3rd Sunday of Lent (Ages 9-12): Word, Worship, Witness
(full reading: John 4.5-42)
Listen to the Gospel and Reflection
When we read the Bible, we can ask ourselves, "What is God doing?" In the reading for this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, at first it does not appear that Jesus is doing much at all. He sits by a well and has a conversation with a woman from Samaria. No miracles. No parables.
Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water...
What is Jesus doing??
It might help if we look more closely at the woman from Samaria.
Women come, talking and laughing, to draw water from the well together, first thing in the morning, before the hot sun comes out. But this woman comes alone, in the middle of the day. This tells us that she is not part of the community of women. If we read the full reading, we find out later that she has perhaps not been living the best life, having made some poor choices. Perhaps she is not well liked by the other women. In any case, she is alone.
What does Jesus do?
and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
He sees her. He speaks to her.
This is strange. It is not ordinary for a man to speak to a strange woman. It is not ordinary for Jewish people like Jesus to speak to people from Samaria, like this woman.
But Jesus speaks to her anyway. He asks her for a drink. He asks her to serve him. What does this do for her?
She knows that she is seen. He is not calling her by name, perhaps, but she knows that he is looking at her. We have to wonder what this does for her. What does it feel like to be seen by Jesus?
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
She responds to him. Jesus speaks first; then she responds. This is important.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
He says, "if you knew..." She does not know him. Not yet. But his conversation with her draws her closer, draws her in. She wants to know more.
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
She wants to know more about the living water, but perhaps she also wants to keep Jesus talking to her. Why else would she ask questions about ancestors?
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
They were speaking of water. Now, it seems, they are speaking of life.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
At first, he was asking her for a drink, now she is asking him for water. She wants this living water. Where does her desire for living water come from? Is this new? Or has it always been within her, and Jesus draws it out?
He asks her about her husband. She tells him she does not have one. He knows. She has had 5 husbands, and is now living with a man who is not her husband. He tells her,
“What you have said is true!”
She has not spoken all of the truth, but she is trying to be real, to be honest. Jesus acknowledges this—he knows it and he says so. How does this affect her?
The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
They were speaking of water, then of life, then of truth...and now suddenly, the woman is speaking of worship.
Worship! Her heart has turned towards God.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, 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 know, for salvation is from the Jews.
The Jewish people have a relationship with God. They know each other. This calls to mind the parable of the Good Shepherd:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. (John 10:14)
The woman from Samaria, who is not a Jew, does not know God...
Or does she?
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Truth again. True worshippers. Who are they? We know that the woman from Samaria, when talking with Jesus, is trying to be true. Again, this calls to mind the parable of the Good Shepherd,
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. (John 10:16)
The woman is listening to his voice. Look what she says next,
“I know that Messiah is coming”
The Messiah?! Where did that come from? Were they speaking of the Messiah? What does the woman know??
Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
She is ready to hear. She knows.
Jesus does nothing miraculous. He just has a conversation.
This is what his voice, this is what the Word does. It sees, it engages, it bothers with, it knows:
This is the mercy of God.
The Word is not finished. Look what else this conversation does! The woman runs to the town, telling everyone what has happened, whom she has met. She is no longer alone. She is sent into community. And,
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony
The Word goes out, turns hearts to Worship, and sends them out again to Witness—to show and to tell what has been heard and seen.
Word, Worship, Witness
This is a familiar pattern, is it not?
We go to Mass, and we listen to the Word. We reflect on it; we ask questions.
The Word draws us in. It changes us. It turns our hearts to worship.
As a community we worship. We praise God; we are fed at the table.
And then we are sent out to witness. By what we say—but also by how we live—we show and tell the world what we have heard, what we have seen. We live the Truth.
And what does this do for the world?