Fr. Anastasios Theodoropoulos, All Saints - Peoria, IL | May 17, 2020
On this, the fifth Sunday after Pascha the Church draws our attention to Christ's encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well. In this encounter with the Living God, the Samaritan woman is on the one hand exposed to His Glory, but on the other her sin, pain, and suffering are revealed in contrast to His splendor. This theophany, this vision of God, for her is also a judgment of her sinfulness, of her insufficiency in living up to the divine life. In fact, the words of Christ when she reveals that she has no husband “you have spoken rightly, 'I have no husband' for you have had five” is exactly that, a judgment. Christ's judgment however, is not a condemnation; no punishment is attached to it, because he is indeed the Just Judge. Rather, it is a an invitation for her to see her life for what it truly is, to adopt the Godly life, and to share in His own glory through repentance and transformation.
As we continue to journey through the storms being thrust upon us of illness, of isolation, and of poverty, we must accept these things as God's judgment, as they have always been so named in the scriptures. For people with modern sensibilities however, to refer to these things as judgments is terribly distasteful. After all, how could the Lover of Mankind be so cruel as to inflict such pain and suffering upon us? However, we must remember that these judgments come from the Just Judge, Christ our God, the very same judge of the Samaritan woman. These judgments are not God's punishment for sinful behavior, but like the Samaritan woman's experience of Christ, they are a theophany and simultaneously a revelation of our own sinful failings. Indeed, many are correct to call the events that are occurring an “apocalypse” not in the sense of a world ending catechism, but in the true meaning of the word – a revealing of the true way of things, and a call to a necessary transformation. Is this not the true meaning of judgment? The primary role of a judge after all, is to discern and reveal the truth when presented with two disagreeing parties. The fragility of our modern way of life has been revealed to us, it has been judged by God as ineffective just as the Samaritans woman's way of life was revealed to be sinful when she encountered Christ.
Let us also consider that the encounter takes place at the Well of Jacob. We see the woman struggling to draw water from the centuries old well. This is representative of her life: dark, laborious, the water she draws is bitter, but she knows no other life. This too is our old life before being exposed to this crisis and God's judgment. Each of us certainly made regrettable sacrifices in order to survive before this catastrophe. Perhaps we sacrificed our families for our careers. Perhaps we abandoned relationships over petty concerns and disagreements. Perhaps we drew away from God, because he did not fit into our busy schedules. Things are notably different now, these sins have been judged, and have shown to have profited us nothing. Now, each of us asks the question: when will life return to normal? We must understand that once presented with God's judgment it is our responsibility to never allow our lives to return to “normal.” Our lives must be transformed. We must abandon our old sins and habits that equipped us for survival in our old lives, and be free to live in Christ! We must abandon the old well, and accept a new life in Christ, the Living Water.
If we can accept this crisis as God's therapeutic judgment, we must also understand that this crisis does not punish us for the sins of our old life, but liberates us from our former passions! Our choice as we face this crisis is the same as that of the Samaritan woman. We can either continue to draw water from the old well in an attempt to survive for just another day in futility according to our old way of life. Or on the other hand we can see our old life for what it was, an old well – dark, murky, and bitter, and commit ourselves fully instead to life in Christ, never thirsting again, and being nurtured and sanctified by the God who put an end to death by His own death.