Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Woman at the Well

As you might realize from the name of the blog, one of my favorite Bible stories is the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus came upon a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from a well and asked her for some. She was shocked, because for a Jewish man to be talking with a Samaritan woman was doubly unthinkable. Jews did not talk with Samaritans and there was a religious restriction against men talking with women. Beyond that, she had had 5 husbands, which Christ knew and told her so. Yet, Christ was willing to engage her. He probably spoke with both gentleness and authority. He told her the water He shall give would satisfy so that she would never again be thirsty. How could she not be both awestruck and curious?

He announced to her that He was the Messiah Jews were waiting for. She understood and went to her people. How did the townspeople see the woman who had lived with so many men and even a sixth one now? It must have been something of God's miracle that at least some of them listened to her at all. Yet Jesus Christ allowed her to be one of his first evangelists, and many of the townspeople were saved through following her call to come and hear Him. They did listen to Him and believed.

There is disdain for what some call "Cafeteria Catholics," that they pick and choose rules of the Church instead of "towing the line." It seems even though we each are supposed to have different gifts to give to the Church, somehow we are to fit in one mold. Naturally, some doctrines are non-negotiable in the Church. But it seems some of the problems come when individual persons are not seen as respectable in their own desires or interpretations of what God is calling them to do.

Some don't want people to be too different from them, or they might have to stretch their interior understandings to try to meet other people half-way in trying to see their side of things. This takes time and effort. It's much easier to tell other people to conform.

It's no wonder many of the Jewish leaders of the time didn't like Jesus. Though He said he did not come to abolish the Law, there were many times He did not conform to what they expected. Even His disciples, who loved Him, were often baffled. In the John 4 story, they were amazed when they came upon Him talking with this Samaritan woman.

The people and the leadership of our Church I'm sure are trying to do the right things. But sometimes we have to stop and consider that more discernment on certain points may be needed. We in fact do that with Church Councils and things do slowly change. So let's, instead of calling people "Cafeteria Catholics," engage in the deeper issues of where we think differences and change may be valid and encourage development rather than peer pressure to fit in a rigid mold.

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