[Jesus said to her,] “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.” The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain…” – John 4:18-20a
We want to change the subject when things get intense.
Jesus, encountering a Samaritan woman he’d never met, revealed that he knew her rather colorful history. Her response? “Let’s talk about worship.”
Before I get too self-righteous, though, I have to admit that I would have done something similar. Someone stands in front of me knowing that secret part that I want to remain hidden. What am I going to do? Admit my mistakes? Confront my flaws? Be honest with my uncertainty? Deal with guilt? Confess my fears?
No. It will be, “What are the Cardinals’ chances this year?”
It’s just so much easier to ignore the past and fantasize that the future won’t be affected by it. And, accordingly, change the subject when that fantasy bubble is about to burst.
But Jesus didn’t confront the woman to show how smart he was. He confronted her to show how much he cared for her. The encounter wasn’t meant to be guilt-inducing but grace-inviting.
It worked. Although the woman never overtly returned to the subject, her heart had been touched. She felt accepted, simply by Jesus holding a conversation with her while knowing all along about her past. That’s why she could witness to her fellow villagers, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” (4:29)
One of the engines of the gospel is that no matter what you’ve done, and not matter how horrible you build it up in your mind, you’re still a beloved child of God. You’re loved and accepted as you are, just as the prodigal son was accepted when he stopped running away, came to himself, and returned to his father: a father who didn’t condemn but threw a party for him.
When you don’t change the subject, Jesus changes you with his love.
5 thoughts on “MONDAY MEDITATION: Changing the Subject (August 17, 2020)”
I am nearing the end to my quarantine on the virus. I received a late night call from the hospital asking me to come, and a person was dying, he requested me. There was never any doubt I went, and after I administered the Sacrament of Reconciliation I sit with him for three hours until he died, and I thought of alll the rules I break, and have broken through the years because of what Greg is saying. The people I love, hang out with, and simply pastor are the one’s who are on the very edge of society, who most people don’t want to see, or hear a bout. Street kids who live in the Park, who could care less for society, but in each one of them I see the beloved child of God, and so rule breaker I am, but it is because of that spark of God that spark of God I see, experienced and has enveloped me for twenty six years. So thanks Greg!
River, thank you for taking the time to share your reflection. The work you do with the homeless youth in the San Francisco area is amazing. Continued prayers for you and your ministry. For those reading this reply, you can read more about River’s ministry at temonos.org.
Greg, I really enjoy your weekly blogs. They always contain something I can use. I appreciate you.
Greg I am glad to know u have not made it to perfection yet my website is http://www.temenos.org. U are the greatest river
What we all hope will happen.