Reflection: the Third Sunday of Lent

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church


[John 4:5-42]

The meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well is an interesting story based entirely on the dialogue between these two people.  There seems to be little action but rather statements which as often happens with Jesus, lead to the very concrete action of giving evidence of Jesus, the Christ.

We are told that Jesus came to this Samaritan town and, being tired of the journey, sat down near the well of Jacob.  At the same time this woman came to draw water from the well.  We are told that Jesus (being tired and thirsty) asked her for some water.  Now, it was quite normal for someone to ask this question to another who is fetching water at the well.  Jesus took this opportunity to speak with her … and help her understand who he really is … and at the same time help her understand who she really is.

The tired Jesus asks for water but the woman seems reluctant to give it to him.  Her objection seems to be because Jesus is a Jew and she is a Samaritan.  Jesus then tries to explain to her that she is refusing to do so not because of the fact that one is a Jew and the other is a Samaritan but simply because she does not know him.  If she knew him, Jesus tells her, she would have been the one to ask “Living Water” from him.  She continues to display further reluctance: if Jesus does not have a bucket and the well is deep, how could he even get this ‘living water’ that he is speaking about? She then asks another question to Jesus (which is equivalent, in today’s language, to: ‘Who do you think you are?’) In fact, she asks Jesus if he is greater than Jacob who gave them the well and drank from it himself, his household and even their cattles.  Jesus simply ignores her question for the time being and continues to speak about the water of the well, which only satisfies temporarily.  Eventually one gets thirsty again.  He makes comparison to  the water that he gives, the living water that springs inside, welling up to eternal life.  At this point, the woman seems to have understood the message that Jesus is conveying to her.  So she asks Jesus directly for this water … even though it is not for the right reason.  She asks for this water so that she may never get thirsty and never have to come to the well to draw water again.

Here we have a change in the conversation.  Up till now we are fluctuating between understanding and misunderstanding.  But once the message that Jesus can give the living water had sunk in, Jesus asks the woman to go and call her husband and return back to him.  There can be no misunderstanding here and we are now in clear tangible reality.  Through her answer, i.e. that she has no husband, Jesus reveals to her that he already her … and that he also knows her past life.  He tells her that she speaks the truth that she does not have a husband … and he also mentions that she has had five husbands and the one that she is currently living with is not her husband …  At this response, she understands that there is something extraordinary about Jesus.  She calls him a “prophet” and almost at the same time speaks about worship, mountains, Jerusalem … (all ideas linked with ‘God’) which seems to have little connection to what was being said.  Yet Jesus, this extraordinary man in front of her, speaks about “worshipping” a known God in spirit and in truth.   For Jesus, God is not someone who is unknown and distant …  He can be known and is near.  At this point the woman also speaks about what she knows.  She knows that the Messiah, the Christ will come and he will reveal everything to those who listen to him.  Now that she told him what she knows, Jesus can tell her who he is: He is the Messiah, the Christ who came and is there in front of her and is revealing everything to her (even what she has kept in secret, i.e. her relationship with men).

This conversation is interrupted by the coming of Jesus’ disciples.  In the meantime the woman who left her water jar there and went to her (Samaritan) town, told the people what had happened to her and how Jesus told her about her past.  With this in mind, she asks them if he is the Christ?  This clearly created some curiosity amongst her townspeople because they soon came to see and meet this ‘extraordinary’ man.  We are told that some of the Samaritans had already believed in him because of the evidence of the woman.  In fact they even begged him to stay with them.  We are told that Jesus stayed there for two days and having heard him teach, others also believed because they had direct experience of him and not just hearsay.  The initial hesitancy that the woman has shown at the beginning of the meeting with Jesus has turned into acceptance by the townspeople.

The disciples, on the other hand, had a very contrasting conversation exchange with Jesus.  They asked questions that are not answered because they are on a completely different level to that of Jesus.  Yet Jesus gives unexpected answers to what they ask.  They speak about real tangible food … he speaks about spiritual food … Jesus seems to be playing the same game and repeating the same attitude to his disciples as he did with the Samaritan woman … Jesus, seeing the effects that the evidence given by the woman about him had on the people of the town, he speaks about doing the will of the one who sent him, and therefore to complete the Father’s work.  By seeing what is happening through this Samaritan woman, figuratively, the fields are already white and therefore ready for harvest.  He says that the reaper (Jesus himself) is already being paid his wages.  Jesus is already bringing in the grain for eternal life, and therefore the sower (God the Father who sent him) and the reaper (Jesus) rejoice together.  One can also say that Jesus is the one who sowed the word in the Samaritan woman’s heart, and she is the one who sowed Jesus’ word in the townspeople’s hearts.  And therefore they will reap of what the woman has sown.  Jesus is telling his disciples that they too have to do the same thing as this Samaritan woman and sow the word that is given to them by Jesus.

“Lord, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  You are the Messiah who is ready to give us the living water so we may have eternal life. Help us to be ready to reap what you sow in our life and sow your word in our daily life.  Thank you Lord.”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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