Third Sunday of Lent

Photo Credit The Word Among Us

Exodus 17:3-7
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42

Samaritan Woman

The gospel for this Sunday is about the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, sometimes called the Woman at the Well, but someone who has no personal name. I would like to reflect on this unnamed woman from three perspectives: her sense of self, her theological astuteness, and her growth in faith.  

First, when the woman comes to the well she is unaccompanied by a male which is significant. The story indicates that this woman is a sinful person who is a pariah among her own community, a person with whom no respectful person wants to be seen. She does not hold to the Jewish sense of “proper place” or “proper behavior.” In other words, she is her own woman. She is able to take care of her own needs. She is not afraid to be seen in public doing an ordinary “woman’s task.”

What is surprising is her conversation with Jesus. It is not surprising that she responds to Jesus’ request for water. What is surprising is that Jesus would speak to her at all. First, no self-respecting Jew would speak to a Samaritan, male or female, and second, no Jewish male would speak directly to a woman in public. Jesus ignores both of these customs. She was surprised but she was not afraid to respond. She had a strong sense of self.

Second, when we look carefully at the conversation that follows, we see a woman who is both practical, intelligent and theologically astute. She would love to have the special water Jesus speaks of that would save her innumerable trips to the well. She knows Jewish beliefs about ritual purity when she questions how Jesus intends to drink the water since he does not have his own bucket or cup. Her cup would be “impure.” She knows the history of her ancestor Jacob. She knows that her religious beliefs are based on many religions and she knows where both the Jews and Samaritans claim true worship should take place. She knows about the messianic expectations of her own people. She is educated in the beliefs of her day. She is not uncomfortable asking questions or giving answers. She has a true sense of self and is comfortable being and doing what is needed to survive in her time in history. Jesus treats her with respect and she responds respectfully.

Third, there is a clear growth in her faith in Jesus. Initially, she sees him as a Jewish man. As they talk, she comes to believe he is a prophet. Eventually she comes to recognize him as the long-awaited messiah. She is far ahead of the many in the scripture stories that see him merely as a miracle worker or a threat to their religious beliefs.

What does this say about us? Are we grateful for our gift of life and use it to the best of our ability? Are we inclusive by including people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, other religions or sexual orientation? Are we knowledgeable about our own faith beliefs and willing to share them?  In what ways has your belief in God grown over the years? Who or what helped you to grow in faith?

The Samaritan woman teaches us the message of the responsorial psalm – “… hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We have many more advantages to grow our faith than the Samaritan Woman. May we be filled with hope that we can deepen our relationship with God and allow the Holy Spirit to act in our lives.

What would you say to Jesus if you came face to face with him?

How can you become more inclusive in your daily interactions with everyone you meet?

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