Formed by the word

 

Third Sunday of Lent (Sunday of the Samaritan Woman)

Preparing for the Word

Before you begin take a moment to pray, saying this short prayer by St. John Chrysostom or a prayer in your own words asking the Lord to open up your heart and mind to his Word.      
            O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will. 


Reading the Word

Lectio or reading is the first step of lectio divina.  You are invited to begin by slowly and attentively reading aloud the gospel of the day by yourself or with others. 

 

Gospel                                                                                   John 4:5-42     (Lectionary 28)

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."
The Gospel of the Lord.

For all of the readings for the Third Sunday of Lent go to:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031917.cfm


 

Reflecting on the Word

In John’s gospel for this Sunday, Jesus stops to rest at Jacob’s well in the country of the Samaritans. Hot and thirsty, he encounters a Samaritan woman who has come to draw water in the mid-day heat and asks her for a drink of water.

It is a scene that recalls the encounter between Abraham’s servant, sent out to find a bride for Isaac, and Rebecca at the well in Nahor.  The servant is looking for a very specific sign from God: Isaac’s bride will be the young woman who responds to his request for a drink of water by saying, ‘drink’ and lowers her bucket to draw water for him. She immediately offers him a drink of water and proceeds to water his livestock as well and is revealed as the woman God intends for Isaac’s wife.(Genesis 24:12-20)

Like Abraham’s servant, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. But unlike Rebecca, she refuses his request, asking him pointedly how a Jew can make such a request from a Samaritan, knowing that the two peoples are estranged and that for an observant Jew, such as Jesus, sharing the same vessel with a Samaritan would render him ritually impure.

To which Jesus replies that if the woman knew the gift that God was offering her and understood who he really was, she would be asking him for a drink of water, not of well water but living water. Then Jesus gradually reveals to her that he is the Messiah and the Son of God.  That he in fact, is living water, that is to say, intimate, eternal communion with God, made incarnate in the person of Jesus. 

What the Samaritan Woman doesn’t understand is that Jesus, the Bridegroom, is making a marriage proposal. Not as with Rebecca, a young, unmarried woman but a woman from a people, the Samaritans, who were (from the Jewish perspective) tainted by idol worship and unfaithful to the covenant and who, having been married five times, was now living with a man who was not her husband.  Yet by asking her for a drink, Jesus was saying to her (and to all of humanity, weighed down by sin and estranged from God’s friendship): ‘ All is not lost!  Let me be your intimate friend, let me love you, let me know your heart, let me be your Savior and Redeemer.’

Jesus says to the woman, give me a drink – revealing the thirst that God has for us.  Jesus is thirsting for us, God, who does not need us in any way, loves us, longs for us, and pursues each of us.  Even when we run, he follows, he follows.  There at Jacob’s well,  and throughout the gospels, Jesus is revealed again and again as the Good Shepherd, who came to seek out and find the lost and forsaken.

But a deeper question quickly surfaces in their conversation: what is the thirst which can only be quenched with living water?  And where can it be found?  What we thirst for is what we all desire, our deepest desire is eternal life, the eternal life of communion with God and with our neighbor.

We thirst, not for information about God, but to know and be known by him, which is at the heart of intimacy, when another knows us deeply and loves us.  Our thirst for this intimacy is unslakable, and infinite, and can only be satisfied by the one who is infinite.  In the words of the Church Father, St. Augustine, “Lord, our hearts are restless until the rest in you alone.”

The love of Jesus is the only love that will ultimately satisfy our unslakable thirst for love and meaning.  When we lower our bucket into living water of Christ, we are satisfied and renewed by his never-ending love and ourselves become a wellspring of living water that is a source of life for others.

Jesus, the Bridegroom, is making a marriage proposal to his bride, the Church and to every person. Let me, Jesus, be your loving and faithful spouse.  Let me, Jesus, govern and direct your choices, your values and your actions. 

This is why the woman at well says, “Come see this man, who has told me everything I have ever done.” Not because Jesus enumerated her sins? – no, because Jesus has mercifully helped her to confront the disorder of her life.

The name our tradition gives to the Samaritan woman is St.Photini (which means, “enlightened”.)  Jesus enlightened her by showing her life as it was and offered a new way of living.  Enlightened, she exchanged a life that could not satisfy for life with Jesus. 

Called by Jesus to become his disciple, she dropped her bucket, and left her old life behind, she ran into town to announce Jesus, as an apostle and an evangelist. This is our call too, to allow Jesus and the life he calls us to live to become the basis of everything that we are and do.  


Pondering the Word

In meditatio, traditionally, the second stage of lectio divina, we are invited to ponder, as Mary did, “all these things in her heart” as we listen for Jesus, the Incarnate Word to speak to us heart-to-heart.

You may find the following questions helpful in doing this. 

  1. How is Jesus inviting me to grow closer to him in this reading.         
  2. Is there anything currently in my life, in my past, in my disposition that is keeping me from growing closer to Jesus?
  3. What is the most painful wound or regret in my life?  What is my deepest longing or desire?
  4. Who is Jesus for me?  A stranger?  An adversary?  A wise teacher?  The Lord of my life?  In the past?  At this moment? 
  5. How or in what ways do I desire Jesus to heal or forgive what is wounded in me or to help me to recognize and be grateful for his love for me?
  6. In what ways is Jesus calling me to follow him at this moment in my life?  

Praying the Word

In the third stage of the practice of lectio divina, pondering the Word of God naturally leads to prayer.  Having opened your heart to his Word, take a few moments to speak to Jesus heart-to-heart.  


Closing Prayer

You may wish to conclude your time of prayer using the Collect from this Sunday’s Mass below or the Lord’s Prayer:

O God, author of every mercy and all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

     one God, for ever and ever. Amen.