Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence. (259)
—Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
During this third Sunday in Lent, I want you to sit with your Bible and read today’s gospel: John 4:5–42 – The Saviour of the world revealed to the Samaritans.
If you want to deepen your spirituality, get together with your family and friends and engage in Lectio Divina, focusing on this gospel. By meditating on this reading, you will certainly draw closer to our Lord and understand what He wants you to do with your lives.
Social justice is embedded in every word of this gospel. It speaks to us on so many levels. It was St Augustine who said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
However, in order for our hearts to rest in the Lord, we cannot be concerned only about our own salvation; we have to see Him in our neighbour, in those on the margins of society, and we have to be concerned about their welfare also. If we want to live the Beatitudes; if we truly hunger and thirst for justice, we must reach out to the “least of these”.
The Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at Jacob’s well can be considered as one among the “least of these”—seen as a sinner, an outsider, unclean; someone on the margins, who can only go to collect water from the well in the blaze of the midday sun when no-one from the village is there.
I could just hear people gossiping saying: “Yuh know she had five husbands and now she living with ah man who is not she husband!”
We are not told of the circumstances of her life. Whatever her sins were, from Jesus’ conversation with her, it is clear that He came to save sinners. And aren’t we all sinners? It is time to throw off our ‘holier-than-thou’ cloaks and get with the programme—embracing those in our throwaway society.
In September 2018, during his trip to Lithuania, Pope Francis spoke of “a Church on the move, unafraid to go out and get involved, even when it might seem that we pour ourselves out, lose ourselves, in going forth to the weak, the neglected, those dwelling at the margins of life.”
He called the faithful to look for the “smallest, poorest in our midst,” and to welcome immigrants, ethnic minorities, the unemployed, the elderly and the lonely; young people “who have lost their roots” and struggle to find a meaning in their lives. He said that “To go forth also means to halt at times, to set aside our worries and cares, and to notice, to listen to and to accompany those left on the roadside.”
At a time when Jews scorned the Samaritans and would rather walk around Samaria to avoid them, here we find Jesus engaging in a conversation with a Samaritan woman; an outcast from her community. Andrew Wilkes’ words should resonate with us: ” “What sort of person is God calling me to be within the church and the world?”
Our individual and collective care for ‘the least of these’ represents necessary and yet feeble attempts to follow in the footsteps of our Lord who prioritised the marginalised in His ministry.
Our call is not about politics, not about ideology, but about modelling the love and justice of Christ.
Cornel West, US philosopher, has famously remarked that, “Justice is what love looks like in public”. What does our Christian faith look like out on the street?
“Lent reminds us that the church’s social service and justice-making efforts fall short of God’s glory, that our best attempts to repair the world are still broken, leading us to depend anew on the care of Christ. We are weak, but the consolations of our Lord are strong; through him we discover the strength to love, the power to carry on.”
When she recognised that Jesus was the Messiah, the Samaritan woman’s life was transformed, and she immediately started to evangelise. What are we doing with the life-giving water we received at Baptism?
During Lent let us strive for a closer encounter with the living water of life. “May the Virgin Mary help us to draw constantly from the grace, from the water that gushes from the rock that is Christ the Saviour, so that we can profess our faith with conviction and proclaim with joy the wonders of the love of God, merciful and source of every good” (Pope Francis).