Why Was The Samaritan Woman Drawing Water At Noon? Because Of Me.
The Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus was ground-breaking. It was such a monumental event that the church selected this Gospel reading as one of the 7 Sunday readings during Lent; we listened to her story this past Sunday. It was an encounter that would change her life and the lives of many. Her story has been analyzed and explained by the giants of the Ancient Church (here is a link to Saint John Chrysostom’s homily on the Samaritan woman http://orthochristian.com/70769.html), so I hardly feel qualified to write any reflections about her. However, I want to explore one detail in her story that has not changed, 2000 years later.
Why Was The Samaritan Woman Drawing Water at Noon?
Because she had been shamed and ostracized by her community. While we could never discover why she had had 5 husbands, one thing is clear, in our modern terminology, she would definitely fit the description of “unlucky in love.”
By the standards of her time, she was above anything else, a sinner. As such, she was outcast and not to be associated with. She was drawing water in the middle of the day, under the scorching sun to avoid encountering anyone she knew. Maybe she was insulted or bullied by the people in her town, and the thought of facing one of them was more painful than going to the well in unbearable temperature.
So, the short answer to the question is: the Samaritan woman drew water at noon to avoid people.
Because of people.
Fast forward to 2019, how do we treat members of our congregation who are going through marital problems?
If they stop coming to church and we were asked about the reason why they stopped coming, could the answer be: Because of Us? Because of Me?
Do we continue in the same way as the Samaritans? Do we ostracize families who have gone through a separation or divorce, whether knowingly or unknowingly, whether consciously or subconsciously?
I am not implying that ALL families facing these challenges are treated in this manner by their respective congregations. However, one can’t deny that this is how some of them feel and that this is one of the reasons that they mention when they are asked why they stopped attending church. How about breaking the Samaritan cycle and adopting the following attitudes instead?
Instead of asking questions out of curiosity, offer up a prayer instead. Can you imagine how stressful it must be to be asked by everyone you meet about the current family situation? How is the separation affecting the kids? What is the custody agreement like? Unless you are very close to the family, questions are an added burden to them. Feeling awkward about the situation and you don’t know what to talk about? Say a prayer instead. Greet the family warmly. Tell them how genuinely happy you are to see them.
Instead of playing marriage counselor, offer a helping hand (if you can). If the priest of the church and the qualified, certified marriage counselors were not able to prevent the current situation, who are we to try? There are a time and a place for offering advice. If that time has passed, what we can provide now is a helping hand. Offer to babysit the kids for a few hours so the parents can take some time for themselves. Offer to make a frozen dinner that the family can enjoy as they are getting accustomed to their new reality.
Instead of treating the family differently, let us treat them even better than before. Marital breakdown is difficult enough without the added loneliness that can result when the congregation pulls away. I have heard from divorcees that the “servants” at church started keeping a distance when the news spread about the separation. Let us realize that without the grace of God, we would all be exposed. This is the time to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible.
Instead of keeping a distance because we feel awkward, confront the “elephant in the room” and move on so that you can be supportive. I never find the right words to say in funerals. So, I admit it right away. I tell the mourning family, “I am really sorry, I don’t know what to say, but I am praying for you.” The same model could be used when it comes to marital breakdown. Let us not let our own discomfort cause even more pain and suffering to someone who has a plateful of hurt!
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” Isaiah 61:1-2.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
“We love because he first loved us.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” John 4: 19-20.
We are called to Love, our neighbor, we are admonished from judging, we are called to support one another, we are called to be different than the Samaritans so that no modern Samaritan woman or man feel obliged to draw water at noon, because of us.