Gospel Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent Year A – March 23rd 2014
Full scripture for this Sunday is available on the Catholic Ireland website. Daily Scripture is also available. Our parish Prayers of the Faithful for this Sunday are made available on the Dublin Diocesan website.
Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour When a Samaritan woman 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, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:
‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink,
you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water’.
‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water?
Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:
‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life’.
‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband’. He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:
‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’
The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything’. ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’
At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.
Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about’. So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:
is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap
a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’
Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world’.
A famous picture has the Samaritan woman looking into the well and seeing there her image – and image of Jesus. In the depths of the well of her life, is the presence of Jesus.
You need sometimes to go to the depths of the well…finding God in all things…where they affect us – love, pain, death, decision, joy, – we find God. God is near when we are near to ourselves, even in shame and sin. We thirst for meaning in life, for knowing we are totally loved, for community and companionship – this is the offering of God. The living water is the holy Spirit. We thirst for inclusion – the disciples in this story did not want Jesus talking to a woman. So much of the religion of the time separated people – religion, tribes. In the depths of the well we are all equal.
In the well we see everyone and can rediscover our common roots – and a big one is we are children of God. Neither Jew nor Samaritan.
And you find the mercy of God in the well. As we go into depths of prayer and ourselves we are open to mercy. We may puts all sorts of conditions on God’s mercy and forgiveness – naming our sins, counting the numbers of them. God doesn’t number sins but forgives them and covers them over with love. At the bottom of the well is the water of mercy. The face of a bighearted God with a smile and an inviting face…to spread to the world like the woman did.
Of the mercy of God, Pope Francis says – “there is no sin or crime of any kind that can erase from the mind or heart of God even one of the children he has created”.
Donal Neary SJ