No person is so right that they can’t learn something new or is so wrong that they can’t teach something new. This struck me on a number of occasions when I’d hear people ask the question about being “saved”. Sometimes, new terminology has a greater force than the words we may have become so used to hearing that not only lose their desired effect but can even be counterproductive when used.
Jesus starts “saving” the Samaritan woman by firstly shattering the mistaken and even sinful boundaries created over many generations:
- By speaking to a Samaritan, he was engaging with a heretic, a doctrinally impure individual, whose “race” was particularly despised by the Jews.
- Conversing in a public place with a woman was taboo for Jewish men. To do so with a Samaritan woman was anathema. Besides, they were not considered to be credible witnesses and so a “waste of time” for Jesus to be conversing with her as her testimony of Jesus could not be officially believed.
- Then there was the fact that she was a morally impure woman, living with a man who was not her husband; a scandalous act that left his Jewish followers bewildered. Nevertheless, Jesus engaged in dialogue with her. Perhaps there is a lesson here for all of us in his present-day Church!
Here Jesus excels as a teacher (rabbi) and as a courageous speaker of God’s word (prophet) because he not only shatters the deeply fallacious boundaries made by man who sacrilegiously creates God in his own image, but offers also clarity for many modern atheists who continuously criticise Jewish and Christian religions by referring to those texts in Scripture where God is portrayed as a blood-thirsty despot who orders his followers to perpetrate heinous crimes against their (his) enemies.
Next Jesus responds to the spiritual craving present in every person’s consciousness. This “thirst” refers not only to the spiritual craving but also to the active search for complete and unending happiness that is constitutively human and comprises the unquenchable desire and consequent endeavour to love and be loved.
By telling the Samaritan woman about the new “drink”, Jesus identifies himself and his message as the one and same reality – leading to the quenching of our profound human thirst to love and be loved in a complete and unending way. This is spiritually revolutionary because the message of Jesus proves to issue from personally encountering him and not vice versa, as you would expect. In other words, the whole edifice of Church, ritual and even faith are the simultaneous consequence of the definitive personal fulfilment of consciousness’ perpetual openness to and receptiveness of complete and unending happiness.
Jesus informs her that true worship is not physical but spiritual. Therefore, all worship is genuine insofar as it corresponds to that truth (alétheia) which he is in Person. This means that authentic external ritual flows from the interiority of his followers as an expression of uncontainable goodness; loving becoming the only way of expressing the internal satisfaction of being completely and unendingly loved. Church, rite, ritual and even faith are never the cause but consequence or response to this interior Encounter. The more in love a person is the greater and more beautifully that person will show it – even running uncontrollably toward the eccentric and superfluous.
In revealing himself to be the One, Jesus shows the Samaritan woman that the fulfilment of the promise goes beyond what was expected – God’s love is seen to be “eccentric and superfluous”. He is the Person-Word who satisfies in full the human spiritual thirst for complete and unending happiness: God’s response to consciousness’ craving to love and be loved completely and unendingly.
Finally, acceptance of Jesus leads to both temporal and eternal salvation (“thy kingdom come on earth as in Heaven”). As good is the result of loving so evil is its absence. Consciousness’ interior experience of being completely and unendingly loved is Heaven upon earth. This is what Jesus offers us both personally and socially. Have you been saved yet?
- Fr Tom