Hannah Coley is a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize, for the next few months check out #JVStories as she examines the way women in Scripture have given her clarity and resolve as a women in the Catholic Church. This month we will explore femininity, spirituality and social justice through the experience of the Samaritan Woman.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink…’ The Samaritan Woman replied, ‘You are a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?’ Jesus replied, ‘If only you recognized God’s gift, and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him instead, and he would have given you living water.'” John 4:6-10
The Lenten Season asked us to drop our buckets into the depths of God’s well of purified water for others’ fulfillment and our own. The Easter Season causes our wells to overflow and to rush forth. The recognition of the transformative power of the Easter Season has been a critical part of my own Jesuit Volunteer experience. In what ways can I allow others to purify my well and even quench my thirsts?
Here in Belize, the months of April and May have been heavy in preparation for Toledo’s rainy season. With light morning showers, cloudy sunrises, thick air and dark pink sunsets. This rain will inevitably require patience and pause, and perhaps even wading into the floods to test their depths. Similar to how service so far from home sometimes wanes on its volunteers, requiring patience, pause and prayer.
The rains will swell the fertile soil and nourish seedlings. They will cause the rivers to rush, filling streams and creating depths for bathing. Women in Toledo’s villages will spend countless hours travelling to and from the rivers to bathe. Or to wash, and to soak in the pureness and crispness of the flowing water. A task that is foreign to many Americans but not to all.
“How can I make my own waters pure and drinkable enough for others, in my own imperfection and brokenness? It is in this request of transformation that I can recognize the fullness of my neighbor and begin to break existing rules of exclusion.”
This walk to and from the riverbed will be shared among women, young and old. Garifuna women consider this travel to the riverbed as sacred and necessary for purification, sustainment and community. Mothers carry children to the river for a bath and to witness this tradition. They complete the Holy Trinity. Mothers, Children, and the Sacredness and Vitality of the Water personify the wholeness of the Trinity.
The Samaritan Woman experiences ostracism from other women. Judgment and prejudice prevent her from carrying out the ritualized task of fetching water in community with other women. She is forced to carry her water alone in the heat of the day. She is denied the space to be held and loved by other women, to be recognized and valued in her womanhood and imperfection.
In meeting the Samaritan Women at the well, Jesus’ own thirst was quenched by her generosity and recognized wholeness. Although their interaction was forbidden because of intense cultural divides, for the Samaritans intermarried and practiced inclusion, it emphasized the human need to be quenched and filled. Mother, how do I, myself, perpetuate such violence and prejudice against other women and their experiences? Who do I exclude from sacred spaces of inclusion and community?
How can I make my own waters pure and drinkable enough for others, in my own imperfection and brokenness? It is in this request of transformation that I can recognize the fullness of my neighbor and begin to break existing rules of exclusion. Requesting love from another is recognizing the goodness and wholeness they contain to fill in the spaces of my limitation.
“Water is Life. Water is Sacred”. These words have are on signs, sung, shouted and prayed by indigenous communities and advocates throughout the United States and Latin America. The way we interact and care for our environment is a direct indicator of how we care for our neighbor. And how we recognize God to be creator and lover of all things living and sustaining life.
Ritual and prayer have always connected people to one another and their environment and the elements. The Samaritan Woman partakes in her solitary chore of fetching water, recognizing its necessity regardless if carried out in community. Christ, expressing his humanity through parched tongue and mouth, realized the water and life the woman was able to give. Pure and abundant.
Hannah Coley graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2016, prior to signing the covenant as a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize for the 2016-2018 program year! She serves as a Youth/Liturgical Coordinator at St. Peter Claver Parish.