Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
(John 4:5- 42)
In the Gospel reading appointed for today, we hear how 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.
Many interesting and illuminating things were said… Christ revealed His awareness of who she was and how she’d been living. He asked her to draw up a drink for Him and told her of the living water of true refreshment, which only Christ, as God, can give.
The woman spoke to the Lord about how her ancestors had worshipped God on the nearby mountain, and she understood that the Jews worshipped God in the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus responded that “the hour is coming when you will neither worship on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem… the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
God is indeed everywhere present and fills all things. One of the most important things we must do is to awaken our awareness of the presence of God at all times and in all places. We are in the presence of God not only when we are in Church, not only when we stand before our icons at prayer… we are in the presence of God at all times: at work, as we drive our car, as we do the dishes, as we interact with our family, our friends, and with strangers.
There is an old tale about a monastery which had had a glorious history and had been a place of pilgrimage for many people. But as the years went by, the older monks died and very few new people came to live this life. Now there were only a handful of older monks and life there was rather depressed and uninspiring. Often times the monks did not get along with each other and there was occasional bickering and hard feelings. Pilgrims no longer came to visit, for the sense of grace was no longer present in that place.
One day an old bishop came to visit this place. He met with the abbot and heard about the troubles they were having – both with each other and with the lack of visitors who might keep the monastery alive. The old bishop listened with sympathy and then he confided in the abbot, revealing to him that one of the monks among them was actually the Messiah. The abbot was stunned and could hardly believe his ears. Who could it be? Certainly not the crotchety old Fr Luke, and it couldn’t possibly be Fr Gregory who was always forgetting his prayers. Still, the old bishop insisted that the Messiah lived among them… the abbot would have to figure out who it was.
After the bishop had gone, the abbot called his monks together and told them the strange tale that the bishop had revealed to him. Each of the monks looked around the room at the others, wondering… could it be him?
Days passed into weeks and the interactions of the monks with each other had taken a completely different tone… each one was careful to treat the other with the utmost respect and patience – fearing to possibly insult our Savior, Who may have been disguising Himself in the humble appearance of one of the brothers.
Time passed and news of the astonishing love demonstrated by the monks toward each other spread quickly. Soon, pilgrims were flocking to the monastery to speak to them, to spend time in prayer with them, and simply to breathe in the atmosphere of grace and love that now permeated the monastery.
Christ was indeed present there… not as the bishop had told them, but He was alive and manifested in the love shown by each of the monks for one another.
God grant that we would also have this care and this sense of the presence of God at all times, in all places, and among all His people. As the Apostle Paul says in his Epistle to the Hebrews: ‘Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.’
We must not only awaken our awareness to the presence of God at all times, but we must worship Him in spirit and truth. This is an important point… our prayer to God must come from the depths of our spirit and it must be sincere and true.
If you struggle to say your prayers… keep struggling! If you have developed the good habit of saying your prayers daily, then be attentive to move from simply ‘saying’ your prayers to ‘praying’ your prayers!
Prayer can too often be approached as ‘something to get done’ in the day… something to check off our list among the many duties and responsibilities in a given day. What a shame this is! We are called to pray ‘in spirit and in truth’… Our prayer must come from the groaning of our heart, a spirit seeking to establish a real connection with God, our Father, and it must always be honest… brutally honest and sincere.
We have been given an incredible gift by God in the invitation to worship Him in spirit and truth, to recognize His presence in all times and all places. May we work to train our eyes and our mind to an active awareness of God in all places and in all circumstances of lives. And may we take advantage of that awareness of the nearness of God in the great gift of prayer, to worship at all times in spirit and in truth.