The Woman at the Well
One of my favorite Lenten Gospels tells us about Jesus reaching out to a social outcast within a land of social outcasts. The encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well happens in Samaria. It is a place that the Jewish people avoided like the plague. They saw the Samaritans as ritually unclean, too polluted for respectable, God-fearing people to be around. Yet Jesus goes into this place, sits down at a well and carries on a conversation with an unaccompanied woman. In those days, and particularly in that part of the world, a woman out by herself was considered an outcast even by her own people.
But this woman has bigger issues. She’s been married five times and is now living with a sixth person. Her own people look down upon her and, from her conversation with Jesus, it is apparent that she has very little self-esteem.
Despite her lifestyle and self-alienation, Jesus reaches out to her and offers her living water, the presence of God. And this woman, this social outcast, this ‘sinner’ recognizes and accepts Jesus as Lord while his own people, the upstanding people of the Mosaic Law, do not. And she is so moved that she runs back to her village to tell and bring her fellow outcasts back to meet him.
Society, our institutional structures, and sadly maybe even our own families, sometimes throw people out. Sometimes it’s other people, sometimes it’s even ourselves. And maybe we buy into it: we see ourselves, and others, as unworthy of God’s love — because we or they are different, because we or they don’t quite fit in. But even then, God comes into our darkest places to find us and to give us the living water of his love; just like he did for that Samaritan woman in that Lenten gospel.
As we continue our journey through Lent, let us recognize that despite our bad choices, our mistakes and even our sins, God loves each of us very much. And let us go out into the Samaria’s of our own life to love and accept others as God loves and accepts us.
With love, Deacon Lex
Lex Ferrauiola is a husband, father, grandfather and a Catholic deacon serving as a pastoral minister and hospital chaplain within the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. His newest book, All Shall Be Well: Finding God Among the Pots and the Pans is available now.