In this Random Nun Clip: the scripture story of the woman at the well and how faith can free us. Hear the full Ask Sister podcast AS199, hosted by Sister Maxine with guest Sister Shannon Schrein, OSF.
Shannon Schrein, OSF, Ph.D.
Sister Shannon Schrein is a Sylvania Franciscan and currently serves on the Leadership Team. She has a PhD in Systematic Theology and is president of the College Theology Society.
She is the author of Quilting and Braiding: The Feminist Christologies of Sallie McFague and Elizabeth A. Johnson in Conversation, published by the Liturgical Press, 1998. Sister Shannon is also the editor of God Has Begun a Great Work in Us: Embodied Love in Consecrated Life and Ecclesial Movements, The 2014 Annual Volume of the College Theology Society. She is a contributor to The Saint Mary’s College Study Bible, 2007.
Sister Shannon is the 2012 recipient of the Franciscan Federation Award. She has shared her Franciscan way of life and her love of Jesus and the Scriptures with her students for more than forty years.
SISTER MAXINE: I’m Sister Maxine with today’s guest, Sister Shannon Schrein, an awesome theologian and a Sister of St. Francis from Sylvania, Ohio. In Scripture, do you have a favorite story that touches your heart very deeply about God’s relationship with a person or with the people?
SISTER SHANNON: While I could come up with many, the one that is so wonderful for me is the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. It happens in the Gospel of John, chapter four. In those days, the Samaritans and the Jews had held a grudge against one another for centuries dating back to the year 538 B.C.—that’s how long.
SISTER MAXINE: That’s a long time to hold a grudge. (chuckle)
SISTER SHANNON: That they didn’t like each other, yeah. There had been intermarriage with the Assyrian peoples back in those days of captivity and the Jews that held themselves to purity had rejected the Samaritans, and so there was animosity. Good Jews in those days, when they would travel north, would avoid going through the town of Samaria where the Samaritans lived; they would go around to get to Nazareth and up in the north to Galilee where Jesus was from. But Jesus barreled right through the city of Samaria, right. He wasn’t afraid. And he stops at this well and he’s gonna have this encounter with this woman, who is there at the well by herself in the middle of the day because there was something about her that others had rejected. We don’t know what. We know that she’s had several husbands; Jesus tells her that: “You’ve had five husbands and the man you’re with now is not your husband.” We make sometimes too many conclusions about why those men are not around. Maybe they all died, or maybe they walked away. We don’t know any part of the story, we only know that she married many times.
SISTER MAXINE: But it doesn’t seem like, Jesus doesn’t say “wow,” …
SISTER SHANNON: no, he doesn’t condemn her for that…
SISTER MAXINE: you know, that’s something.
SISTER SHANNON: No, so they have this encounter and he says, “Can I have a drink of water?” And she’s shocked that a Jew would talk to her. And then eventually he invites her to a sense of living water, right. And she doesn’t, well she takes that quite literally. “We don’t have a bucket and the well is deep; how are you gonna get this water?” she says to him. And he seems to try to comfort her into believing that there’s a bigger life out there than just drawing water literally from the well. And he begins, I think, to reveal herself to herself, right, by encountering her with the story of the men in her life and pretty soon they’re in a deeper conversation. And I think it’s one of those moments of spiritual direction where Jesus is really inviting her to take a look at her life and what that means. And pretty soon, as the disciples come back and she’s nervous that they show up, she runs off. And as she runs off, she realizes she’s left her buckets behind. She’s left the burden and she goes to call the people who, an hour ago wouldn’t even come out and talk to her, and now they’re so engaged by what’s happened in her—the transformation that’s taken place—they at least come out of curiosity if not out of a desire to really know what’s changed. The people invite Jesus to stay. And at the end of the story it says, “now we don’t believe in you just because of the testimony of this woman, but we’ve seen for ourselves.” So that encounter at the well changes everything about her life and the lives of those Samaritan people. And that’s the possibility of a relationship that we can have with Jesus as well—that we can unburden ourselves, that we can share our story, that we can change our lives.
SISTER MAXINE: And to the extent that those relationships can go beyond ourselves, it can also change our world. Here in the chat room we have a comment that there’s so much animosity now between peoples, so to think about how we can be those agents of transformation, inspired by Jesus, is a very good story for our time.
SISTER SHANNON: I think it’s powerful because we have the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who wrote our Gospels but to evangelize means to go out and share the good news. And this Samaritan woman is the first person who does it. And her message is so strong, her good news is so graced, that the whole town comes to Jesus as a result. How we approach people in our lives, at this time, which I would agree is a very difficult time in our history--if we approach it as Jesus would call us to, our lives can change and the lives of those we meet every day.