The Woman at the Well
Sunday’s Gospel is the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, who was drawing water at a well. It is a well known story often referred as demonstrating Jesus’ love for those society rejects. And so it is!
At the time of Jesus, there was a fairly deep rooted hatred between the people of Israel and the people of Samaria. It had gone so far that the Samaritans had set up their own holy place to compete with Jerusalem.
History helps us understand the roots of this antipathy. Samaria, part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C., while Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom remained independent. Eventually, the Assyrian Empire crumbled and Egypt swept up the pieces, then in 605 B.C. Babylon defeated Egypt and annexed the region, along with Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom. The Babylonians deported many Jews to Babylon re-settled the the area with their own people. Babylon was, in turn, defeated by Persia in 539 B.C., whose King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and even supported the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple.
During this time foreign control, many foreign officials built luxurious residences in Samaria which was fertile and beautiful, significantly overlapping with the area now known as the West Bank. There was extensive intermarrying, a practice forbidden for strict Jews. This left the Samaritans with the permanent stain of foreign wealth, mixed marriages and a people who were, in Jesus’ day, considered hopelessly compromised foreign religions and ethnic “half-breeds.” Frankly, in the eyes of the commoner, they were worse than Gentiles (non-Jews) because they were traitors and compromisers.
Add to that the fact that this woman was a woman, had been with five husbands and was not married to the man she now “shacked up” with, we can see that this is the worst of the worst in the eyes of the disciples, and others. Not just an outsider, but far worse in every imaginable way. Yet, Jesus comes to her and promises her the “living water!”
Last week we saw from Psalm 121 that there is no set of circumstances that put us beyond the Lord’s hand of love and protection. Now we see that there is nothing in our personal circumstances or our past that puts us beyond the Lord’s love and protection!
This column appears in the March 15, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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