SR. MAUREEN CATABIAN
First Reading – Ex 17:3-7
Responsorial Psalm 95
Second Reading – Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel – John 4: 5-42
A journey of the people of God. They thirst for water. “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” They quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” In the book of Exodus 17:3-7 Moses is being threatened. A prophet chosen by God to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt- i.e. from slavery to freedom. Moses is being questioned. In the desert there is no supply of water. Moses cried to the Lord. The Lord directed him to strike the rock in Horeb with the same staff with which he struck the river. And so he struck the rock and the water flowed from it for the people to drink. God heeded the question of His people. He heard their cry through Moses. God never abandoned his people Israel. God quenched their thirst for freedom and salvation.
Psalm 95 proclaims the supremacy of God and the great joy experienced because of our God who is King. The Great King over all other gods. They witness to this great joy by summoning us to acclaim, celebrate and worship God with our songs, dances and bowing down in deep reverence. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This is a “warning about infidelity to Yahweh drawn from the wandering tradition”. “It is God who tested the people of Israel.”
Romans 5 : 1-2,5-8 attests to the hope and peace we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins. God’s love for us is proven in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Our hope springs from the love of God that has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
The Gospel of John 4: 5-42 proclaims the liberating encounter of the Samaritan woman with Jesus who asked her to “give me a drink”. Their conversation at the well of Jacob (a place of courtship) opened the mind and heart of the Samaritan woman whose past is considered sinful having five husbands. Jesus asserts he is the “gift of God” and source of “living water”. Jesus continued: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman asked Jesus for this water. Jesus then reveals his true identity to the woman that He is the Messiah, the Christ. The Samaritan woman became the first missionary to the town of Samaria. It is an evangelization of breaking social and cultural barriers, where “worship of God will not be tied to a holy place” but where “the true standard of worship is belief in Jesus”. It is an evangelization towards “fullness of life in the Spirit and truth”. Many more Samaritans believed because of Jesus’ word and presence. They knew that Jesus is truly the Saviour of the world.
Looking back, my first foreign mission in West Africa (Senegal and Burkina Faso) since 2016 has been a deep experience of personal, cultural and social conversion. As an Asian missionary to one of the poorest countries in the world I have been evangelized myself when I discovered an-other face of God in Africa. Located in the Sahara region, Burkina Faso is rich in mineral resources. However, sources of water are scarce. It is a dry, flat and land locked country. No rivers. No mountains. A country of 20 million people where majority are Muslim but at least 15 percent are Christians.
The first time that I set foot in this part of the earth, I uttered to myself: “This is a God-forsaken place”. Poverty abounds. Food is scarce. It is scorchingly hot and dry. Rain comes only in the latter part of the year. Illiteracy is high. Violence in the Northern part- is an everyday reality. During my first year in mission, as I encountered their culture which is different – my personal biases and prejudices against them were even highlighted. As I got immersed daily in their culture, I discovered the hidden beauty of their unique culture, history and rich faith-life. Currently, there is a pervading economic and political instability due to poverty, exploitation by foreign corporations, ethnic conflicts, internal migration, violence and terrorism. Despite all these, God is very much alive in the simple faith of the people. It is their Christian/Muslim faith which serves as their lifeblood – source of courage, hope and determination while confronting their struggles as a people and as a nation. I murmured in my heart “God is here in Burkina Faso”.
I witnessed their daily worship and Eucharistic celebrations which are so euphoric and dynamic! People literally wear their faith as they donned loincloths and clothes printed with images of Jesus, Mary and the saints especially during feasts, ordinations, jubilees, especially Christmas and Easter celebrations. They sing and dance in jubilation! During feasts of the Muslim Community, the Christians celebrate together with them by praying and sharing meals together in their homes and villages.
Last year, 2022 I witnessed two military coups in the capital of Ouagadougou. It took place one after the other in the months of January and September. The frustration of the people with the government in their failure to curb terrorism and violence culminated in the toppling of the re-elected President. Burkina Faso is a young country where the majority are the youth. They have expressed their collective disgust on how their country is being run by traditional politicians. Two military coups were launched with the support of the youth where the current transition President is a 36–year old Military Captain – and is considered the youngest President in the world. The religious leaders and elders from the Muslim, Catholic and Protestant faith communities have expressed unwavering support to the present leadership. Their urgent call is to work together for peace and stability in the country.
Their hope for change is real. Their need for social transformation is urgent.
My experience of living in another part of the world in West Africa has confirmed my belief that the Philippines is not a poor country. We are a country made poor by the rich who continue to amass great wealth for themselves and their families. I returned to the Philippines after 7 years of mission abroad. The Duterte-regime with his bloody war on drugs and subservience to foreign capitalists has bled the country dry. We continue to be impoverished due to economic and development policies that favour only the rich “trapos” in serving foreign interests. To make things worse, Marcos Jr. is installed as the sitting president after a questionable and unresolved fraudaulent 2022 national elections.
In 7 months of the Marcos Jr. administration, the life of the struggling poor especially farmers and workers continue to deteriorate as they suffer the impact of government projects and investments that benefit only foreign interests and “trapos”/ local politicians. The sadder part of our present reality is that many Filipinos suffer from a culture of “great disconnect”. It is the inability to see the connection between the deteriorating economic and political situation of the country and the accountability and culpability of the present government. Implementing economic policies and development strategies which continue to favour the rich as well as foreign capitalists. A culture of insensitivity “Huwag nang makialam” and indifference “Puro kayo reklamo” is growing among the young people as well as the old.
Jesus answers the Samaritan woman “The water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty. . .” We need to encounter Jesus at the well.We need to encounter Jesus in the margins. We need to establish a government that serves its own people. We need leaders who listen and respond to the cries of the poor and the marginalized. We need to meet people in isolated wells. We need to establish communion among the poor and the hungry. We need to ensure a deep connection between true faith and action. We need to nurture a life- giving spirituality based on truth, justice, and accountability.
The encounter of the Samaritan woman with Jesus led her to discover the true Spirit which emboldened her to proclaim the “fullness of life” for all! The Samaritan woman loved and saw the face of God. In each one of us lives the “Samaritan woman” who encounters Jesus daily while living in the margins, who discovers and loves an- other face of God!
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing, reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).