On September 18 the sisters of the Eastern American Area met at Marymount Convent (or by livestreaming) to reflect on the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, even as we renewed our own commitment to discipleship and mission at the Eucharistic celebration that ended the day.
We began with a meditation of the Jn 4 reading of the Samaritan woman led by Sr. Margaret Fielding (Institute Leader) who urged the sisters to focus on the encounter between Jesus and the woman, to see how Jesus allowed her space to express her own thirst and longing, to see how Jesus awakened something in her and provided a gift beyond her hopes. Margaret asked us to consider the woman’s age and the many times she had come to draw water, perhaps not expecting anything new to happen, especially between her and this stranger from Galilee. Margaret suggested that the Samaritan woman is to be admired for her willingness to engage with Jesus, to test her own presumptions and traditions in the hope that there might just be something new breaking forth from her and for her.
Margaret then invited us to weave the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman with our own encounters with Jesus, our own thirsts and desires. She asked us to take this time of renewing our commitment to life and mission as RSHM in our Missioning ceremony as an opportunity to open our hearts once again to the promise of “living water” and the hope for even greater life.
After a festive dinner, we went to chapel to experience another interpretation of the encounter of Jesus and the woman at Jacob’s well. Sr. Catherine Vincie created a dramatization of the scene based on the work of Dr. Beatrice Bruteau in her text, What We Can Learn from the East. Dr. Bruteau suggests that it is informative to read the Gospel story as a Zen encounter of two masters, each ready to go deeper in their own enlightenment.
Jesus comes to the Samaritan woman when she is ready, and with her sharp-pointed, probing, leading questions she presses Jesus into a deeper realization of his baptismal experience.
What is very refreshing in Dr. Bruteau’s interpretation of the story is her treatment of the “husbands.” Rather than seeing them as actual marriages to six individuals, she presents the Samaritan woman as the questioning, thirsting human person. Her husbands are the different attitudes she has taken toward life, the attempts she has made to assuage her thirst…she hasn’t been floundering but has outgrown each one and has been growing. When Jesus asks her to call her present “husband,” she replies that she isn’t wedded to anything now. “I’m free and ready to move forward. I claim complete detachment – except for my unfulfilled thirst.”
She and Jesus continue their Zen-like sparring. “How about the traditions of our people,” she asks; “how about the Messiah, that is the final revelation of everything?” Jesus’ revelation of his identity comes at this point: “I AM, the one speaking to you.” This at long last is the seventh husband. His I AM is not different from her I AM. In the final scene, Jesus and the Samaritan woman embrace one another in mutual blessing. Both Jesus and the woman have had their thirst satisfied, and both proceed on to live their unique missions.
Reflection on this Gospel passage ended with a consideration of our mission and ministry as individuals and as community. The Council presented various areas of interest and concern needing to be addressed in the next three years, and the sisters gathered in small groups to discuss priorities for implementation. Finally, we celebrated our Missioning Eucharist where Srs. Roz and Susan, as Area Leader and Councilor, anointed each sister with the words “May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you in your discipleship.”