|Shorter is Not Always Better
In a long Sunday Gospel, segments within brackets can often be omitted. Why is this? Because they are less important? Because of an assumed short attention span of the congregation? For whatever reason, the longer narrative of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in this week’s Gospel is seen as the richer conversation. The primary lesson of the passage is that Jesus provides living water, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Because of his teaching, the Samaritans of the town say, “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.” And we are invited to drink deep of this living water.
There is, however, a compelling sub-story that is missed in the shorter version. First, when the disciples returned from their food shopping in town, they “were amazed that he was talking with a woman.” Jesus breaks two taboos: not only conversing with a woman he did not know, but conversing with a Samaritan, and Jews and Samaritans did not mix company. Second, the woman was so excited by her conversation with Jesus she “left her water jar” to rush into town to share her news; not an insignificant detail because the water jar was a needed possession which was left out of the shorter version, and became unimportant. Jesus, in turn, is energized by this dialogue. Both the Samaritan woman and Jesus stepped out of their comfort zones and took a risk for mutual engagement.
Finally, why omit the short phrase that many of the townspeople began to believe in Jesus “because of the word of the woman…?” The word of women is still marginalized today, not only in government and workplaces, but also in our Church. The work of women is essential and valued, but our voices are not. Women are not even permitted to read the Gospel during Mass or preach from the pulpit.
This Lent, may we be attuned to marginalized voices: immigrants facing deportation, refugees refused entry, citizens experiencing poverty, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, LGBT discrimination – and, especially in our Church, women.
Sr. Marie Lucey
|Prayer: St. Patrick, March 17
May Christ be with us! May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us, Christ be over all!
May your grace, Lord, always be ours, this day,
O Lord, and forever.
Shorter is Not Always Better