Sunday, March 19
Third Sunday of Lent
John 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. – Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.
“I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to 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.”
If the Gospel writers were modern day marketing execs tasked with promoting a new faith called Christianity, they would get low marks for the types of characters they used to promote this new faith. Often, the Gospels writers select characters that are marginalized, downtrodden, and the least of our brethren. Yet, these same characters become central to the Gospel message – that the marginalized are granted high places for all who believe in this message and live it. If we were tasked with promoting this new faith, we would more likely select the popular and successful of society to represent this faith and make it more attractive to our contemporaries. Yet, the Gospel writers chose otherwise. One can only conclude then that the Gospels writers weren’t concerned with popularity, but in the truth with which they were entrusted.
Today’s Gospel often described as the woman at the well is no exception. It is an extraordinary story of the lowly being lifted up to present an extraordinary truth. The woman at the well was indeed an extraordinary woman. She was a Samaritan – a race of people hated by the Jews. This woman was even an outcast from her own Samaritan people. This is supported by the fact she came alone to draw water from the community well. In ancient times, the community well might be considered the equivalent of our modern day water cooler – a place to gossip and socialize, but this woman comes alone and friendless.
The story of the woman at the well teaches us that God loves us despite our social status and sinfulness. Jesus seeks us out in this passage to enter into a deeper relationship with him. As a result of Jesus’ conversation, the Samaritan woman, an outcast from her own people, could understand how profound Jesus’ relationship can be. Jesus uses her and the metaphor of living water as the devices for revelation to other Samaritans as well. To be wanted, to be cared for when no one, not even herself, could see anything of value in her – this is Jesus’ grace indeed. To the first century Gospel reader and for us today, this story is too unexpected, too unworthy, to be anything else but true. All of us from time to time can feel like the woman at the well. Recognize the truth of this Gospel during this Lenten season to further our faith journey and realize the Gospel writers got it right.
Deacon Don Poirier