Many of the authors of the Bible wrote for the same reason: to help their readers live their faith in the everyday situations they were experiencing.

The earliest inspired writer of the Torah, called the Yahwistic author, noticed almost 1,000 years before Jesus' birth that many who chose to follow God did so convinced that the circumstances in which they found themselves weren't worthy of their dedication.

Some in the community longed for the days of the Exodus, when Yahweh tromped through the wilderness with the chosen people, as close to them as the column of smoke which guided them by day and the pillar of fire which led them at night. Those were "the days." Nothing they were experiencing in tenth-century Israel could compare to those twelfth-century saving events in the Sinai. How easy it must have been to be faithful Israelites back then.


That mentality prompts the Yahwistic author repeatedly to describe the griping, complaining and frustration of those "ideal" Jews during their 40-year trek through the Sinai (Ex 17: 3-7). "In those days," the sacred writer reminds readers, "in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?'"

So much for any idyllic past!

At the end of the first Christian century, the author of the last Gospel seems to encounter the same situation in his community (John 4: 5-42). Notice how frequently in the Gospel Jesus reminds those He encounters that God is working in circumstances and situations they tend to overlook.

As the passage begins, He dares to ask someone for a favor whom the majority of His people presume is outside the perimeters in which God works: a Samaritan woman. Next, Jesus informs her that she's overlooking His significance. He assures her that He's able to provide something far more important than what she's about to carry home in her jug: living water, which will become a spring of life in anyone who drinks it.

The author even carries the concept over to places of worship. Jews claimed that Yahweh could only be worshiped in the Jerusalem temple. Samaritans believed only the highest point on Mt. Gerizim could fulfill that requirement.

"The hour is coming and is here now," Jesus announces, "when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth." In other words, worship takes place where someone is, not where someone goes.

Jesus with us

It's important that the townspeople eventually tell the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world." Our own - not other peoples' - experience of the risen Jesus assures us of His presence and actions in our lives.

Many of us overlook the underlying premise of the whole passage: Jesus works through a sinner. "You have had five husbands," Jesus informs the woman, "and the one you have now is not your husband." She doesn't have to get a Church-granted annulment before Jesus enters her life. He takes us and works through us, wherever we are.

Paul arrived at the same conclusion 35 years before John wrote (Rom 5: 1-2, 5-8). If anyone doubted Jesus could cut through the barriers that organized religion set up, the Apostle reminds the Roman community of one overriding fact: "Christ, while we were still helpless, died for the ungodly....God proves His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

There's no ideal place or time in which to live our faith. If Jesus entered our lives while we were enemies of God, why would anything we'd do later take Him out of our lives? No place, event, time or person is unworthy of God's salvation.

Perhaps our idealism is just an excuse for not accepting the responsibility of acknowledging our God working in our everyday lives.