Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
(John 4:5- 42)
In the Gospel appointed for this fifth Sunday of Pascha, we hear of our Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Our Lord and His disciples had been journeying from Judea, headed toward Galilee, and came to rest and get some refreshment in the heat of the midday. While the disciples went into the town to buy some food, Jesus rested next to the village well. A Samaritan woman approached to draw water from the well and our Lord entered into conversation with her.
There are many remarkable things which we can learn from this Gospel encounter. I would like to focus on three things for our edification: first, Christ’s recognition and restoration; second, the omnipresence of God; and third, that we are to worship in spirit and in truth.
Let’s speak first about Christ’s recognition and restoration. It was a shock not only to the disciples, but to the Samaritan woman herself, that Christ would deign to speak with her. Not only was this woman something of an outcast within her village due to her immoral ways, but as a Samaritan, it was unthinkable that a Jew would speak to her – ‘for Jews had no dealings with Samaritans’.
We see from this account, and from many others, that Jesus Christ does not turn anyone away. He ‘came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ Christ recognizes the image of God in each person – that image which He placed there when each person was conceived. Our Lord sees that icon within the person, no matter what the circumstances of life may have done to that person, no matter how that person may have darkened that interior icon. The work of our Lord is the work of ‘icon restoration’… restoring the damaged image toward its pristine beauty. Christ does not reject the Samaritan woman, though she is a sinner and an outcast. He recognizes that image within her and He calls her toward the healing of who she was meant to be.
May God grant us the spiritual clarity to see the icon of Christ within each person and within ourselves. No matter how darkened and damaged that icon may be… may we recognize it and heed the call of restoring that icon to its fullness and beauty.
The second lesson from today’s Gospel account is our Lord’s teaching on the omnipresence of God. The Samaritan woman spoke about how her people worshipped God on the mountain and how the Jews worshipped God in Jerusalem. Christ responded to her: ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’
Christ is revealing to her, and to us, the omnipresence of God… that He is everywhere present and fillest all things. One of the root problems which leads us into temptation and sin is our forgetfulness of God. If we could remember one thing and one thing only, we would do well to remember the presence of God at all times and in all places. Imagine if we were at work, going about our day to day business, but doing so with the conscious awareness of the presence of God. How would such an awareness change the way we behave, the way we speak, the way we think? The reality is that God is indeed present at all times and in all places: at work, at home, at school, while you wait in traffic or in lines… He is always there. If we could simply open our spiritual eyes and see His presence – this one thing would provide such tremendous comfort on the one hand, and such a thorough check on all we do and say and think on the other hand.
May God grant us to be awake to His presence at all times and in all places!
Finally, the third item for us to reflect on this morning is Christ’s call for us to worship in spirit and in truth. What does this mean?...
It is a very good thing for us to worship God… to come to church, to sing his praises, to stand daily before our icons and to say our prayers. We must make sure that these good practices are igniting our souls to worship in spirit and in truth. Quite often our prayers may go no further than the level of ‘psalmody’. Psalmody is the reading of prayers, and it is an essential and wonderful thing for us to do. But if the reading of our prayers or the singing of our chants goes no further than engaging our mind and our tongue, then we are falling short of Christ’s call to worship in spirit and in truth.
When we pray in a way which touches the spirit, we move beyond mere recitation of words, we move beyond our emotional reactions… when the spirit is engaged, we become aware of our conscience, we become aware and concerned of those things which create obstacles between us and the love and grace of God. When the spirit is engaged our attention is wholly directed upon the Person of God… we stand in awe and trembling, in love and admiration and gratitude to our Father in Heaven, and we are stirred by that indescribable joyful-sorrow of longing for God… that sense of ‘homesickness for Heaven’. Such prayer can be wordless… it is a standing before the Lord in awe and in love.
And all of our prayer must be sincere and truthful. God pays more attention to the inclination of our heart than He might to the flapping of our tongue. Pray in sincerity… be grateful to God, praise Him for His generosity and love, if you are feeling spiritually empty – reach out to Him in honesty and ask Him for His grace to restore you. It is a marvelous thing to realize the depth and the breadth of the love of God. There is no need to hide or to be false… open your heart to the One Who can restore that icon within you.
Through the prayers of our holy mother Photini, the Samaritan woman at the well, may God grant us the wisdom and generosity to recognize the image of God in everyone we meet, may we be aware of His presence at all times and in all places, and may we worship Him in spirit and in truth.