As we begin the third week of Lent, we are reminded of how much God loves us and why he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to save us.
In today’s Gospel Reading with the Samaritan woman at the well – Jesus shows His Father’s unconditional love for this woman. Jesus shows his love and concern for bringing ALL people to his Father.
Jesus does nothing without a specific reason. He knew that the Samaritan woman would be at the well in the blazing heat of the middle of the day. Jesus not only is there to pursue sinners; He is also there to show his disciples how they should interact with societal outcasts and sinners.
The Samaritan woman went to the well at noon because she did not want anyone to see her – she is full of shame. The irony is that she comes face to face with God at the well – even in her hiding. Jesus pursued this sinner and met her right where she was. Jesus even broke numerous cultural taboos of the time – He interacted with a woman, even worse a Samaritan woman (who has had five husbands and was now living with someone who was not her husband). Why, because Jesus came to call all sinners back to his Father – even this Samaritan woman.
In a sense we all are like the ‘woman at the well’ in today’s Gospel. We too are sinners. But remember God does not pursue us because we are worthy. God pursues us because he loves us. With that in mind each of us should give thanks and know that even when we sin, we are loved by God. We even have a way to confess our sins and receive absolution (if we are truly sorry and promise to sin no more). Thanks to the sacrament of Reconciliation we can receive forgiveness from God. Then we don’t have to live in the shadow of sin – we can be one with God.
“Jesus broke through the barriers of prejudice, hostility, and tradition to bring the good news of peace and reconciliation to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike. He demonstrated the universal message of the gospel both in word and deed. No one is barred from the love of God and the good news of salvation. There is only one thing that can keep us from God and his redeeming love – our stubborn pride and willful rebellion.
What is the point of Jesus' exchange with the Samaritan woman about water? Water in the arid land was scarce. Jacob's well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee. One can live without food for several days, but not without water. Water is a source of life and growth for all living things. When rain came to the desert, the water transformed the wasteland into a fertile field.
The kind of water which Jesus spoke about was living, running, fresh, pure water. Fresh water from a cool running stream was always preferred to the still water one might find in a pool or reservoir. When the Israelites complained about lack of water in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to “strike the rock” and a stream of fresh living water gushed out. Even though the Israelites did not trust God to care for them in the wilderness – God, gave them abundant water and provisions through the intercession of his servant Moses.
The image of "living water" is used throughout the scriptures as a symbol of God's wisdom, a wisdom that imparts life and blessing to all who receive it. "Living water" was also a symbol for the Jews of thirst of the soul for God. The water which Jesus spoke of symbolized the Holy Spirit and his work of recreating us in God's image and sustaining in us the new life which comes from God. The life which the Holy Spirit produces in us makes us a "new creation" in Jesus Christ. Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?” Laudate
Once the Samaritan woman realizes that Jesus is the Messiah, she goes into town to tell the people “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” This woman went from being a sinner, hiding, and afraid to interact with her fellow Samaritans, to a missionary to her people. And because of her, many of the people came to believe in Jesus.
We too are called to receive this ‘living water’ – the Holy Spirit. We received the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. This Gospel message is calling us to put our gift of the Holy Spirit to use and make it a ‘living water’. How do we do this? By being like Jesus to all people that we interact with each day. We are called to be missionaries to those who are searching for more in their lives and bring them to the ‘living water’ that Jesus once offered to the Samaritan woman. We are called to search out the Samaritans in our lives and bring them to the ‘living water’.
There is still time to prepare for the events of Holy Week and the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Have we developed any new habits by fasting from things that don’t bring us closer to God? Have we increased our prayer life and improved our relationship with God? If not, grab that Bible and read one of the Gospels in its entirety. Or consider spending time in Adoration or going to a Daily Mass. Have we made sacrifices and given to those less fortunate than us? Have we reached out to those Samaritans that have fallen away from God?
As we watch the current pandemic unfold around us and the hysteria that seems to be building around it – I wonder if maybe most of us are looking at this all wrong. Yes, we need to be extra diligent with keeping everyone safe and healthy from this virus. Yes, governments, businesses, hospitals, schools and churches need to be taking the extra steps they have been to prevent the spread of this virus. Yes, we need to take care of the family that God has entrusted to each of us.
Perhaps it’s also time to come together as a community in prayer and care for one another. Instead of running from store to store to stock-up on a year’s supply of toilet tissue, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and bottled water. Maybe it would be better to donate the excess supplies to a needy family, an assisted living facility for senior citizens, a local food pantry (like Catholic Charities) – so the people who can’t get or afford these necessities can get them for their families.
Of course, now more than ever is the time to pray to God for the protection of all people. Not just our own family but truly pray universally for all people impacted by this pandemic. We need to pray that our leaders will stop blaming others for the spread of this virus and start working together to find a solution to end the pandemic and prevent this from happening in the future.
As much as we have grown intellectually as a society – now more than ever we need a lot more faith in God so we can grow spiritually. I believe that this is the time for all of us to show compassion for each other and to call on the power of our Trinitarian God to save us, protect us and lead us to the ‘living water’.
Take this break from school, work and the normal busyness of life as a gift from God. Spend quality time with your family and take time away from electronic devices. Pray as a family and community.
Again, I’ll close with the verse from one of my favorite hymns – “The Servant Song”:
“We are pilgrims on a journey,
we are trav’lers on the road;
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the Load.” The Servant Song
This verse continues to set the stage for how I am walking through my Lenten journey; especially during this pandemic. I hope it helps each of you do the same. May you each be led to the ‘Living Water’ this Lent, pray for healing for all and ready yourself for the majestic Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Amen.