John tells us that “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” This is an understatement. In the time of Christ, Jews and Samaritans hated and despised one another. This is why the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel reading is so surprised when Jesus asks her for a drink.
But Jesus simply ignores such divisions, based on prejudice and suspicion. As a Jewish man, it was scandalous for him to be seen even speaking in public to a woman who was a Samaritan and a stranger. But Jesus sees another human being, who needs to hear the Good News.
After speaking with Jesus, the woman hurries back to her home town, to bring her own people – Samaritans – to hear the Jewish prophet she has met. Jesus has evangelised her – brought her good news – and now she becomes an evangelist to others. She tells the people, “Come and see,” the same invitation that Jesus offered to his first disciples. Her encounter with Christ has brought her to believe in him, and given her the desire to share her faith with others.
Pope Francis urges us to be an evangelising and missionary Church. We can only evangelise effectively by following the example of Christ – sitting down with others, listening to their stories, and inviting them to come and see.