We are human beings. Living creatures dependent in so many ways on the world around us.Many of us live with abundance of what we need and even what we desire.
Many live with adequate means of existence. But, the sin of the world is far too many live in want of the most basic needs that sustain and nourish body and spirit.
Our bodies need of food and water. A person can live perhaps up to a month with food.
This same person would likely parish in a week without water. The body is, of course, how we engage the world and reach out to each other. The body is that important.
We know Jesus took the body and its needs seriously. He enjoyed a good wedding, he healed by touching, he washed the feet of the twelve, he walked town to town, wept when moved, broke bread when hungry, drank wine when thirsty and rested when tired.
But, we are not just bodies, we are also spirit.
We have a biological reality, but we go beyond this, because we are persons, creatures that are self-aware and questioning. Where did I come from? Why Am I here? Where am I going? What does it mean?
We do not just enjoy the good and endure the suffering, we ask; what is good, why is there suffering?We are temporal beings living moment to moment bound by the present. Yet, given our memory we can revisit and even re-interpret the past. In hope and imagination we can already live in future.
As persons we desire the abstract good, what cannot be found in physical nature; friendship, happiness, fulfillment and love.
We all know by our human experience that we are entwined as body and spirit. Theologians say we are inspirited bodies and embodied spirits.
The simple truth is body and spirit are inseparable and both need to be sustained and nourished to thrive, develop and reach fulfillment. And when either the body or the spirit is diminished or dimmed, broken or starved both suffer. Yet, knowing this we service and nourish the body while neglecting the spirit.
This is why the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan women begins with a
We know she is "the other", poor, a women and Samaritan. I imagine she was a first trying to ignore this stranger. And perhaps, was startled and even annoyed when this Jew asks her for a drink.She responds defensively (because for much of her life, as the marginalized other, the she had to be). So with an uneasy sharpness she replies “how can you a male Jew ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?”
Even in her prickly response, this chance encounter, buried in the ordinary, which began clouded by the cultural, gender and political differences begins to open up.Jesus never needs much of an opening. She expects a rebuke and a certain meanness would seem natural to her. But, Jesus offers an invitation instead, a bridge that changes an everyday, unpleasant situation, into a moment of revelation and grace.
A meeting at a well, on a hot day, opens up a new reality for the woman.
The women, like us all, in many of our own everyday encounters, assumes to know what’s up and she acts without thinking based on those assumptions.“How can you give me water, the well is deep and you don't have a bucket?” she says.
Jesus tells her that this doesn’t matter because the water from the well can only satisfy the thirst of the body. But, it cannot end thirsting, either of the body or the spirit. And in that moment, through a stranger, everything changes and the woman, who had known only the possible, but now experiences the impossible.
Jesus' invitation turns years of hurt, disappointment empty longing into unexpected relationship, unconditional love and divine presence. Give me "this" water she implores.And Jesus gives her this spiritual water by revealing; in his presence, actions and words, that in encounter him, she has encountered God. Not far off and distant, but even here, by a well in Samaria.
Stunned, with faith newly awakened, she says (not unlike a Peter himself) I know the Christ is coming and he is Truth. And this tired stranger replies simply, but with all the love in the world - I am he.
From that moment, she knew who was speaking. Her embodied spirit and inspirited body was relieved by faith and hope, from its thirst for goodness and truth.
This is a long multi part Gospel, but her story ends, as many Gospel stories end, with the woman, newly heal and now alive, testifying to others and bringing those others to Jesus who is life giving water and the bread of life.
There are many lessons here.But for me, what began as a chance encounter, on an ordinary day, in ordinary circumstances, which began in mistrust, suspicion and ignorance was transformed by openness and trust into a moment of understanding and conversion, healing of body and spirit.
An encounter with a stranger led to an encounter with God.