Another transfiguration this week.
Last week the disciples saw the change in Jesus
and his closeness to God
through their law and their prophets.
This week the transfiguration comes through dialogue.
The meeting at the well shows both the woman and Jesus
transformed from their exclusive native religions
to allow both to embrace one faith in one inclusive God.
The woman learns to give up
worshiping the multiple gods in her Samaritan tradition.
Jesus learns how to give up
his Jewish attachment
to Jerusalem as the only proper place to worship God.
She stays a Samaritan, and he stays a Jew,
but they are both transformed.
Did this really story happen?
Fr. Raymond Brown doesn’t go very far towards a yes on that.
He writes that “It is not at all impossible
that even in the conversation
we have echoes of a historical tradition
of an incident in Jesus’ ministry.”
Most scholars doubt that this gospel story ever took place.
They think the point is to explain
how the hated Samaritans came to be included
in the Jesus movement.
There was a long history of dissension among the tribes of Israel,
nearly a thousand years of it between Samaritans and Jews. When the
city of Samaria fell to the Assyrians,
many of them were led off into captivity,
but some were left behind.
Both Israel and Samaria failed to keep to the way of Yahweh.
When the Jews came out of Babylon nearly 400 years later,
the Samaritans tried to welcome them back,
but the returning exiles despised the Samaritans
because they had intermarried with the Assyrians.
By the time Jesus came around,
there had been over 500 more years of hate
between the Jews and the Samaritans.
Scripture scholar John Pilch says
that some knowledge of Mediterranean culture
helps to focus on the shocking pieces in the dialogue.
For one thing, the well was a space open to both men and women
but not at the same time.
Women came only in morning or evening...
but this woman is there at noon.
Also, it was very questionable for a man
to speak to an unchaperoned woman in a public place.
And it was scandalous for a woman to talk with a man in public,
but this woman talks with Jesus
and then heads off to the marketplace,
a place reserved for men, where she talks to the men there.
The improper details of the story let us know
that something extraordinary is going on,
and other details give us clues about their meaning.
It’s significant that Jesus and the woman meet at Jacob’s well,
a place whose tradition is shared by Samaritans and Jews.
Those five husbands and the one she’s living with now
refer to the many gods that Samaria had historically worshiped
along with the God of Israel.
They discuss the question of whether worshiping God
is proper to Jerusalem or to Shechem…
and Jesus’ insight is no.
Not exclusively in those places
but anywhere and everywhere, in Spirit and truth.
They’re talking theology.
Through their mutual acceptance of the other,
the walls, boundaries, hostilities, and hatreds
which had long separated Samaritans and Jews
melt away and disappear.
And what about us?
Think about the 400 years of hate
between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland,
or the 1,400 years of hate
between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East.
Think about the 482 years we Christians spent hating each other
from Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses in 1517
to the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Declaration
reconciling our differences on that “justification by faith”
that Paul talks about in today’s second reading.
How often do we just talk at one another!
Genuine conversation is hard work,
but it opens up encounter with the other
and brings life-giving transformation.
This past Tuesday our Muslim neighbors
at Masjid Saad Foundation up on Alexis Road
opened their doors in gracious hospitality
to help us Christians begin to understand Islam.
We talked about having very different perspectives,
different contexts, different rituals, different readings—
and all converging on faith in one God
that has to lead to action in the world.
We agreed that God—by whatever name—is everywhere.
And we agreed that our traditions converge
on the need to put our love for God and neighbor into action.
We’ll be meeting again on the next four Tuesdays
to continue the conversation.
We have much in common.
We share a thirst for meaning,
sometimes feeling abandoned by God
in the desert of our lives.
We share a thirst for freedom—
the need to leap out of the slavery of our Egypts
into the promised land.
We share a thirst for truth—
looking to get away from the polluted water
of outmoded parts of our traditions
to drink from fresh, clean springs.
We share a thirst for justice—
to stand in right relationship with one another
and with all of creation.
Above all, we share a thirst for love—
the burning desire
for a world that follows the Great Commandment—
love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
Psalm 95 tells us, “Harden not your hearts.”
We must not live our life against any person,
against any religion,
We must live in peace with all.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006