I want you to imagine me posting on Facebook – sharing one of my opinions…
“I really enjoyed ‘The Last Jedi’.”
Friend 1: “Yeah!”
Friend 1 “Liked” my post.
Friend 2: “No way! Lucas sold out!”
Friend 3: “Yeah! Disney has destroyed the franchise!”
Friend 3 reacted with an “Angry face”
Friend 1: “Well, I enjoyed the effects and the story”
Friend 2: “You enjoy trite writing that goes nowhere?”
Friend 3: “And what’s up with those stupid Porgs?????”
Friend 2 “Likes” Friend 3’s comment.
Friend 2: “Seriously – how can any intelligent person enjoy such complete nonsense???” Hashtag: StarWarsIsDead.
Fr. Austin: I thought that Luke’s character delved deeper into the real situation of a Master, and I found that satisfying.
Friend 3: “You would, you liberal hippy!”
Friend 4 (whom I don’t even know): “Yeah. He probably voted for Hilary and kills babies.
Friend 2 likes Friend 4’s comment.
Fr. Austin: “Hippie is spelled with an ‘-ie’.”
Friend 2 and Friend 4 are now friends.
Friend 1 has left the conversation.
Friend 4 has unfriended Fr. Austin.
I’m sorry to burden you with that terrible Facebook thread; but admit it: you were entertained just watching it, weren’t you?
This sort of “conversation” goes on every day, thousands of times on- and offline. Turn on Fox News, or CNN, or MSNBC on any evening, and what might start as a reasoned foray into an issue will soon devolve into a cackling and shouting match, until you cannot even hear what the questions or answers are. This is the state of dialogue in our world.
And it is a shame.
Today, Jesus enters into a dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well. He comes to her in the middle of the day, in a very familiar place, amid the tasks of daily life. However, Jesus is a Jew and the woman is a Samaritan. Those who heard this story the first time, perhaps, began to settle into their seats and expected a nice squabbling match. It was like a Conservative and a Liberal were invited to chat on Dr. Phil. There was very little that these two had in common culturally.
And yet, the conversation goes very well – peacefully, respectfully, lovingly. Yes, the two had differences of opinion: like where to worship God and how many husbands it was okay to have. However, Jesus always sees the woman as a child of God, with the same human dignity as anyone else – the same dignity as Himself. And through that dignified dialogue, a transformation occurs. The woman begins to see Jesus for Who He is – not simply a prophet, but the Christ – even her Savior. This realization, born of an encounter with Jesus, also has the power to transform the entire village.
Friends, this is what dialogue is meant to be. Jesus, by coming as a man, has not only shown us what it means to be human; He has shown us how to be human. The respect and love that He shows this woman is meant to be our model for all conversation, for all dialogue. That love is what allows us to disagree without being disagreeable. It allows us to be opponents without being enemies. It is what allows a true dialogue of hearts that can transform the very spirit of the world.
We need this sort of dialogue. It will not just “happen.” You and I have to be intentional about it in all of our interactions. Not every opinion is expressed in order to be completely dismantled or destroyed. We have become so much more socially connected in these recent years; and yet, we have also become so much more antisocial. A real harkening to Christ can help us to turn that trend around.
We all have something new to offer to the world – each one in a unique and unrepeatable way. God has given us to each other to learn those lessons that we each have to teach. Dialogue is how we get there; and love and respect are how that dialogue can transform the world in Jesus.