November 7, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 4:16-26.
Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
In these verses we find all the tenets of John’s gospel. According to the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, “The basis for true worship in the Johannine community is the confession of Jesus as prophet, Messiah, Savior of the world, and equal to God.” Jesus tells me that God cannot be confined to any one place and that no one has an exclusive claim to God. He is everywhere and accessible by everyone. There is no one true church; there is no one representative of God, only Jesus, the anointed one, the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus came from the Jews to save us, but his purpose was to save us all no matter who and no matter where.
Jesus has told me everything — everything I need to know. The foremost is to worship God in spirit and in truth. I love what Barclay writes about this, “The true worship is when man, through is spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God. Genuine worship does not consist in coming to a certain place nor in going through a certain ritual or liturgy nor even in bringing certain gifts. True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, himself immortal and invisible.”
And Jesus said to the woman as he says to me, “I am,” evoking the words of God to Moses, “I am who am.” Such a simple but powerful declaration. Jesus began by talking with the woman in abstractions that she was unable to understand. Here he was straightforward; there was no confusion about who he was. “He is the one who makes known the living God,” according to Moloney in The Gospel of John. She was honest with him, straining to understand what he was telling her. She was willing to be released from the prison of her mind, the limitations of her knowledge, her culture, and her sin. God is spirit; that’s the truth and how I am to conceive of Him and worship Him. Jesus couldn’t be more direct about that.
Moloney writes about this teaching, “The act of worshipping is described by the use of the verb proskynein. It implies the act of bending or prostrating oneself in the direction of the one worshipped….[T]rue worship is the orientation of oneself toward the Father in such a way that God becomes the imperative of one’s life….God is spirit, an all-pervading personal presence to the believer.” This has been taking on a new meaning for me. On retreat at Benedictine Abbey last weekend I was once again pondering eternal life upon death. I wrote in my journal, “the yawning maw of God’s great love.” It’s hard not to think in imagery, visible concepts, of the invisible God. That’s as close as I’ve been able to come — an energy field that draws me irresistibly into its center. God is the all-pervading spirit of love and my spirit upon death will bend toward him not from my will but from His.
The Sacra Pagina translation has it, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming and is now when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” Jesus is telling me that the kingdom of God is coming and is now. I must orient my spirit in such a way that God becomes the imperative of my life, that I am drawn into His yawning maw of love. That’s what Jesus did for this woman sitting beside him at Jacob’s well. He drew her irresistibly into God’s love. That’s what he does for me as I open myself to him, listen to him, and speak with him. He will tell me everything I need to know.