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Mar 19, 2017

Third Sunday of Lent (A)


Gospel JN 4:5-42


Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Or          JN 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

“I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Reflecting & Living God’s Words


Third Sunday of Lent (A)
(Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42)


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Third Sunday of Lent (A)


(Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42)


"Is the Lord in our midst or not?" Questions of faith don’t get any more basic than that, do they? It is the question the disgruntled Israelites asked in the desert. At times it is our question too. Let’s start with the Israelites’ question and God’s response, hoping to also gain insight for our faith journey – especially if we are in the midst of our own desert.

God had worked powerfully on Israel’s behalf, starting with their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Once freed they had no sooner set out across the desert when they "… grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt….But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine" (16:2-3). Even though God had performed a great act of liberation now, in the fearsome desert, the people did not trust that God would continue to care for them.

It seems grumbling was the Israelites’ way of life. They turn on Moses, their mediator with God. He gets the brunt of their wrath, but they are really murmuring against God. Previously they grumbled for food, now they need water. Of course they need water. They are in one of the driest spots in the world. They complained to Moses and, as he usually does, he turned to God for help. Once again God comes through for the Israelites. Despite their lack of trust, and through Moses’ mediation, God brings forth water from the rock.

So far God has freed the Israelites from slavery, fed them in the desert, given them water from a rock and will now continue to give them care and guidance during their 40-year journey. What must Israel do in return? She must draw on these experiences and learn to trust God. But as the desert narrative proceeds the people will continue to grumble and distrust God.

In the desert Israel and we learn to trust God. That’s not something we learn all at once. Instead, as God provides for us each day, we are reminded again and again of our dependence on God and God’s gracious generosity towards us. "Give us this day our daily bread." It’s a prayer often said and learned through experience, one day at a time.

Today’s Exodus passage is one of a series of "murmuring stories." They not only emphasize the distrust of the people, they also stress God’s prevailing care for them. The place in the desert where the grumbling took place was "Massah" – which means "testing" and Meribah – which means "dissatisfaction." At one time or another we find ourselves in our own "Massah" or Meribah." It’s when life presses down on us from many sides, too much to handle this day. We learn from Exodus how patient God is with us. We may have forgotten God’s goodness to us in the past and so we find our faith trembles with fear and doubt. Our prayers are strengthened as we are reminded by Leviticus and Jesus of God’s boundless compassion and love for sinners.

God’s providing water in the wilderness continues as we hear Jesus’ dialogue with the woman at the well. In the culture of the time a devout Jewish man would not be allowed to talk to or be alone with a woman. Jesus was considered a holy man. Talking with the Samaritan woman would have risked his reputation and resulted in the loss of his followers. Hence the reaction of his disciples when they returned: they were "amazed that he was talking to a woman." Still, Jesus talked with the woman and made her a promise: he offered her "living water."

He doesn’t offer a stagnant, lifeless water, but moving water from a stream or river. There are moments in our faith life that seem stagnant, "same old, same old." Or, times when we face new challenges and we try to draw on our faith to help us, but come up dry. Old water can not refresh a struggling faith. God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water flowed forth. Jesus is the new Moses, providing living water for us when we ask – again and again.

The water Jesus gives bubbles up within us just when we need it. He invites us to leave behind the parts of our lives that are like stagnant, un-refreshing and lifeless waters and accept God’s offer of a new kind of human life, constantly refreshed by living water.

The Samaritan woman did not sit idly by when she heard what Jesus had to say. She challenged him and named the societal boundaries that kept her in her place. "How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" But Jesus puts these obstacles aside. He is giving her living water as he refreshes her spirit. As a result she rushes to her own people to announce Jesus’ presence with them. She has received living waters and, in the same words Jesus used to call his disciples, she calls her townspeople, "Come and see."

She is an example to each of us who have washed in the living waters of baptism. She shares her experience with others and invites them to meet the one who gives "living waters." As a result of her testimony and invitation many come to believe in Jesus (v. 39).

We certainly know people who are wandering through their own personal deserts. Why not share with them, as the woman did, the difference the "living waters" have made in our lives? You say, "I’m not an evangelist." Neither was the Samaritan woman, until Jesus put aside her past and renewed her life with life-giving waters – just as he has done for us. She spoke out of the gift she had received. Which is what we are asked to do as well.

Note: we want to avoid assuming that the Samaritan woman was a sinner. The text doesn’t say this, nor does Jesus tell her not to sin anymore – as he says to others in the gospel. What about her five "husbands?" In John’s highly symbolic language this could be a reference to her and all Samaritans who accepted the five false gods of the Assyrians.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP