Everyday the news is filled with the reality of the Coronavirus and its spread across various areas of the world, including our own country and city. This unseen, invisible virus is already causing fear and question as to how to best respond. It is truly insidious.
But this unseen virus is physical and can be dealt with eventually, first through common sense ways to limit its spread to an eventual vaccine. There is another type of virus, also unseen, that spreads insidiously. This “virus” uses the mouth as it’s primary mode of spreading and can cause immense harm, but of a moral nature, more than physical. This virus affects how we see one another and always cause division and psychological pain and loneliness. It is the virus of demeaning and self righteous speech. What comes forth out of our mouths begins in the mind with thoughts and leads to the heart of emotion. The woman at the well clearly felt the power of this horrible virus, as she clearly was ostracized by gossip and judgement.
She went to the well at the time of day when she would not have to face the glares and hear reproaches. This unnamed woman came to the well at noon, when the day is hot, rather than in earlier hours when she wound have to encounter the hatred of people. She was a woman with a past. And don’t we all have them, especially us men. She was thirsty, carrying her empty pitcher wanting to fill it with cool water.
At the well is a man...jesus....a Jew facing this woman, a Samaritan. What a most unlikely encounter: a Jew and a Samaritan, hated enemies, and a man talking alone with a woman, not sanctioned or appropriate according to the cultural standards of the time. Jesus shatters this taboo and He is about the shake up this woman’s life forever, in a beautiful, life-transforming way. Keep the empty pitcher in your mind.
The conversation between begins superficially but gradually deepens, from wanting to satisfy physical thirst, to why Jesus is even talking with her, given His status as a male and a Jew. Jesus brings her to a new awareness that touches her identity, her humanity and her faith. She eventually puts the pitcher down as the conversation addresses her truth: yes she is married, has been married many times but Jesus does not offer condemnation but love. There is no virus coming forth from His mouth, only liberation from her hurtful past.
She came to the well thirsty with an empty pitcher and encounters Jesus, who truly was the thirsty one: Jesus thirsted for her to encounter the living presence of a God who forgives and frees. He thirsted for her dignity to be restored and that she be healed from the virus that does more harm than any flu virus we will face. She absorbed this horrendous virus of gossip and harsh words to the point where she believed herself to be morally dirty and untouchable.
Jesús frees her, even telling her that the God He is revealing is a God that will even unite Jews and Samaritans and a God who loves lavishly, even scandously. She leaves the scene filled to the brim with joy, running to announce wonderful news to the very people of her village who hurt her by the virus of horrible words. What comes forth from her mouth is not this verbal virus but words of good news that would uplift their dignity. How ironic. She became the evangelizer, this woman with a past, running away WITHOUT the pitcher, for her thirst was satisfied by the waters of Jesus ‘ words and the waters of the Spirit. She became a living, human pitcher, filled with the waters of joy, bringing good news to her people.
This liturgy is our ”well” and we come here to be filled with gospel and Eucharist, our thirst and hunger are satisfied beyond telling. We leave her, this well of Eucharist, just like that woman Jesus encountered, a woman with a past, left the water well, filled to the brim with the words and love of Jesus. Like her, we are human pitchers, just as filled to the brim.
Peace. Fr. Frank.