“Treat others as you would have them treat you.”
This little golden rule which my mother taught me is something which has always stuck in my mind. My mother was a friendly, talkative, generous woman who made friends with anyone she encountered. As a child, who was always quite shy, I would look on with amazement at how she was friendly with total strangers. Later in life, I find that I am much like my mother—speaking to everyone as if I have known them all my life. It all starts with a respectful greeting, some kind words, a listening ear, understanding, and a dose of humility to find Jesus in the encounter. Before my mother passed away, we spoke of our shared openness to all those God brought across our paths. We agreed that our lives have been blessed tremendously by these chance encounters with individuals who go from being complete strangers to dear friends simply because we were looking for Jesus.
In today’s gospel reading (John 4: 4-42) we see the Samaritan woman surprised to encounter a man speaking to her. She went to the well at noon, an uncommon time to draw water from the well. Jesus knew she was an outcast, avoiding others in the town. Otherwise, she would have been at the well in the morning with everyone else. His first interaction with her appears to be rather bold as he demands her to give him some water. Besides the fact that she is a Samaritan (lower class of individuals with whom no one associates), men do not lower themselves to speak to women, let alone one who is clearly a social outcast.
Jesus goes on to tell her everything about herself. The woman is amazed and recognizes Jesus as a prophet. He is speaking to her about living water, not water that sustains the physical body, but the living water of the Holy Spirit which sustains all life. The woman catches on quickly and acknowledges her belief in the coming of the Messiah, The Christ. This is when Jesus admits his identity by saying, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” The woman recognizes that she has encountered the Savior of the World and instantly leaves her water jar and goes into the town to tell others of her encounter with a stranger, “who knew everything I have done.” She proclaims, “Could he possibly be the Christ?”
All of us go into our communities to run routine errands. It is during these trips that we open our hearts to encounter Jesus in others. If you were to find him the next time you went to the store, what would you do? Would you put aside everything, like the woman left her water jar? Would you entertain a stranger and find Jesus in your midst? All of us go to wells which do not satisfy our deep thirst for living water. Why not leave behind the needs of our earthen vessels and be open to a new encounter with Jesus found in each other? Speaking from personal experience, dear friends and many blessings come from just such an encounter!