3rd Sunday of Lent – 19th March 2017

The water jar

Scripture Reading – John 4:5-16,19-26,39-42
A spring of water welling up to eternal life

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman 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, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water.’

You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water. I see you are a prophet, sir. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’
Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“The water jar”

by Sr Bridget O’Connell

“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The desert and the well are two of the images in today’s liturgy. The first reading from Exodus tells of how the Israelites thirsted for water in the desert; and they complained to Moses

The Lord said to Moses, “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.”

In the Gospel -tired from his journey Jesus sat down at the well. He had a long conversation with the woman from Samaria who came to draw water. She had gone to the well at a time when there would be no one else around.  Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

At the end of the gospel story the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people:  “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

Similar to  the apostles who left their fishing nets and the tax collector who left his table, the woman left her water jar – each one of them responded to an encounter with Jesus. Once the woman encountered Jesus she was no longer concerned with getting the water. She was beginning to know “the gift of God”

The landscape of each of our lives has its desert places and its wells – may we know the gift of God

When we are surprised by water flowing from the rock; the little miracles of every day– may we know the gift of God

In our times of emptiness and in our the search for meaning – May we knew the gift of God

The woman told everyone about Jesus, she could not hide the joy of her encounter with Him – may we know the gift of God

When I leave my water jar of at the well?  May I know the gift of God

O that today you would listen to his voice harden not your hearts – May we know the gift of God

“What makes a desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well”


LECTIO DIVINA

by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB

Introduction to Lectio Divine

Chapter Four of St John’s Gospel is a very complex narrative and at the same time very inspiring. It is midday. Jesus is tired from his journey. He engages in a one-to-one conversation with a semi-pagan woman, in a place that recalls the patriarch Jacob, revered by Jews and Samaritans alike (4, 6-12). The woman, and the three ‘confessions’ she makes in response to Jesus (4, 19: Prophet; 4, 29: Christ; 4, 42: Saviour of the world), together with the disciples’ arrival (4, 27.31) and that of the local inhabitants (4, 30.39) suggest three different scenes (4, 5-26. 27-38. 39-42). In the first of these, at Jacob’s well, the conversation is about water (4, 6.11.12.14). Worship is the theme of the second (4, 20.21.22.23.24). When other people arrive, the topic changes and the situation becomes complicated. Their presence seems to cause the change of topic. The disciples had gone to get something to eat (4, 8.31). They were surprised when Jesus declared that his food was doing the will of the Father (4, 31-38). When the Samaritans saw Jesus for themselves, they no longer had need of the woman’s testimony in order to believe in him. (4, 39-40).

Just as Jesus guided the Samaritan woman, the evangelist guides us, the readers, to go back over our personal faith journey, to discover that the one who is thirsty is the one who can satisfy our thirst, and that the stranger we did not recognise, knows us intimately.  We need patience to allow ourselves to be guided, and courage to admit our most hidden needs.  If we do allow ourselves to be guided, like the Samaritan woman, we will come to know Jesus better and to recognise him immediately. While the disciples are concerned about giving Jesus something to eat, he is busy bringing the people to faith.

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

The episode begins with the description of Jesus’ meeting with a Samaritan woman. This sets the scene (4, 5-6). There are two long conversations  (4, 7-26.31-38) in which Jesus reveals himself gradually to the woman until, finally, the Samaritans en masse accept Jesus as Saviour of the world (4,42). It is worth noting that the conversation with the woman began at the request of Jesus, but the exchange with the disciples was begun by them. The former was motivated by Jesus’ thirst, the latter by the desire of the disciples to give Jesus something to eat. The former leads to the woman’s journey of faith, but the disciples did not know what Jesus really hungered for.

The principal character is undoubtedly Jesus. He never leaves the scene and he reveals himself progressively (4, 10.22.25.32.42). The ways in which the woman addresses Jesus: Jew (4, 9), greater than Jacob (4, 12), prophet(4,19), messiah (4,29), Saviour of the world (4,42)  indicate the basic stages in his revelation of his personal identity and in her journey of faith. It is very significant that in the dialogue with the disciples they address him only by the bland title ‘master’. In the biblical tradition, Savour of the world, the title with which this faith journey concludes, is a divine title. Coming from the Samaritans it is particularly significant. In a world in which there were many saviours, gods and emperors, Jesus is proclaimed universal Saviour. It was the highest confession of faith possible for pagans. In this personal encounter Jesus inaugurated the mission ad gentes, and he stayed two days among them.

