Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 27 March 2011

Painting by Seiger Koder

Painting by Seiger Koder

The gospel reading today from John 4.5-42 is like a painting.  You can visualize the scene easily.  It is a hot day.  In the middle of the day a woman comes to the well to draw water for her family to be able to drink and wash.  It is outside the town.  Hardly a dog stirs in the heat.  Normally there might be gossip and companionship at the well, but she comes in the full heat of the day when few people are likely to be there.  Perhaps she feels herself to be not entirely welcome, and comes at a quiet time.  This time, however, there is a surprise.  She sees a Jewish man, tired and resting in the shade.  In a further surprise he asks her to draw water for him, which is unexpected because the bitter relations between Jews and Samaritans would normally make this impossible.

Already there is a message for us.  First of all, Jesus waits for everybody.  He is there for the respectable and the not-so-respectable.  In fact, for him these divisions do not exist.  All have sinned and all need God’s mercy.  Second, ancient rivalries and animosities should not be renewed.  He stands for the truth, but it is a truth without hatred, rancour or violence.  Stay with this thought for a moment.  Jesus does not deny tradition, rather he points to its fulfillment in how we worship God:  in spirit and in truth.  

What does it mean to worship God in spirit?

Your spirit is the deepest part of you.  It is where your conscience is active.  It is where you feel a challenge, rise to an occasion, overcome selfishness, find generosity.  Love springs from here.  This central place is where your depths open to the depths of God.  If, therefore, you find yourself speaking religious words but in a spirit of hatred, you are not worshipping God in spirit.  Truth and spirit go together: we believe what we believe.  Yet we believe this in a spirit of peace, love and concern for the good of all, because if we do otherwise then our spirit is losing touch with God.  As St Paul writes, ‘For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God’ (1 Cor 2.11-12).

Part of this truth is that Jesus is the supreme revelation of God among us.  In the synoptic gospels Jesus is careful, reticent even, about announcing himself as the Messiah.  It is a step that is fraught with danger.  The Fourth Gospel, however, gives us a clear declaration.  ‘I who am speaking to you’ said Jesus, ‘I am he’ (v 26).  The humanity of God reveals the divinity of God.  If we worship in spirit and in truth then we have to hold this truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, although always in a spirit of peace.  We also need to remember that this incident begins with a thirsty Jesus asking for a drink of water.  So it will be in life.  We will respond to the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness of our brothers and sisters and do what we can to help.  There in that moment, Christ is among us, and sometimes in a moment of grace we may glimpse him.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His latest book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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