By: Patrick Sprankle, DMin, Director of Youth Ministry at St Louis Parish, Clarksville, MD
Sunday, March 19, 2017
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4)
Jesus speaks to a woman, and a single Samaritan woman at that? In public? This Sunday’s Gospel reading is all about relationships, about a stranger who personally knows and cares for the woman at the well. Jesus once again encounters a person, entering into dialogue and a loving and merciful relationship with them.
In May 2015, I was able to attend the Catholic Relief Services Called to Witness experience in El Salvador. Along with the beauty of the people and place, one cannot ignore the fact that this country has one of the highest murder rates in the world and is struggling with poverty…a poverty of education and security and opportunity and pride and resources.
This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us…We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them. (Pope Francis, EG, 198)
If there was one quotation that focused my own thoughts and feelings as we touched down in San Salvador, it was this one. When Pope Francis wrote that he hopes for a church which is poor and for the poor, where we can find Jesus and listen to His voice and be His voice for them, I was challenged to ask “How?” How can I be open to what the people of El Salvador have to offer me and to see the ‘saving power at work in their lives?’ How can I, like Jesus with the woman at the well, best listen to people, to be in relationships with them? How can I lend my voice and maybe even speak for them when I get home? How do I see the face of Jesus here?
The answers became clear in relationships. We visited Christian, a 15 year old involved in the CRS Jóvenes Constructores (Youth Builders) who started a small company making piñatas. We met Tamara, in prison and participating in Yo Cambio (I Change). We observed the small but brave staff of COFAMIDE (the Committee of Families of Missing and Disappeared Migrants). We were blessed to encounter Jose Antonio and Jorge Luis who explore new agricultural techniques for cacao and coffee that aim to reverse the effects of deforestation and water contamination.
As I dialogue with Jesus at my own well, I am aware of His great love for me and of my own need to change and to grow, much like the woman in the story. If we are to truly be in relationship (Solidaridad) with our brothers and sisters around the world, we must take a serious look at our personal lives and make changes. As a nation, we can also ask the tough questions concerning our compassion and care for those who are vulnerable, those who do not have freedoms, and the lifestyles and laws that directly impact those same sisters and brothers.