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Sunday III in Lent - Year A - Mar 23, 2014

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.”


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

Sunday III in Lent - Year A - Mar 23, 2014
Gospel Jn 4:5-42



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

I don’t think the disciples come off too well in today’s gospel. John’s gospel is rich in symbolism and today’s passage is no exception. As an example of John’s symbolic content: the disciples go to buy bread. They are thinking on the material level; they will make a purchase of what they think they need. As important as bread is, they will miss the deeper reality of what Jesus has to offer them. When they return from their purchase and see Jesus talking to a woman they express wonder. Then they are silent.

After the woman went back to her town, the disciples offer Jesus the food they brought back with them. Jesus tells them of another kind of food he already has. "I have food to eat of which you do not know." They don’t understand and once again are silent. They don’t have a clue what he is talking about.

Keeping silent in John’s Gospel isn’t the best way to come to insight. There are long give-and-take dialogues in the gospel and those who stay engaged in the dialogue with Jesus, come to faith in him – as did the blind man Jesus cured (9:1-40) who, at the end of their dialogue, confesses to him, "I do believe, Lord."

While the disciples were silent, the Samaritan woman engaged in conversation with Jesus and she doesn’t back away, despite the fact that he is a Jew, she is a Samaritan; he is a man and she is a woman. These facts should have prevented any public exchange between the two. But the woman is open to the truth, whatever its source. As a result of their conversation she comes to faith in Jesus. Even more. The woman leaves the water jar (another of John’s symbolic acts), turns back to the community from which she came and witnesses to them about Christ. She went from a doubter who questioned and then, when she heard Jesus’ responses, became a preacher to her own people.

The Samaritan woman reminds those who doubt, or struggle with faith, to stay in a conversation with Christ. She came looking for physical water and found Jesus, the "living water," who would quench her thirsty spirit. The physical water she came looking for could quench her thirst for a day; the "living water" Jesus would give would keep on giving and giving her eternal life.

What is the food Jesus says he has? He is nourished by doing God’s will and is fed by those who respond in faith to him. In this story the woman and the Samaritans, she brings to him, are his nourishment. Did you ever notice the sense of satisfaction and joy some people have, despite long, tiring hours of volunteering at a project in their parish or at a helping agency? You get the feeling that something, or someone, is feeding them a food that others don’t have. And that food seems more than satisfying, so much so, that in their ministry they forget to eat.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium," reminds all the baptized that we, like the woman, are a people of "pilgrims and evangelizers." God’s grace has drawn us to Christ and now we, with and in Christ, are to be evangelizers (#111). The Pope calls the People of God "missionary disciples," – "whatever their position in the church or their instruction in the faith, [they are] the agents of evangelization….The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized" (120).

Of course we need better formation and training in our faith. But that can also be a way of putting off our responsibility to share our faith with others. The Samaritan woman’s "training period" began with the face-to-face time she had talking with Jesus, asking questions and listening to his answers. While the woman was actively engaged with Christ, the disciples were mere spectators. She does, what the Pope tells us "missionary disciples" are supposed to do: listen to the Word of God and look for opportunities to share it with others.

Each of us can find ways to be evangelizers. The woman didn’t pack up her bags and follow Jesus. She went back to her community to share what had happened to her in her exchange with Jesus. Then she stepped aside and let her townspeople have their own moment with him. Later they give an accounting of their experience, "We no longer believe because of your word, for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this truly is the savior of the world."

"We have heard for ourselves." The woman evangelized by sharing her faith. But others have to come to their own experience in Christ. Faith doesn’t start with a list of doctrines, but with a "face-to-face" meeting with Christ.

Note that the woman spoke about Jesus to those closest to her. The Sunday before Lent began a friend of mine heard a homily about Lenten observance. The pastor, said, "Perhaps, as a Lenten sacrifice, many of us are thinking of giving up chocolate, wine or desert for Lent." He added, "Who knows, we might even lose a few pounds! But, once Lent is over, we’ll go back to chocolate, wine and dessert, just like before." Then the pastor quoted from the letter he had placed in that Sunday’s bulletin. It was a different take on fasting in Lent.

Here are some of his suggestions for fasting during Lent. "Fast from anger, practice kindness. Fast from grudges, practice forgiveness. Fast from revenge, pray for your enemies. Etc." After Mass my friend went to brunch with some of her friends. They talked about what they were going to give up for Lent – most of them were not churchgoers, but they were going to give up things like chocolate, wine, desserts anyway. She said it sounded like they were talking about Weight Watchers not Lent. My friend pulled from her purse the pastor’s list and said, "Here’s what my pastor suggested today at church for Lent. Once Lent is over we could continue doing these things." Then she read the suggestions from her parish bulletin and they all talked about what they heard. I think Pope Francis would call my friend a "missionary disciple."

My friend and those of us who have been washed by "living waters," take the experience we had at the well and share it with others. Some people say they feel shy, intimidated or uninformed when speaking about "religion." It doesn’t start with "religion" but, Pope Francis tells us, with our personal encounters with Christ. We are reminded today that we are not on our own, because Jesus assures us the "living waters" he provides will stay with us and will be "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" – just when we need them.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP