Throughout Lent, our weekly ePrayers include a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent is from Unbound preacher Father George Brennan.
For someone who never heard of Jesus or the Gospel, this story about his conversation with a Samaritan woman may seem like a simple anecdote about one stranger asking another for a favor in a public place. However, people who lived in biblical times would have noticed many details in the story that hint at a deeper level of meaning. They would have known that not only do women of that time not speak to strange men, but that Samaritans and Jews have nothing to do with one another. They would have understood it as a description of what is often called a difficult conversation.
There are many kinds of difficult conversations. Some deal with sad news, some are overtures to restore strained relationships, some are pleas for help and some are hospitable attempts to create new relationships. Because they can be awkward, people often avoid them or delay them. However, the more you participate in difficult conversations, the more you realize how important they are. As was the case with the Samaritan woman, they change us in many ways. More importantly, they are necessary for establishing God’s kingdom here on earth.
For the woman at the well, it was the most important conversation she ever had. It changed her understanding of herself and her attitude toward people she had always avoided. It also changed her understanding of God’s desire for all people to welcome and value one another. The awkward encounter between two people became an urgent invitation to a whole town to join the conversation, to see their lives in a new way and tell more people all about it.
The ministry of Unbound brings people together and fosters new relationships, sometimes through prayerful support at a distance and sometimes through actual visits. I recall meeting my sponsored friend for the first time. Previously we had exchanged letters and we both were excited about meeting in person. I can only imagine that the joy we both experienced that day was something like the joy of the Samaritan woman when she invited people from the town to experience what she had experienced.
O God, may we always be open to understanding ourselves and others in new ways. May we not be afraid of conversations that challenge us. May we welcome the people we meet on the journey of discovering you and working to build your kingdom here on earth. Amen.