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Sermon on the Samaritan Woman at the Well

SERMON ON THE SAMARITAN WOMAN 2021

Christ is Risen!

It was seven weeks ago when we celebrated the memory of St Mary of Egypt; a very sinful woman who was willingly addicted to the passions of the flesh. She first disrespected and dishonored her parents and her family by running away from home while still a minor, and then, giving herself over to a completely dissolute life, dragging many souls along with her into a pit of debauchery. So, what happened? Was God disgusted with her? Did God abandon her? Did God hate her? Did God strike her dead with a bolt of lightening? No! Not at all! The Lord Himself says in Ezekiel 18:23 (LXX), “How can I desire death of the sinner, saith the Lord, as I desire that he should turn from his evil way, and live?” And in Ezekiel 33:10-11(LXX) we read “Our errors, and our iniquities weigh upon us, and we pine away in them, and how then shall we live? Say to them, Thus saith the Lord; As I live, I desire not the death of the ungodly, but rather that the ungodly should turn from their way and live: turn ye heartily from your way; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

And we read in Isaiah,

"O Lord; for thou wast angry with me, but thou hast turned aside thy wrath, and hast pitied me. Behold, my God is my Saviour; I will trust in him, and not be afraid: for the Lord is my glory and my praise, and is become my salvation. Draw ye therefore water with joy out of the wells of salvation.  And in that day thou shalt say, sing to the Lord, call aloud upon his name, proclaim his glorious deeds among the Gentiles; make mention that his name is exalted." (Isaiah 12:1-4 LXX).

When the woman at the well came to draw water, she encountered the God-Man Jesus Christ. This was no accidental meeting, no coincidence. The God Who came to love us not hate us, to pity us, not be disgusted with us, to forgive us and not to condemn us, approached in order to lead, or rather, pull the Samaritan woman out of her own personal pit of sin and debauchery in order to save her. And what was the result? Joy! "Come," she said, "come meet a man who told me everything I ever did!" Can you imagine? He exposed her sins and yet she rejoices with utter joy. How can that be? It's because every encounter with Christ brings with it the rush of the Holy Spirit, like rivers of fresh, cooling water, flooding into our souls. And remember, the Holy Spirit is the "Comforter," the "παράκλητος." He comes to heal and console, not to beat or punish. Do you remember the woman caught in adultery? Do you remember what Christ said to her? He said: “Woman, where are those who accuse you? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

Dear ones, St Paul tells us that unless a person’s conscience is completely seared because of sin, there is always hope that their heart will one day respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the healing words of Christ (cf 1 Timothy 4:1-4.) It was true for St Paul himself, it was true for St Mary of Egypt, and it was true for the woman at the well. St John of Shanghai reminds us of a scene from the crucifixion of Christ, saying: “[The Wise Thief’s] whole life had been one of theft and crime. But evidently his conscience had not died, and in the depths of his heart, something good remained” (St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “Why the Wise Thief Was Pardoned”). 

The woman at the well was corrected by Christ, yes, but she knew that his correction came from love. Scripture confirms this, saying, “Whom the Lord loves He corrects” (Proverbs 3:12). And this is why the Samaritan woman could only rejoice with the exposure of her sins.

St John Chrysostom, in his homily on this morning’s Gospel, speaks to us as if his words are the words of Christ, and we are sitting there on Jacob’s well together with Him. Paraphrasing, He says, “Abstain from doing evil things and going to wicked places. Keep the books of the Gospels in your hands but don’t just read them, convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receives the meaning of the writing...By beholding these things you will learn also how to battle, and escape, clear of the devils. I shall not cease to say these things and weary you, until I see some change; for to say these things, as saith Paul, “to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is saving” (Phil. 3:1). Be not then offended at my exhortation...but be freed from shame, that you may be deemed worthy to enjoy...the glory that is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory unto ages of ages. Amen.”

(Homilies on John – paraphrased and condensed by me)

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