Third Sunday of Lent

The story of the Woman at the Well is a fascinating case study of Jesus and a strong, sinful woman to whom he brings faith. Its fast dialogue and intriguing details make it unique. But we should not let this woman have the encounter to herself. I think we should place ourselves at the well, meet Jesus and deepen our faith.

The first thing he says to the Samaritan Woman is “Give me a drink.” She is shocked that a Jew would ask her a Samaritan and a woman for a drink. After all, Samaritans had nothing to do with Jews and men talking to women alone and in public went against every cultural taboo. Already, Jesus is changing the conversation. There is no barrier, cultural or otherwise that Jesus will not overcome to receive our faith. Whatever we feel would exclude us is only an issue for us and never for Jesus. His desire to love us will not be denied. Only we can construct a wall to keep him from us.

Also, Jesus offers her a way to serve. We will come to know Jesus through the path of service, from doing his will. In doing what he asks, we discover our purpose and our way. We follow Christ, we obey him because he only knows how to lead us to what is just and what is best for us. Our “Yes” to Jesus lets us embark on a path of peace and love where only he can lead. When he asks for a drink, he is allowing us to know him by serving him.

Jesus then startles 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.” If we knew the gift of God. If only we knew how much we are cared for, how much we are blessed, how much we are loved. If we did not make our God so small, if we allowed ourselves to partake of this living water, if we knew that we are never abandoned and always loved, we would know the peace were created for, the peace we yearn for. Our fears, our anxiety, our loneliness would melt in the loving mercy of a God who holds nothing back. If only we knew the gift of God. The Samaritan woman, although speaking about the well, unknowingly voices the truth. “The cistern is deep.” Ain’t it true? The cistern is deep, but we often only skim the surface, paddle cautiously when we were meant to plunge into the God of living water.

Jesus goes on to talk more about living water. “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.” There is a parchedness in us that can never be quenched outside a relationship with our living God. There is a drought that can only be relieved by the gentle rain of Christ. Drinking any other water might satisfy for a time but you will be thirsty again because we are not built to be sustained by it. We were built for union with God and that only that gets it done. That alone brings us the peace we crave. Christ alone satiates our otherwise never ending thirst.

Then the encounter with the Samaritan Woman gets a little scandalous. Jesus knows that she has been married five times before and the man she is living with now is not her husband. She considers knowing that a miracle but I suspect if you walked into a small village and one woman has been married to a third of the town it might be easy to find out. But there is another lesson for us. The best thing about God is that God really knows us. And the worst thing about God is that God really knows us. God knows our sins, our deepest fears and even how we doubt. We try to hide these shadows from God, but it is of no use. And we might feel shame but we perhaps we were meant to feel freedom. We have nothing to hide. And for God’s part, it does not seem that God cares. Knowing us all so well, there Jesus is, at the well, still speaking, and he is not going anywhere. Our sins, fears and doubts do not prevent God from desiring us,

The moment at the well is a decisive one. As Jesus says, “The hour is coming, and is now here.” The woman finally asks him key questions about faith. And Jesus promises that we will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. If we want to know God, if we want to be on fire for God, we need only say yes to the flood of Spirit and Truth that will come our way. It will change our life radically, but it will change it in the way of the divine. Finally, the Samaritan woman screws up the courage to ask about the Messiah. Jesus answers plainly, “I am he, the one speaking with you.” Being redeemed, being saved is not very Catholic language. I bet you the last time anyone asked if you were saved, it was not a Catholic who asked you. Yet we need to know and acknowledge that we are held precious and are rescued by God. I do not apologize for being saved. It is what a savoir does. And if we can just trust that fact, we can skip our floundering attempts to redeem and save ourselves.

Finally, there is one last part of the story. The woman leaves her jug at the well (it has long not been about the water) and tells everyone that she might have met the Messiah. And that is what we are called to do. We must leave the well to tell others of our encounter with the living water, to tell others of Christ and how we are called. The townspeople show up and come to faith as well. They tell our heroine, “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.” How wonderful it would be if you were part of that kind of story. Someone told us of Christ, of peace, of a parish, and now we believe. Imagine how beautiful that would feel.

That kind of thing happens at the well. The hour is coming and is now here.

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