Thursday, June 21, 2018
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” … The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) – John 4:7-9
For nearly five centuries, from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the time when the exiled Hebrews returned from Babylon, the “pure and true” Jews culturally separated themselves from the Hebrews they considered to be unfit to live in the New Jerusalem. You see … the Samaritans were among those who did not leave the land during the period of the Exile. So the Samaritans, no longer able to worship in Jerusalem, returned to the pre-Davidic faith and worship on the mountain, Mount Gerizim. Thus the Jews and the Samaritans were living in a religious apartheid, a segregation for the sake of co-existence.
In the city of my youth, West Palm Beach, Florida, line of segregation was rather blatantly visible. At the division line between the white residential community and the black residential community the names of the streets changed. Back in the fifties and the early sixties, “Whites” and “Negroes”, well they did not mix and if they did, it was cautiously. And then came the Cubans … and they complicated that world of division.
I would like to say that all has changed … and though much has changed … those chameleon street signs still remain.
Christ asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. This was a transgression of social mores of that time. The woman was not sure how to respond. She was cautious, possibly a little fearful, probably a bit taken back. She confesses how she perceives the treatment of the Samaritans by the Jews. She speaks of the cultural bitterness that led to religious division that morphed into a racial division. She speaks of her devotion but she fears that she will not be respected. Jesus responds in a conciliatory tone, not abandoning his own heritage but abandoning the wall that divides. “There shall come a day when we will worship neither in the temple on Mount Gerazim nor the temple in Jerusalem, but in the realm of the Spirit and the truth.
It is the tactic of the Deceiver to build walls where their need not be any walls, to set bitter divisions between “us” and “them”. Christ walked through that ancient wall of apartheid and offered a vision of a new tomorrow.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cuz