Third Sunday of Lent
In the desert the Israelites were grumbling to Moses: “Why did you make us leave Egypt?…just to have us die of thirst” (Exodus 17: 3). God heard their cries and gave them water from the rock so they could witness both the power and the love of a divine parent. Their bodily thirst was quenched and they could begin to trust that God was in their midst and would be faithful to them throughout their journey, no matter how fragile their faith. Then John uses water to illustrate God’s love for us in today’s Gospel.
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water” (John 4: 6). She must have been startled to see Jesus – a Jew of all people – sitting there at the well. Though it was noon and Jesus looked tired, she couldn’t believe he was asking her for a drink. She noted that he didn’t even have a bucket to draw water from the deep cistern. As much as the cool water would be welcome, Jesus was thirsting for her faith, in turn promising her “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus didn’t condemn the circumstances of her life. Instead he recognized the deep pain in her heart from broken relationships and how she must be shunned in her own community. Why else would she be at the well alone? She questions the need to worship in Jerusalem. Jesus tells her how the Father seeks those who will worship in Spirit and truth. She recognizes Jesus as prophet. He reveals to her that he is the Messiah, the Christ who “will tell you everything.” She ran off to tell the townspeople what she had heard! “Could he be the Christ?”
The disciples returned and were incredulous that he was talking to a woman. They wanted Jesus to eat some of the provisions they brought back. Again Jesus revealed a truth which they weren’t ready for:
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me, my wine to complete his work.”
Many of the Samaritans began to believe in Jesus because of her testimony. After he stayed there two days, they believed because of what Jesus himself said!
The rich theology of this Gospel is perfect for Lent. The Samaritan woman is an example of true discipleship as she witnesses to the people of Sychar. Despite being considered unclean, she had an honest conversion toward faith in Jesus the Christ. She brought her experience to others and invited them to the same kind of personal encounter.
Who is this Samaritan woman? She has no name because she dwells in each of us when we are afraid to bring the water of our faith to slake the thirst of Jesus. And she rejoices that she has learned to worship in Spirit and in truth!
- Patricia Muehlbauer