A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:1-42)
We should look at that question from the Samaritan woman again.
She asks Jesus, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
This question focuses on the relationships between two ethnic groups but it says so much more. While cultural mores such as these still exist, Christ conquers them in His love for mankind. When the early Christians moved to spread the Gospel to the whole world, walls were torn down. As St. Paul writes to the Galatians,
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
But there is so much more than ethnicity that we can construct to keep divisions alive.
On this reflection and prayer for Christian unity, we should ask ourselves when it is that we are similar to the Samaritan woman’s question of skepticism. When do we look and think that dealings are impossible with other Christians? When does the sin that we have committed and that has been committed against us lead us to not see the image of God in the people we encounter?
We should also note that Christ the Creator of All truly sought something from this woman in His question to her, asking for a drink. Sometimes we can look at each other in our divisions and think that those who differ with us have nothing to offer, but we see here that Jesus did not treat His neighbor that way. He asked her for something, appreciating her for who she was and then the dialogue blossomed.
Specifically in Catholic/Reformed Christian dialogue, we could ask where we miss opportunities for dialogue. Just as one example of many, do Catholics appreciate the dedication and commitment to Christ that manifests itself in the Reformed dedication to God in their passion to know and follow the Bible? And do Reformed Christians see the great love for God that has been seen among Catholics, particularly our saints? Or do we look at each other as though we have nothing to offer to one another?
In the Byzantine Tradition, the fifth Paschal Sunday is dedicated to the Samaritan woman, and she is known as St. Photini for the light that came into her life once she saw beyond the division of her day and gazed into the eyes of the Creator of All. In the icon above, we see that she is often called “Equal to the Apostles”. The salvation that entered her life through faith and openness to Christ led her story of redemption to turn the hearts of so many around her. She holds a scroll to testify to her Apostolic status of sharing the Gospel with many.
On her festal Sunday, we pray this hymn:
“When the Samaritan woman came to the well with faith, she beheld you, O Water of Wisdom. She is famed in song, for she drank deeply and inherited the kingdom from on high.”
These words of faith and reception speak to the grace that should be the focus of all Christians. It is what can unite us as we journey to understand the differences between us.
We too must look for what can quench our thirst, and like the Samaritan woman realize that Christ Himself is calling us to the fullness of faith, hope, and love. This will be our anchor as we discuss the differences that have developed through the centuries, such as the sacraments, salvation by faith alone, Sola Scriptura, and the Papacy. It, we pray, will guide us to full unity in truth and love.
God of life, who calls us to justice and peace,
May our security come not from arms, but from respect.
May our force be not of violence, but of love.
May our wealth be not in money, but in sharing.
May our unity be not in the quest of power, but in the vulnerable witness to do your will. Open and confident, may we share today and forever, the bread of solidarity,
justice and peace.
In the name of Jesus, who as a victim of our violence gave forgiveness to us all,
we pray. Amen.