Headlines are hollering and the store shelves are bare; service workers are being laid off, and handshakes have retreated to awkward elbows. There is the roar of the national emergency, and the contentious political rhetoric placing blame. An anxious tension is carved into the faces of our elderly and countless gazes are haunted by grudging fears. There are mandates from governors, warnings from leaders and the presidential declaration of a national emergency. And yet, there is a cumbersome uncertainty about how to get through this unfamiliar scenario. Against this backdrop, on this Third Sunday of Lent, Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman at the well.
She is skeptical of him, and he seems to see right through her banter. While she is sharp and defensive, he is focused and accepting. He keeps moving through the conversation without negativity or disdain. He focuses on what is, and she becomes engaged. She questions the reality she lived with so long, and wonders who he really is. For me, she revealed a reality that had escaped me in all the planning and organizing and attempting to somehow forestall the spread of the coronavirus.
Even now, in the midst of he Black Plague of our time, we are living in the Presence of God. As it was hers to begin to acknowledge that, so it is ours to begin to see that. The virus has demonstrated that even with the advances and comforts of the 21st century, humans are not in control of the environment. There are forces more powerful than self. What matters are the choices we make. No matter who we are or what we are about, we are only a stone’s throw from the Samaritan woman’s situation. We can step back and acknowledge the presence of God in the midst of all the suffering and dysfunction, or we can walk away.
To acknowledge that Presence means taking the time to recognize we are all in this situation together. The virus is not simply attacking individuals but whole communities and cultures. Just as the virus is spread thorugh contact, support for one another must come through one another. There are thousands of ways for us to make that happen; perhaps some we have not even imagined yet. We live in a time dazzling with technological possibility and layers of talent. There are steps we can take to assist one another in awareness of the problems and in meeting needs. In an individualistic society, such an endeavor requires so much more than simply providing for self and family. Somehow, the echo of the Samaritan woman talking with neighbors comes to mind. She did not keep her burgeoning awarenesses to herself. And now, for us, conscious of the Presence of God among us, sharing the comfort and peace of that with others in whatever way possible, has real meaning.
It may not be any talk of God at all. It may be very practically calling an elderly neighbor, face-timing a grandparent, making dinner for a medical family, picking up coffee for first responders. There are so many possibilities to live in the Presence of God and to share that even now.
“Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”–Francis of Assisi