Megan Allen, our seminarian at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, gave this reflection at an online Bible study with her field education parish this morning:
We enter into this third week of Lent facing a precarious situation – the COVID 19 pandemic. People are encouraged to practice social distancing, reducing our contact with others to slow the possible spread of the virus, and to self-quarantine when appropriate. Even for the most introverted, this can feel like a time of disconnection and isolation. But what does COVID 19 have to do with today’s gospel story of the Samaritan woman?
We know she goes to the well to get water alone, which was unusual, and at a time of day when others were unlikely to be there. Some scholars suggest this woman might be a social outcast, and I imagine that in the truest sense of the word, the woman was alone. I wonder if the woman was experiencing the isolation of social distancing. How long might she have been longing for connection and relationship?
We also know Jesus was at the well. I assume she and Jesus are less than the suggested 6-feet apart as he chooses to enter into relationship with her. A Jew and a Samaritan – unlikely dialogue partners with a shared history and fractured present. Through their dialogue we hear that Jesus offered this woman the opposite of the isolation she felt. Continued isolation from others can feel like brokenness; like a sorrow deep within our soul. Jesus offers this woman living water – a renewed relationship of deep connection and love with God. It is an opportunity to be made whole, even in this place of isolation.
We know that many places of worship have postponed in-person worship; some feel like virtual community is not the same or enough. But just as Jesus tells the woman, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to worship him.” We are reminded that as we too navigate the isolation of social distancing and feel the brokenness in our separation from others, we too are offered living water.
Response to this pandemic demands we distance ourselves from others. Like the Samaritan woman, this leaves us thirsty for connection. Lent invites us to see this distancing as a sacrifice – an embodied love for our vulnerable neighbors. May we remember throughout this time that Jesus meets us here, knows our pains, and satisfies our needs.