Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015: Day Seven, “Give me to drink”

Jan 24th, 2015 | By | Category: Blog Posts

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.


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  1. These comments from Pope Francis:
    “Christian unity will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions,” the Pope said during vespers at Saint Paul Outside the Walls Basilica on Jan. 25.

    “To plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts,” he said.

  2. How does the Holy Spirit ‘harmonise diversities’? Seems to me that there are two ways it could happen: One side accepts the other side is right and they are wrong or both sides reach a kind of compromise, each giving up something in return for the other side giving something up. We’ll accept justification by faith alone if you’ll accept Scripture and Tradition. We’ll accept that the Eucharist is just a symbol if you’ll accept that baptism is regenerative. Are there any other ways apart from those two? If not, can we stop the pussy-footing and say which of the two we mean. For myself, I totally rule out the second. Everything about Catholicism says that it has to be the first. Sorry if that upsets anyone but if the Magisterium is not infallible (in the appropriate circumstances) then Catholicism is no better than any other Christian denomination and we Catholics might as well go and find one that we find a lot easier to follow. One where we make up the rules and the doctrines rather than have to follow what somebody else tells us.

  3. @MikefromED:

    You said, “One side accepts the other side is right and they are wrong.”

    It’s true that this must happen, but I think Pope Francis is speaking about the way in which it happens. How do we invite others to consider that they might be in error? Pope Francis is recommending that we first look for the good in others, ask lots of questions, listen carefully for the answers, discern the truth with careful distinctions, “serene encounter,” etc. so that the recognition of error may come about calmly, from the interior of the heart. As far as I can tell, this is the “pussy-footing” that you are condemning. But an atmosphere of competition to win an argument or to be right is usually not an atmosphere conducive to recognizing one’s error, even though sometimes it does happen that way.

    No one is upset by your love for the teaching of the Magisterium. All the contributors here share it. But it’s important to listen carefully and recognize when something that my Protestant friend believes actually is compatible with the teaching of the Magisterium, even though I had previously assumed her beliefs were opposed simply because she is Protestant and I was when I was Protestant, or other Protestants I know are, or whatever. It’s equally important to recognize that I may be wrong about what the teaching of the Magisterium is, since careful distinctions sometimes get lost in our own understanding amid the frustration of not seeing the people you love come any closer to the faith you also love.


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