Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17, 3-7 + Psalm 95 + Romans 5, 2, 5-8 + John 4, 5-42

March 15, 2020 Never delivered at Mass

This weekend is a Maronite Parish Weekend

As I said in the column I write for some parish bulletins last week, I am not so sure that I would run into town and invite everyone to come out and meet someone who had just told me everything I ever did. Why would anyone do such a thing? Who would want everything they have ever done announced publicly? None the less, that’s what she did. Perhaps she felt as though she had nothing to lose since everyone probably knew it all anyway; or perhaps there was something else, and here is where we are drawn into this Gospel and drawn to this who knows everything we have ever done.

This woman is really the center-piece of this Gospel, and her experience itself is a Gospel. It is good news. For John in his Gospel, she is a model of a disciple’s experience of faith. In her encounter with Jesus, she confronts her own sinfulness and realizes her need for forgiveness. With that, she comes to realize the depth of God’s love for her, and with that, she changes from sinner to disciple who rushes to tell what she has found.

For years, I have my imagination has been stirred by a little detail that John puts in this Gospel when he tells us that she left her water-jar behind, I am fascinated and wonder about this and what it means. That water-jar was both something of her past, and part of her shame. Because of it and with it, she had keep coming back again and again to get more water, which was never enough. To me, it is also a kind of symbol of her position in live as a servant living without freedom and in a sense, enslaved to that water-jar, the well, and the need to keep coming every day after day. She left it. She had found freedom and “living water” from a new well, from the source if life-giving water, Jesus Christ. She not only found freedom, she found love that obviously she had not found with all the lovers that had come in and out of her life in her past. As with all of us who ever really find love, she found acceptance just as she was with all of her past known by the lover who didn’t shame her, pass judgement, or condemn.

Our best hope at this point in Lent is that we may have the same experience of standing before this one sent by God to set us free, to forgive, heal, and restore our dignity and our unity before the Father. For John, who is writing this Gospel after some time following the death of Jesus, he is surely reflecting upon what he has seen as the Gospel has been carried across all the boundaries of suspicion, distrust, hatred, and prejudice that the Jewish people had for Samaritans. All of that is over as John writes, telling us how this peaceful reconciliation of two so different peoples could and was accomplished. For Jesus, he is doing the will of the One who sent him sowing in Samaria a grain that will be harvested for eternal life. It all happened because Jesus was willing to sit and talk, eat and drink with someone who was perceived as an enemy.

This Gospel becomes then, an invitation to perhaps look differently upon those we consider enemies or those we would never think of sitting with and talking with much less eating and drinking. If it is the Father’s will that we all be one, God must be wondering when we are going to get started. John suggests that a good place to start would be to pay attention to and follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Father Tom Boyer