Monday, March 12, 2007

Bigotry has no place in God's Kingdom.

Third Sunday of Lent:2007
First Scrutiny/Cycle A readings
Exodus 17:3-7
Romans 5:1-2,5-8
John 4:5-42

The Samaritan woman at the well is a Gospel story that we easily recognize. The word Samaritan also conjures memories of the Good Samaritan. But who were these people and why did Jesus use them as examples?

The Jewish and Samaritan relationship is ancient. I know that I am over simplifying by saying that the Samaritans were distant relatives of the Jews so please forgive me. I recommend the article on Samaritans found in The Anchor Bible Dictionary. The Samaritans were viewed as a "mixed race" and were looked down upon. They were outcasts for their race and their worship. To many people in the first century, a Samaritan could not be of any worth. As outcasts it could be said they were viewed as little more than a stray that is a nuisance.

For Jesus to raise a Samaritan above the level of a fellow Jew was insulting to say the least. But here we have Jesus doing something scandalous! Not only is Jesus talking to an outcast, but this outcast is a woman! Now to us this may seem like a trivial if not irrelevant fact. However, Jesus was making an earth shaking statement. Jesus makes several things clear by sitting and talking with the Samaritan woman Jesus declares that no one is an outcast to God! No one is beyond God's love! No one is beyond redemption!

The disciples were shocked when they returned. How could Jesus talk to an outcast, a person viewed no better than a stray? And then, how could Jesus, a male Jew, talk to a woman? Jesus' actions placed the disciple's bigotry in the spotlight. The treatment of the Samaritans was second only to the treatment of women! This Samaritan woman stood little chance in first century Israel, but Jesus changes all that, at least spiritually. Jesus used the opportunity to show that God does not place divisive markers on people. God does not judge us by race, color, gender, and we can go down the list. In place of the Samaritan woman we could write down the names of groups who are ridiculed, despised, and treated as "non-humans" today. We seem to be a people who always looks for someone to demonize and despise. Why?

We are human and we fail. No matter how we are raised, we seem to naturally seek some form of division between one another. That is part of being sinners. No matter how close we become to God, we still face the natural temptations that parade in front of us. Tearing down another person is almost a sport nowadays. Everything from "reality T.V." to so called "talking heads" on T.V.,we seem to bathe in everything from petty name calling down to the malevolent art of character assassination. Why do we enjoy watching someone else be treated as an outcast or undeserving of life? Why is it so much fun to publicly despise and mistreat another person? The answer to that is the sin of pride. Pride can lead us to destroy another person in order to build up self.

It seems like we crave someone to be our enemy so that we can justify abandoning Jesus' call for us to follow his law of love. I know that I am guilty at times of not practicing what I preach. I hate that. I hate it when I fail. However, I am not an outcast to God. I am not beyond God's love. I am not beyond redemption. THANK GOD! I am incapable of saving myself and I am wholly dependant on God's mercy. We all are. Not a single one of us is beyond God's love! Not a single one of us is beyond redemption! Not a single one of us is an outcast in God's sight! THANK GOD!

No matter how important we may think we are. No matter how powerful we may be. No matter how wealthy we become, we are all dependant upon God's love. To give up God's love in favor of worldly things is a great act of violence against the soul. It is sad, but sometimes we do that. To mistreat another person is to do great violence against God himself. Every time we practice bigotry and seek self gratification at the expense of others, we commit great violence against God. To do unto the least is to do unto the Creator.

Let us put ourselves in the place of the Samaritan woman. We need to sit in Jesus' presence and let ourselves receive his love. When we do that, we are able to look at our sisters and brothers and see the very face of God. It becomes hard to treat someone badly when we see God in that person. May we all seek to see the preciousness of God in one another because bigotry has no place in God's Kingdom.