Sermon – The Fifth Sunday of Pascha
The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
May 14, 2023
My grandmother was perhaps the greatest influence to me in my childhood. She prayed religiously. Ironically, her message contained contradictions and added to my 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 was puzzled by the 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.
In today’s Gospel lesson 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 is one of the texts that is helpful in fulfilling the mission of the Church. It helps us to understand not only how we might 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 can lead us down two roads: 1) becoming divisive that creates barriers in separating ourselves from others, or 2) being a means of 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 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 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. We can easily get the impression that the “old” way 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, may also be 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 an argument against Traditional religious rituals and practices. The argument is: “It’s about a relationship with Christ!” This is true. However, what can be 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 often 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. We do not make in making anything right 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 (inhabits) His Church and 2) The Church 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 answers 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.
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.