The Third Sunday of Lent – 15 March 2020
Lectionary Readings: Ex 17:3-7; Ps 95:1-2, 6-9; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
Theme: Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you!”
As we reflect and model our lives on Jesus during this special Lenten time, we see how open he was to each person with whom he came into contact. Each one was important for he saw a unique individual and took the time to speak, to listen and to understand them more fully. Such is the beauty of meeting the other person; it is an “I-Thou” encounter: a meeting of two persons where each actively and authentically engages the other in the present moment. It’s a dialogue where one actually sees and hears the other, thus coming to a fuller understanding of that person. In today’s Gospel we see a beautiful example of Jesus in such an encounter with a Samaritan woman.
In traveling to Galilee Jesus chose the shorter route which passed through Samaria. Wearied from his journey he approached the well and asked the woman for a drink. It was a simple request and even though she knew he was a Jew, the woman did not let a social barrier prevent her from being gracious and hospitable. She offered him a drink and continued speaking with him. He had entered her world, her context, all that was familiar to her. At first she called him ‘Sir’ but as the conversation developed, she soon acknowledged that he was a Prophet and eventually she wondered could he be the Messiah.
Jesus recognized her goodness and spoke of the gifts of God using the metaphor of water to convey that living water springs forth to eternal life. However, the woman was still thinking of water only on a physical level; yet her heart and mind were opened to at a deeper level. In asking her to call her husband, she answered truthfully that she did not have a husband. We know very little about her, not even her name! Nor do we know the circumstances of her life. Had she been married, possibly widowed or divorced? A man could divorce his wife for very simple reasons or for his wife not producing children. She represents all of us whose lives are not as they were once imagined. We need to remember that God never gives up on us! God enables us even if our lives have taken a turn for the worse and we are as it were bankrupt. This woman in today’s gospel needs to be valued because in her eyes, she is without value. Through such a discourse, change and growth can occur.
Later, the woman emphatically stated, “I know the Messiah is coming, when he comes he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus replied, “I am he, the one speaking to you!” (John 4:26) Her response to Jesus led him to reveal his true identity to her and in so doing her own identity evolved. She left her water jug, hurried back to the city exclaiming to her neighbors of her experience and because of her testimony, many Samaritans believed. “Jesus begins the conversation by abruptly asking for a drink. But the paradox is: Jesus gets a drink when people allow him to give them a drink. The wise Sufi elder, Rumi, said, ‘Not all the thirsty seek water, the water as well seeks the thirsty.’” (Shea, 117)
Our first reading also is about water. Here the Israelites complained to Moses that they were thirsty. This was not so much a complaint against Moses as a mistrust of God. They had forgotten God’s marvelous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Now they doubted if God was with them. In directing Moses to strike the rock from which flowed water, God showed his care for his people. Now a new name was given to this place, not recalling the mercy of the supply but for the murmuring – Massah (temptation) and Meribah (strife). Today’s psalm continues, “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah as on the day at Massah when your ancestors tested me, though they had seen my work”. (Ps 95:8-9)
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How ready am I to encounter the other? 2. Do I value my time or the task at hand more and thus regard the encounter with a person as an interruption? What changes do I need to make?
Bibliography: Shea, J. The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers (Collegeville 2004); Rumi, Fragments. Ecstasies (New Lebanon, N.Y.: 1999)