Is the Lord among us or not?
The Israelites quarreled with Moses after the flight from Egypt, wanting water on their journey through the desert. Is the Lord among us or not? Will we die of thirst when we wouldn’t have in Egypt… Moses was tested. So too was God. The people felt the burden of the flight and their faith wavered. And yet God was faithful in the midst of it all; and the people had water to drink after Moses struck the rock.
In today’s world, who helps people see the Lord among us? Who gives water to the thirsty? This past week President Obama paid a visit to a tomb in Latin America. He lit a candle, said a prayer. The tomb was for an archbishop who heard the poor in his country crying out for water, for justice, for hope.
His name was Oscar Romero, and Thursday was the 31st anniversary of his assassination, the day he was shot as he stood with chalice in hand at an altar in a chapel in El Salvador. The Archbishop was an out spoken critic of the government and the death squads that roamed El Salvador in the late 70s. He was thought to be murdered by someone from the army, many of whom were trained in our country, with no one ever being prosecuted for the crime. As Archbishop he
In Romero’s own words,
“protested the government’s injustice to the poor and its policies of torture. He met with Pope John Paul II in 1980 and complained that the leaders of El Salvador engaged in terror and assassinations. He also pleaded with the American government to stop military aid to his country, but this request was ignored.” (Holy Women & Holy Men)
Archbishop Romero stood in solidarity with the poor and the suffering in his country and let his voice be heard. Some people were scandalized by the Archbishop’s protests against the government and his love for the poor. But He followed the road that Jesus walked and he was martyred for the faith. Consider the story from today’s Gospel.
“The church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being . . . a defender of the rights of the poor . . . a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society . . . that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history.” (from 8/6/79)
Jesus is travelling through Samaritan territory. Let’s remind ourselves that Samaritans and Jews of Jesus day did not get along. They even looked at each other as an enemy of sorts, certainly they believed each other practiced their religion wrongly. As Jesus sees a woman going to the well for water, he asks her for a drink. She is right to be astonished. What he is doing breaks all the boundaries, even taboos of the time. It’s just isn’t done this way!
Jesus even knows her history – that she has been married 5 times! – not quite as many as Elizabeth Taylor, may she rest in peace – most likely a levirate marriage, upon the death of her husband, the husband’s brother was to marry her. She outlived 5 of them! I can only imagine the difficulty of that. But we really don’t know about those marriages and Jesus doesn’t really care about it, but uses it as a way to help her understand his identity as the one who is to come, the messiah. And Jesus does all of this because his message is for everyone, Jew or Samaritan, he is not interested in our labels or our limits. The Good News of the Kingdom of God was for the world.
We see this as well when his disciples return and Jesus is speaking to her. They don’t seem shocked that he is talking with a Samaritan; they probably have seen him interact with so many different people, they almost expect it. Blind man, leper, stranger, they have seen it all, or so they thought… But he is talking with a woman and they are astonished. They know all social conventions say he should not be doing this but they don’t ask why. But through this encounter, it changes her, she believes the words of Jesus that he has that living water. And she goes and tells others to come and see and they also come to believe. She in fact becomes an evangelist and a disciple.
In many Orthodox Churches they remember her as such a disciple and evangelist on her feast day of February 26 – she was named St. Photini which translated means enlightened one, for she was enlightened by Jesus and witnessed to this encounter.
In her day, St. Photini did what Archbishop Oscar Romero did in his day, to share the Good News of Jesus, beyond the limits of class, gender, & race. It is meant for everyone and everywhere to hear it. We all have our role to play in helping spread that Good News today. As Archbishop Romero once said:
Is the Lord among us or not? Some will cry out, in Japan or Haiti, in Libya or Mexico, Bridgeport or Monroe. And it is up to us, the followers of Jesus today, to continue to spread that Good News, the Good News that we have felt in our lives, that indeed God is with us, and to tell that to a world that so needs to hear the words of Jesus, of that living water of love & hope, so none may thirst again. Amen.
“How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work, that just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with the scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing a priestly office! How may cabdrivers, I know, listen to this message there in their cabs, you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab.” (November 20, 1977)