THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
JANUARY 18–25, 2015
BACKGROUND: Introduction to the Theme
“Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’” (John 4:7)
Who drinks of this water...?
Journey, scorching sun, tiredness, thirst … “Give me a drink.” This is a demand of all human beings. God, who becomes human in Christ (John 1:14) and empties himself to share our humanity (Philippians 2:6-7) is capable of asking the Samaritan woman: “Give me to drink” (John 4:7). At the same time, this God who comes to encounter us offers the living water: “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little of our own. In diversity, we enrich each other. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a privileged moment for prayer, encounter and dialogue. It is an opportunity to recognize the richness and value that are present in the other, the different, and to ask God for the gift of unity.
“Whoever drinks of this water keeps coming back,” says a Brazilian proverb, always used when a visitor leaves. A refreshing glass of water, chimarrão*, coffee, tereré**, are trademarks of acceptance, dialogue and coexistence. The biblical gesture of offering water to whomever arrives (Matthew 10:42), as a way of welcoming and sharing, is something that is repeated in all regions of Brazil.
The proposed study and meditation on this text during the Week of Prayer is to help people and communities to realize the dialogical dimension of the project of Jesus, which we call the Kingdom of God.
The text affirms the importance of a person knowing and understanding her/his own self-identity so that the identity of the other is not seen as a threat. If we do not feel threatened, we will be able to experience the complementarity of the other: alone, a person or culture is not enough! Therefore, the image emerging from the words “give me a drink” is an image speaking of complementarity: to drink water from someone else’s well is the first step towards experiencing another’s way of being. This leads to an exchange of gifts that enriches. Where the gifts of the other are refused much damage is done to society and to the Church.
In the text of John 4, Jesus is a foreigner who arrives tired and thirsty. He needs help and asks for water. The woman is in her own land; the well belongs to her people, to her tradition. She owns the bucket and she is the one who has access to the water. But she is also thirsty. They meet and that encounter offers an unexpected opportunity for both of them. Jesus does not cease to be Jewish because he drank from the water offered by the Samaritan woman. The Samaritan remains who she is while embracing Jesus’ way. When we recognize that we do have reciprocal needs, complementarity takes place in our lives in a more enriching way. “Give me a drink” presupposes that both Jesus and the Samaritan ask for what they need from each other. “Give me to drink” compels us to recognize that persons, communities, cultures, religions and ethnicities need each other.
“Give me a drink” implies an ethical action that recognizes the need for one another in living out the Church’s mission. It compels us to change our attitude, to commit ourselves to seek unity in the midst of our diversity, through our openness to a variety of forms of prayer and Christian spirituality.
*Chimarrão is a traditional infuse drink in the South of Brazil; it is prepared from steeping dried leaves of yerba mate. Drinking together with friends or family is the common practice.
** The principle is similar to Chimarrão, but instead of boiling water, tereré uses cold water.