Sunday, March 19, 2017

Third Sunday of Lent 2017

Today we hear the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well. It is a “conversion” story, of the woman’s - and ours. “Christian conversion” comes in many forms, at different times of life. We will break down the "conversion" gospel into three steps: “First to Christ, then to the church, and then back to the world.”

First to Christ: A woman comes to draw water from the well.  Women typically had the daily chore of drawing water from wells – usually going out in the evening. This woman is out at noon – it’s hot. And she is alone. The woman is a Samaritan. Being so – she is despised by the Jews –and – as we soon find out, she is a sinner. This is probably the reason she is alone – she is an outcast. She signifies every Christian sinner - coming to the well “every” day, but never satisfied. A thirst never quenched. Like this woman, we too are seekers – seeking satisfaction from the temporal world.  St. John Paul II said,” “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise.”

Jesus says to the woman, “Give me a drink.” The woman knows she shouldn’t be speaking to a man – and especially this man, for he is a Jew. Jewish men, especially rabbis, did not speak to women in public – particularly a Samaritan woman.
Still, she does not walk away – she embraces Jesus in “conversation.”

Conversation with God is “prayer.” “How can you, a Jew, ask me, for a drink?” The CCC says,” Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us - and asks us for a drink. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts - that we may thirst for him.” This is the “Primacy of grace”, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” He calls us first - and we respond.

To the Church: Jesus answers the woman, “If you knew the gift of God - and who is saying to you, “give me a drink”, He would give you “living water.” She is baffled, what is this living water? Our Pope Emeritus Benedict said that this “living” water “is clearly the Sacrament of Baptism, the gateway to life in the Spirit – a sharing in the divine nature through grace. It is the Church.

 The Samaritan woman is looking for water – to quench her physical thirst. Jesus is about to quench her spiritual thirst. Jesus says,” Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”

Jesus begins to reveal to this woman who He truly is- and what He has to offer. He understands all about her - and what is in her heart. He recognizes an opening and begins to prompt her to respond to His call. Can we see in our own lives encounters with the Lord? Like this woman, there are certainly times when we are emotionally, spiritually, and physically wasted. Times we feel alone and estranged from those around us. Are we open to hear his loving voice?

Before this “living water” can flow into one’s life, we must recognize those things that get between us and God - our daily sufferings and trials, our responsibilities, our secular distractions. Place them in perspective. We must particularly be aware of our sins – address them by partaking in the Sacrament of Penance. These things keep us from the only One who can satisfy all our needs. We need to rid ourselves of these things - and let God “break in.”

The encounter continues. Jesus lets the woman know - that He knows…all about her. “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman responds that she does not have one. Jesus confronts her – you are right – you have had five husbands – and this one is not your husband.”

Jesus, in his mentioning the woman’s situation, reveals the seriousness of it. In his divine mercy, He offers her healing and forgiveness - through the grace of living water - so that she may be sanctified - and never thirst again.  Jesus reveals that He is “the Living Water” that will be for us a “spring of water welling up to eternal life”.

Back to the World: On realizing this, she cannot wait to go and spread the good news. She leaves behind her water jar – the jar filled with what can never satisfy. She goes into the town and begins to spread the good news. “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.” She is now evangelizing. Through this Samaritan woman’s experience, others would hear Christ’s invitation - and come to know Jesus by their own experience.

As a Samaritan - and as a woman with many husbands - as an outcast, she had every reason in the world - to ignore Jesus and remain as she was.  But she didn’t. She opened herself up to God’s will, in Christ.

Jesus knows that we are seekers – and sinners. He knows our triumphs - and our failures.  He knows our sins. He wants to purify us - and give us every good thing, to draw us closer to Himself. But Jesus will never force us, he only invites us.

If today you we hear his voice, harden not our hearts

let Him lead us home to the living water.

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