth Sunday of Pascha 2020

Pastor’s Sermon
The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
May 17, 2020

My grandmother was perhaps the greatest influence to me in my childhood. She
prayed religiously. Ironically, her message contained contradictions and raised a
great deal of curiosity about what she devoted all of her time trying to keep me
away from: Catholicism. Her message was very simple: “We don’t worship idols!”
“Jesus is no longer on the Cross!” “The word ‘Pope’ is not in the Bible!” My
grandmother lived her entire life in reaction to something she was taught and
believed was wrong. “The Church is not a building” she would say, but if I even
thought of attending any other church than the church I was raised in (at 109
Haili Street in Hilo, Hawaii) she made clear, I would not get to heaven! As a
young person I heard a contradiction in what she was saying.

Many adults today are quite content with the idea that being able to pray and
talk with God on a daily basis at home and at work. They consider that practicing
a personal and private prayer life is all that is necessary for one’s
spiritually. I find that many who think of prayer in these terms also believe
that regular church attendance is not necessary.

Notice how our Lord engaged the Samaritan woman in a conversation. He did not
judge or condemn her. He led her to see and understand a truth that helped her to
become illumined. Her name in Greek [Photini] meant just that: “Illumined.” This
lesson is presented to us at this time for a reason:

Today’s Gospel passage is one of the texts that is helpful in church mission
work. It reveals something about not only how we approach people who may have a
similar if not an identical understanding of their faith from us. The encounter
that the Lord had with the Samaritan woman helps us to realize that the way we go
about speaking of our Faith and most importantly, the way we speak about God can
effectively lead us down two roads: 1) becoming divisive that creates barriers in
separating ourselves from others, or 2) being a means reconciling people and
ultimately helping to bring them closer to God.

There is no need for you and I to compromise what we believe as we also practice
being truthful and honest, caring, considerate, and mutually respectful in our
conversations with others. Our convictions should not create barriers. If they do
- it is a sure sign of our insecurity in what we believe and perhaps what we even
practice.

The Lord - broke barriers. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman He took
time to be positive and notice: while he helped her to face her own truth, He
does not criticize her, blame or talk down to her; impose his thoughts upon her.
He does not “get right to the point;” or to seek to solve a problem, but simply
listens (and pay attention) to her. He did not even ask her to “do the
impossible.” The Lord displays respect for the woman at the well; he spoke gently
[while at other times he spoke firmly] (We also need to watch how we speak and
consider how others hear us; not be misleading.) Jesus acknowledges the Samaritan
woman for her honesty instead of being judgmental about her loose lifestyle. Some
people like to consider themselves justified in speaking to others in
confrontational ways; while in fact they are simply obnoxious. When our emotions
are not in check it is not easy to recognize that we can speak to others in ways
that can be hurtful even though we may not mean to be that way.

It is not uncommon to often hear people evaluate things in terms of what was the
“old” way of thinking and doing things, in contrast to the “new” way of of
thinking and doing things. One can very easily get the impression that the “old”
way very often has to do with a very narrow and limited view of things; while the
“new” way is a very broad and open-minded view. The attitude of those who abhor
the “old” way, I’ve learned, is often based upon their distaste for hypocrisy.
Consequently, helping our children to understand, for example, that God is a God
of love, mercy and forgiveness, when you and I may act and behave in ways that do
not demonstrate love, mercy and forgiveness, is a serious contradiction. And
this, one might say, is a major point of today’s lesson.

Jesus said to the Samaritan women, “…a time is coming and has now come when the
true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the
kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must
worship in spirit and in truth.”

This passage has been often used to argue against our Catholic Tradition as a
tradition of dead rituals and customs; institutionalized rules and regulations
formulated by men. The notion of worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” has
been the argument against Traditional religion. The argument is: “It’s about a
relationship with Christ!” This is true. However, what is dismissed is: being
accountable to anyone or submitting to any authority. Institutions and
authorities are today often perceived as untrustworthy and infected by politics.
It is characterized as involving manipulation, lies and deception.

Well, first of all, if anyone is interested in correcting the wrongs of any
institution, he or she should not practice the sins of what he or she accuses
others of doing. You do not make anything right that you consider to be wrong by
doing what is wrong.

Jesus said: “God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in Spirit and in
truth” John 4:24. This teaching presumes two things: 1) God Spirit indwells His
Church and 2) is led by human beings who, while confessing sinners, are stewards
of God’s Truth and inspired by His Spirit.

Children learn what they see and hear from those they grow to love and respect.
They do not see God, but they perceive and understand what they are taught by
example. Their lives are shaped and formed by how they are nurtured. They grow
and mature by understanding what it means to be committed and to have faith. They
ultimately develop convictions and come to know God by knowing those whose lives
and relationship with God reflect and demonstrate who God is. And so, we could
also say that there are many Gods from the many portrayals and reflections of God
in the world today, and finding the true God for a young person is not easy.

No one is perfect or infallible, and every parent who acknowledges and confesses
this fact (at the appropriate time) does his child a favor. If a child is led to
believe that you or I have all of the answers, then we put ourselves in the place
of being God. However, if a child comes to understand that just because we do not
have an answer does not mean there are no answers, but instead, neither you or I
are God, then there is the possibility of knowing God in spirit and truth.

Prayer
Grant, O Lord, that we may be awakened to your truth. As we prepare for the Feast
of the descent of your Spirit, fill our lives with your presence that we may more
faithfully and diligently do your will in heart and soul. Enlighten us as you did
the woman by Jacob’s well. Enable us to see the truth and to be unafraid of
walking in the light. For Thou art the Way, the Truth and the Life, and unto Thee
do we ascribe glory together with Thine unoriginate Father and Thine All-holy
good and Life-giving Spirit… A-men.

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