There is another important detail. The woman remained with Jesus long enough for the disciples to be ‘scandalized’. Jesus remained with the Samaritans two days, In both cases this ‘remaining with Jesus’ led to faith. The disciples had gone away from Jesus, admittedly for a good reason, but they were the only ones in the episode who did not make a profession of faith!

Meditate: apply the text to life

Jesus, though he was lonely, tired and thirsty, came to be recognised in the end as Saviour of the world. Where Jesus is present, a state of necessity, and poor beginnings, can lead to a marvellous profession of faith. His human weakness does not prevent us from coming to faith in him. Why am I not so happy to be alone with Jesus when he is weak and powerless? Does the fact that Jesus felt the need of rest, just as I do, make it harder for me to trust him? Jesus was not pretending. He was worn out, and hungry – why else did the disciples go to get food for him?

The Samaritan woman found Jesus near the well, because she also needed water. Her need, which was quite normal, led to the unexpected encounter. It was unusual for a woman to come to the well at midday – they usually came in the early morning. The meeting was purely by chance, but guided also by the woman’s ordinary daily need. How can I change my ordinary daily needs into moments of encounter with Jesus? What are the normal needs that could lead me to him?

The woman’s journey begins with a request from Jesus – a perfectly normal request were it not for the fact that he was a Jew – and her faith journey continues through the ensuing dialogue.  Jesus asks because he wants to be asked, he desires because he wants to be desired. His real thirst is to save the woman from her deepest needs.  “If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you…” To make contact with the woman, Jesus comes to her level of need. But this “detail” of the loving Saviour is not understood until the woman discovers her own poverty. She would be satisfied with receiving the gift, and recognising him as the giver.  Even if my poverty is the reason for Jesus’ coming to me, he is always gift, not of water from the well but of water that changes the one who drinks it into a source for others. It is not enough, then, to be aware of my own needs. I must also recognise Jesus as a gift freely given by the Father to quench my thirst and satisfy my deepest hunger and thirst.

The second stage begins when the woman desires the gift offered by Jesus, a better water than that of Jacob’s well, the patriarch’s gift to his descendants. She asked for it because she wanted never to be thirsty again, and never to have to come again to draw water. Jesus discovers in her a deeper, more personal need – the need to be loved. Before she was ‘unveiled’ by Jesus, she wanted water to satisfy her thirst. But Jesus does not limit himself to meeting ‘normal’ needs. He leads us to our deeper needs, ones we have not recognised or admitted. We are not always ready to allow our deepest, most intimate needs to be laid bare, and so we are often afraid to be alone with him and we are reluctant to see him as gift.

When her deepest secrets were revealed, the woman believed.  Her profession of faith was still imperfect, but she has begin to trust Jesus as a prophet and she confides in him one of her main concerns, which is also that of her people – where and how to adore the true God. All who want to adore God in spirit and in truth must first acknowledge their own condition, without mask or self-deception, and accept themselves as they really are.  The God of Jesus does not want to be adored as his worshippers think he is. God is spirit and truth, and his worshippers must be like him.

The last stage in the Samaritan woman’s journey of faith – its conclusion and proof – is her testimony. “He has told me everything I ever did,” she said.  Before she could believe, she had to discover – it was the personal encounter and conversation with Jesus that led her to faith. And the believer becomes a witness – anyone who has faith must proclaim it.   Later the Samaritans will come to believe, after they have spent two days with him. Staying with Jesus, even it is only for two days, can make a whole people become believers. Why is it that the many years we have spent following Jesus have not made us believe in him? Is it, perhaps, that like the disciples we are too concerned about our material needs, food and drink, and we forget the thirst for him that is within us?

Pray the text. Desire God’s will. What do I say to God?

Wait for us, Lord, at the well of meeting, at the most unusual hour, at that providential hour that strikes at the right time for each one.  Introduce yourself, Lord, and be the first to speak, you who long for us and are worn out for us. Wean us, gradually, from the many attractions and fleeting desires which still have hold of us. Melt our indifference, our prejudices, doubts and fears, and free our faith. Excavate the empty space in which we live and fill it with an inextinguishable desire for you. Make us thirst for you. Draw us with your gift.  Help us identify that thirst which is burning inside us, even though we are still not able to call it by its true name.  Bring us back to ourselves, to that most secret centre where no one else reaches, but you are there.

PRAYER

God our Father,
in your infinite love and goodness
you have shown us that
prayer, fasting, and almsgiving
are remedies for sin.
Accept the humble admission of our guilt,
and when our conscience weighs us down
let your unfailing mercy raise us up.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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TheWaterJar

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