Reflection on John 4.5-42 (Lent)

Jesus said: You worship what you do not know.

There are many ways in which Jesus’ words ring true in our daily lives. Whilst we may not use the word ‘worship’, we often idolise that which we do not know. Sport and music fans develop a level of devotion to teams, players and performers which would best be described as ‘worship’. Those who prefer to participate rather than spectate become just as devoted to that participation, even to the point of ‘worship’. In our younger years we often find ourselves creating an image of perfection around someone or some activity. Sadly, that sort of ‘worship’ often ends in tears as reality kicks in and we experience a profound level of disappointment. A similar level of disappointment is too often experienced in our spiritual lives. As we become associated with the life of the Church we feel a degree of excitement that is akin to that experienced by the football fan and the pop group devotee, but then comes the moment when reality dawns, the moment when we realise that blind devotion should not be at the heart of our spiritual lives but profound commitment and a profound honesty that is self-sacrificial in nature.

The ‘worship’ of the sport and music fan is based upon a sense of personal engagement that borders on intimacy. But that intimacy is an illusion. Despite the best endeavours of the media, we can and will never know the truth about our idols on the pitch or the stage. The ‘worship’ we are called to offer in our spiritual lives is very different. We are offered an opportunity to enter into an intimate and profound relationship with Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith. However, that relationship is not that of the adoring fan, but a two-way bond that is demanding, and that will result in the greatest prize of all.

In today’s reading the Samaritan woman was offered an unexpected and counter-cultural route into a relationship with God. Breaking all the taboos of his time and culture, Jesus stood by an open door and invited that woman to cross the threshold into a new world, a world that would reveal the truth of the ancient prophecies. Then, as she took her first steps into the life of faith, her excitement led her to adopt a similar role for others … we read: Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.

That, of course, is where our relationship with God often falls down and the disappointment of the disillusioned fan kicks in. We struggle with the call to worship the true and living God by becoming a committed and active evangelist of the Good News, the Gospel of Christ. Let us pray that we might come to know the joy of worshipping God. Let us pray that we might not worship the unknown and the superficial, but only the One who invites us into an intimate relationship with him, Jesus our Risen Lord and Saviour.