A relatively small screen locked in a relatively big case, showing only one channel, and only in black and white. That’s my childhood memory of our first telly. Then a revolution happened: a second channel became available. In order to switch between them we had to buy a set top box. Children were very useful to have around, as remote controls hadn’t become popular yet. Two black and white channels working for several hours a day provided a rather limited choice of entertainment. An alternative one was provided by the local cinema, showing a couple of films every week. Nowadays there are literally hundreds of TV channels available continuously day and night, providing entertainment to our homes with exquisite quality and colourful pictures. Even children aren’t necessary any more as we can channel-hop with a remote in hand.
This multitude of choice is both a blessing and a curse, as finding interesting and quality programmes in the flood of junk shows is pretty difficult. My way of dealing with this particular problem is simple: I follow the advice and recommendations of others, usually of professional critics who are paid to waste their time watching a lot of TV and fishing out real gems. Following this method, over the years I’ve watched many valuable films, documentaries and programmes without being shackled to the sofa. One could argue that, in such a way, I self-restrict my options and choices. I wouldn’t agree. Following particular critics is my choice, with the door open to newcomers if they offer good advice. Actually we follow others’ opinions on a daily basis – some of us are just unaware of that. We do this for different reasons: out of fear, or out of respect, and for many other reasons between these two extremes. It’s simply called the herd instinct.
We’ve just heard a pretty long passage from the gospel (even though it’s the shorter version of the two available), where Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. In the course of their conversation, she has moved on from her initially pretty hostile and combative attitude to respect and acceptance of Jesus and his teaching, and eventually to conversion. That change happened in a very personal way, just between her and Jesus. But afterwards she goes back to her village and tells people there about Jesus. We don’t know exactly what she told them, but it’s pretty safe for us to assume that, while there was no highly advanced theology involved, quite likely there was a rather simple testimony of her own spiritual or religious experience. She was credible enough, and her experience convincing enough to invite Jesus to stay in their village – quite an achievement considering that Samaritans and Jews weren’t particularly friendly to each other. Today’s gospel concludes with the significant expression: ‘now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is he saviour of the world.’ By sharing her experience she pointed at Jesus; without her they probably would have treated him as distrustfully as any other Jew passing by their village.
Next weekend, an almost week-long Parish Retreat is kicking off at all Masses. The Dominican Sisters will share their spiritual and religious experience with those attending. Sometimes we moan and groan about our own families or friends, particularly the younger generation, because they have stopped going to church or living the Christian life – and rightly so, to some extent. I believe you can do something more than that, something a bit more productive. Tell them about the parish retreat; share with them your own spiritual and religious experience. Don’t be afraid of their rejection – that’s their right. But who knows, maybe this is the time, when Jesus will use your humble, simple testimony and recommendation to meet them. And maybe they will meet him, and their lives will be changed. For the better.