2017-05-14. Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. Christ our living water.
Sunday, May 14, 2017. Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti.
Christ our living water. Sunday of the Samaritan Woman.
Prokimenon (Tone 4) Ps. 103: 24,1
How great are your works O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all.
Stichon: Bless the Lord, O my soul! You are very great indeed, O Lord my God!
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (11:19-30). Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
In those days when the disciples were dispersed by the persecution that had broken out over Stephen, they went all the way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none but the Jews. But some of them were Cypriots and Cyreneans, and as they reached Antioch, they were speaking to the Greeks, announcing the Good News of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. And word concerning them came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch. And when he got there and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to stay in the Lord with steadfast hearts: for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great multitude was added to the Lord. And Barnabas traveled to Tarsus, looking for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. And it happened that for a whole year they took part in the church meetings and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” Now in those days some prophets from Jerusalem came down to Antioch, and one of them named Agabus got up and revealed through the Spirit that a dire famine was threatening the whole world — and it occurred during the reign of Emperor Claudius. And so, the disciples decided to send relief to the brethren living in Judea — each one as much as he could afford — and this they did, sending it to the presbyters by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Alleluia (Tone 4) Ps.44: 5, 8
String your bow, go forth, reign for the sake of truth, meekness and righteousness, and your right hand shall lead you wonderfully.
Stichon: You loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of joy above your companions.
The Holy Gospel according to St. John the Evangelist (John 4:5-42)
At that time Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sichar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, wearied as he was from the journey, was sitting at the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a Samaritan woman to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me to drink,” for his disciples had gone away into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman therefore said to him, “How is it that you, although you are a Jew, ask drink of me, who am a Samaritan woman?” For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to, her. “If you only knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you perhaps would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no pail, and the well is deep. Where can you get living water from? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well, and drank from it, himself, and his sons, and his flocks?” In answer Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. He, however, who drinks of the water I will give him shall never thirst; but the water I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst, or come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have said well, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. In this you have spoken truly. “The woman said to him, “Sir, I see you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you say Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming (who is called Christ), and when he comes he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak with you am he.” And at this point his disciples came; and they wondered that he was speaking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do you seek?” or “Why do you speak with her?” The woman therefore left her water-jar and went away into the town, and said to the people, “Come and see a man who has told me all I have ever done. Can he be the Christ?” They went out from the town and came to meet him. Meanwhile, his disciples begged him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” The disciples therefore said to one another, “Has someone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Well, I say to you, lift up your eyes and behold that the fields are already white for the harvest. And the one who reaps receives a wage, and gathers fruit unto life everlasting, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. For herein is the proverb true, ‘One sows, another reaps.’ I have sent you to reap that on which you have not labored. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” Now many of the Samaritans of that town believed in him because of the word of the woman who bore witness, “He told me all I have ever done.” When, therefore, the Samaritans had come to him, they begged him to stay there; and he stayed two days. And far more believed because of his word. And they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you have said, for we have heard for ourselves and we know this is in truth the Savior of the world,” the Christ.
One of the many reasons Hybrid cars are popular is because you do not have to fill them up as often. The ultimate dream would be to own a car that we never have to fill up. This would only be possible if we could find a source of energy that is produced or harnessed by the car itself.
The Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel faces a problem with water that we face with our cars. She had to regularly go and fill up. However, Jesus told her “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
We would get very excited if someone tells us: “Every time you fill of this gas you will have to fill up again, but if you fill up with the gas that I will give you, you will never have to fill up.” We would immediately want this kind of gas and would do anything to get it.
Although we might think the first part of the conversation that the Samaritan woman had with Jesus was more spiritual, it actually was not. She was very curious about getting a kind of water that does not run out. She was also interested in this conversation because Jesus was speaking to her in a respectful manner. This was something that she did not regularly experience because she was an outcast at several levels.
First she was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were an offshoot of Judaism who only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament. They also refused to pray in Jerusalem because they felt the original and more authentic place to pray is on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans were the minority, they were considered outcasts by the Jews, and the two groups did not mix. Therefore socially, this woman was part of a rejected people. Second she was an outcast because she was a woman at a time when the role, rights, and appreciation of women was not particularly valued. Third she was an outcast among the women because of her multiple marriages.
