​​St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Fifth Sunday of Pascha

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman.

Also Mothers’ Day

Readings at the Liturgy: 1) Acts 11:19-30; 2) Philippians 3:1a, 3-14; 3) John 4: 5-42


My dear parishioners and friends,

In today’s Gospel we hear of an incident in the Lord Jesus’ life when He and the disciples were passing through the province of Samaria, which was in the middle between Galilee in the north (where Jesus grew up) and Judea in the south (where Jerusalem is). For various historical reasons the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along. When Jews had to pass through Samaria they did so quickly and, if at all possible, without stopping. Jesus of course was Jewish (as the Samaritan woman remarks in the story), but He was in no rush to “get in and out.” He sent the disciples to buy food while He sat down at a well. A Samaritan woman came along to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. The woman was surprised, “You’re a Jew,” she said, “and I’m a Samaritan. Jews don’t associate with Samaritans, so how can you ask me for water?” Jesus replied, “If you knew who I am, perhaps you’d ask Me and I would give you living water!” The story develops from there. The disciples come back, are amazed that the Master is speaking to a Samaritan, but say nothing. Try and read this Sunday’s Gospel.

In today’s first reading, from Acts, we hear that, after that first Pentecost after the Lord’s re-surrection, many of the disciples went forth to preach the Gospel. Some preferred to go only to Jews. Others went to the great city of Antioch and preached also to Gentiles, that is, to non-Jews. As it happened, the “hand of the Lord was with [the disciples in Antioch], and a great number of Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord... And it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” In today’s second reading, from the epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul speaks about righteousness. “Righteousness” means being “set right,” being able to “stand straight,” before God.  The question is, can sinful people — and we all are sinners — be made righteous simply by practicing the Mosaic Law, the Law of Moses, symbolized by circumcision? If they can, then righteousness comes from their own efforts and not from God, which, as Scripture  proclaims, is not possible. In this reading St. Paul teaches that we must have “the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God which depends on faith.”

There is a common thread in these readings, namely, that salvation comes through faith in Christ, and salvation — God’s saving power revealed in our risen Saviour Jesus Christ — is meant for all people, for each and every one who believes in Jesus. No matter Jew or Samaritan, Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised. The Christian message is God’s universal one (that is, a “catholic”) one. This is a funda-mental lesson that we of the Byzantine rite, Catholics and Orthodox, often forget. We place national epi-thets where they certainly do not belong — in the first place before our religious designation: Ukrainian, Hungarian or Slovak Greek Catholic; Greek, Russian or Romanian Orthodox. As if the Church can be intended for, or limited to, any one group. That is to return to the Jewish/Samaritan conflict, the “we versus them” dichotomy, that was settled long ago in Antioch where the disciples were first called “Christians.”

In that vein I want to heartily congratulate and kiss all our loving mothers. They are usually the truly “catholic” parents who taught us to respect and get along with everyone. I have such fond  memories of my own mother and two grandmothers who were real nurturers to me and anyone I brought home. Next week I’ll tell you a story about my grandmother and the beggar who came to our front door. “Many years!,” dear mothers. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic and “private” church services, we have no corsages for you in church this year. But be assured, I’m offering the Liturgy for you and your intentions this Mothers’ Day, a spiritual corsage to bless and keep you. Stay healthy!  

— Father Conrad.

And to the greatest of mothers, the Most Holy Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow, especially during this time of pandemic and always, we extol You!