"Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:5-42
In the Orthodox tradition the woman at the well is honored as St. Photini. After her interaction with Christ she converted to Christianity, was baptized by the apostles and given the name Photini which means "the enlightened one". She became a tireless evangelist drawing many others to faith in Christ. In the words of Fr. Dave Cooper, "Christ gave her the gift of faith and she in turn gave that gift back to Him."
My parish has a reputation for being "liberal." I am often asked why I belong to such a liberal parish and it makes me think of the classic pick-up line, "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" The truth is, like the sinful woman at the well, I too, am sinful, have met Christ and have been converted. My guess is that everyone of us can call that statement true for themselves, whether we are comfortable admitting our sinfulness or not. Like St. Photini, my parish has been judged and labeled as liberal without the benefit of anyone looking deep within to see the good and holy people who belong there and who do their best to turn from sin and follow the gospel.
According to Fr. Dave, "We don't even know for sure that the living arrangements and lifestyle of the woman at the well was sinful. Could it be that she outlived her previous husbands and now the man with whom she was living was scared to marry her for fear that he would suffer the same fate of death? Yet we are quick to judge her and label her a sinful woman."
In the same vein, people are often quick to judge my parish and everyone who belongs there as liberal, dissenting Catholics who only want to change the Church rather than obediently follow the Pope as we should. I think if people want to see that in my parish, they will, but in truth, there may be just as many dissenting Catholics in parishes that are labeled traditional.
Only Christ can see the truth in our individual hearts. Only Christ can offer us the gift of faith and ask us to return it to him by loving all of those in our midst-liberal or traditional. It is Christ who is coming to us on our mountainside whether we are Jew or Samaritan, traditional or liberal, it is Christ who is calling us to conversion, to a change of heart, to see Him in all things and all people and in turn to share Him with all who cross our path, to evangelize and share our faith with the world.
St. Photini, you were judged as a sinful woman. Whether this is true or not, we know that we all carry sin in our hearts and are in need of the forgiveness that only Christ can provide. Be an example for us of the joy that comes from abandoning our sinful pasts for a new life in the living waters of the Lord. Be with us as we strive to share our faith with others. Amen.