“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (Jn 4: 39-42)
Two surprising moments here: First, “many” Samaritans believe because of the testimony of a woman. And not just any woman, but one who had already had five husbands and was now with a sixth guy, who wasn’t even her husband. Nonetheless, she was evidently a figure of considerable authority, whose testimony is trusted within her community. So our Lord knew what He was doing, choosing her as His messenger. Second, Jesus chooses to stay with the heretical Samaritans, with whom Jews were to have no contact at all, for two whole days. Our Lord cuts through important, yet secondary, issues of tradition and propriety, in order to bring His light to more people, that they might know “that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
How different are His choices from ours today, in matters of evangelization and church-building. On the eve of the Holy and Great Council, we stumble over these very same, secondary issues. We hotly debate the “traditionality” of women’s participation, the status of heretics and the use of the word “church,” while allowing church-unity to fall by the wayside. We are willing to hinder the unified voice of the Church, the unified testimony to Him, to be heard in this world, as we quibble about our traditions. Today I pray that my Lord help me cut through the secondary issues, and focus on the primary, as He did on those two sunny days in Samaria.