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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jesus and the Samaritans

"When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days."

Most of us want to be considered ordinary Joe's and Jane's. We put our pants on one leg at a time, sleep several hours at night, and eat regularly just like everyone else in the world. There are, however, some who prefer to be seen as extraordinary. They want to be exalted because of their insight, money or power, and Jesus had to confront this attitude in the leaders of the Jews. 

Strict Jews, especially those in leadership positions, would have skirted Samaria, but ordinary Jews, wanting not to travel further than they needed to, would have passed through Samaria in order to get home more quickly. Because Samaritans had failed to protect what became known as the Southern Kingdom and had built their own temple, the rabbis considered them and their land unclean. Furthermore, because Samaritans only reverenced the Pentateuch and did not consider the rest of the Hebrew bible as canonical, the leaders of the Jews in the Southern Kingdom rejected them, and even prayed they would not know eternal life.

All of the above helps us understand the context of Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well. Thirsty, like any other traveler, Jesus asks her for a drink, but the woman sounding a bit sarcastic, challenges him. Why, she inquires, would he ask her, a woman and a Samaritan for a drink since most Jews would not speak with a woman in public and would avoid Samaritans? At the same time, we sense some excitement in the woman's response, especially when she leaves Jesus and her water jar to go to the nearest town to tell everyone about the prophet who might indeed be the Messiah. Wondering about the woman's experience, many Samaritans go to the well to meet Jesus and ask him to stay with them. When Jesus accepts their invitation and stays with them two days, he becomes unclean, once again agitating the leaders of his own community.

Lent is a time when, like the Samaritans, we pray for the grace to go beyond our comfort zone to seek other wells in order to remember and rediscover the waters of Jesus which promise us we will never be thirsty again.

Today, give someone different a drink in the name of the Samaritan woman.

Who or what most often refreshes your faith?

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