The Samaritan woman came to the well at noon, which in a hot country, is the worst time of day to be walking or working. However, she specifically went to the well at this hour because she knew that no one else would be there. If she had gone at any other time she would have risked the negative comments and stares of the Jews because she was both a Samaritan and a woman, and the negative comments from the Samaritans because of her bad reputation.
Therefore, she felt she was a woman who was rejected by absolutely everyone. This is like a Cinderella story. She was hated by those whom she expected to hate her and in addition her community and family who should have loved and accepted her unfortunately also hated her.
When she went to the well to get water she was not expecting to see or talk to anyone. However, when Jesus saw her he wanted to start a conversation with her which would have been unusual. Jesus said to her “Give me to drink.” She was first surprised because a man was speaking with her, second because a Jewish man was speaking with her, and third because Jesus wanted her to give him water.
This final point is particularly important because Jesus entered into a situation of hospitality with her. In essence Jesus was telling her, “I accept to be your guest.” As we know hospitality in Middle Eastern cultures is a sign of great honor for those who are welcomed but also for those who welcome and serve.
How many times have you had this argument with your family or friends: “Come to my house for dinner.” “No. Come to my house for dinner.” “No. No. Come to my house for dinner and then I’ll go to your house for dinner.”
Or how many times have you had an argument at a restaurant when the bill arrives. “I’ll pay.” “No. I’ll pay.” “No. No. I’ll pay this time and you can pay next time.” I have been to restaurants where after a wonderful evening everyone starts to fight about who is going to pay. At one restaurant the waitress said to us: “I have never seen anything like this happen before.”
This still happens today because hospitality, that is serving and being served, is an honor. The Samaritan woman expects to be treated as an outcast but Jesus honors her by speaking with her and also honors her by asking for a drink from her hands.
After it becomes clear to the Samaritan woman that Jesus is honoring her, they begin a more spiritual conversation that leads to a discussion about the Messiah who is to come. Jesus tells her clearly: “I who am speaking with you am the Messiah.” She then goes to her town and tells everyone that she found the Messiah. When the other Samaritans meet Jesus they are able to say “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)
Her encounter with Jesus transformed her personally. She rejoiced because she met the Messiah who gave her living water. Before she met Jesus she was shy, rejected, and lived like an outcast. She also rejoiced because after her encounter with Jesus she boldly proclaimed to her whole town the good news that she met the Messiah. When she accepted Christ as her living water she went from being rejected to being a self-confident and respected leader. Prior to this encounter her source of shame was everyone around her, after the encounter her source of joy was Christ, the living water that was in her.
One of the many applications that we can make in our life is that when we allow Christ to be our living water then this in itself should be the source of our greatest joy. Many people will tell us all that is wrong with us. It is so easy for us to walk around in shame because of what others do not like about us. However, we need to always set this aside and focus on our greatest joy which is Christ who lives in us and gives us His living water.
If we search for admiration and acceptance from those around us we will always be dissatisfied because no one can fully recognize and appreciate the gifts that God gives us, other than ourselves.
When we fill up our car the needle goes back to empty very quickly. The same is true if we look for love and acceptance from others. We might feel good for a while but soon we will feel empty and try to fill up by trying to impress others.
The Samaritan woman was an outcast on many fronts. We may feel like outcasts in many ways as well. But today’s Gospel reminds us that everyone who drinks of the water of trying to impress others will one day be lonely and sad again, but whoever has the living water of Christ that brings joy, peace, self-confidence, and faith will never thirst again for acceptance.
The beauty of a hybrid car is that we do not have to fill up as often. The beauty of faith is that when we welcome Christ as our living water we do not have to fill up at all. When we accept Christ as the source of our nourishment, the abundance of joy that we will have will feel like there are streams of living water flowing within us and flowing out of us.
Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
My cell phone: 714-914-1710
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24