Lent Sunday 3A - Jesus with Samaritan Woman

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading from the Book of Exodus we read of the Israelites grumbling and complaining against Moses. They had left Egypt for the journey to the Promised Land. Now as they journey, their faith is put to the test as they experience thirst and are surrounded by dry desert rocks. When things go well, people seldom think of God and blessings are taken for granted, but when things go wrong, God is immediately blamed for the situation. Yet God does not punish his people, he is patient with them. He does the impossible for his people; He provides water from the rock.  

Water of LifeHermann Hesse's book 'Siddhartha' narrates the wanderings of a man in search of inner peace and self-realization. As a Brahmin boy Siddhartha had everything -intelligence, handsome features, wealth -but he was restless. So he renounced his family and set off to seek happiness. In succession he tried the asceticism of the Eastern monks, the way of enlightenment under the Buddha, the pleasures of sensual indulgence, and the luxuries of wealth, but all these only left him disappointed and disillusioned. Disgusted to the point of despair, Siddhartha considered committing suicide in a river, when he suddenly heard from the depths of his subconscious the holy word "Om" that begins and ends all prayers. The remembrance of that word awakened Siddhartha's slumbering spirit to realize anew that all is divine and that loving devotion to the universe is the key to happiness. The water of the river helped him die a symbolic death to his old life of futility and emptiness and be born again to a new life of fulfillment and happiness. 
Albert Cylwicki in ‘The Word Resounds’ 
The Gospel has the encounter between Jesus and the woman looking for water at the well at Sychar, in Samaria. Jesus is sitting by the well, when the Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well. She comes because she needs water, but there is a deeper need, a need of acceptance, not satisfied by her many irregular love-relationships. At the well there is Jesus who is also thirsty, not so much for water as for slaking this woman's real thirst. Strange as it might seem God is thirstier for us than we are for him! He asks the Samaritan woman "Give me a drink." But Jesus goes beyond barriers that human beings create and quickly moves from the superficial to the things that really matter. "If you knew who it is who is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would be the one to ask and he would give you living water." Once again we see the woman missing the point of the real water that Jesus is promising, when she argues: "You have no bucket sir, and the well is deep, how could you get this living water? Jesus, with infinite patience leads her from the water of that well to the real water which he can give her, which will turn into a spring within that leads to life. Now that the curiosity and desire of this woman is aroused she quickly asks for this water. But before Jesus gives her this water he makes her see that she has to put her relationships in order. "Go and get your husband first." The talk about her personal life is too threatening and so she quickly tries to move far away from it. But Jesus is not to be put off.  
Finally Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah, the one who can satisfy the deep hunger with her and when she believes she discovers that she does not need the water of that well any more, her thirst is slaked and she leaves her bucket behind and runs off to the village to tell everyone that she has found the Messiah. 
A stream of living water within 
A very devout and good parish priest had served for many years in a big-town parish and decided to shift gears by moving to the parish of a small rural congregation. On his first day he was invited to a meal at the house of one of his parishioners. Talking about that meal he says: "All through that sumptuous meal, there was something bothering me. All during the dinner I could hear the sound of running water, and it really bothered me. Back in the city that sound was bad news. Someone had left a tap running or there was a leak in the plumbing, and the ceiling was about to cave in. For two hours I listened, and heard little else but the sound of running water. Finally, I could no longer contain my inner frustration, so I mentioned it, and asked about it. With a smile, my host explained the situation to me. It seemed that forty years before, when the people had built the farmhouse, they discovered a spring of water right in the middle of the property. They built a spring room around it and then planned and built the rest of the house around that inner spring room. For forty years, the people who lived in that house had come to be conscious of that spring of water right at the very core of their home, and its significance for them grew over the years. I thought to myself "That is what Jesus is constantly trying to tell us: that it is possible to build the rooms
of our lives around the life-giving spirit." 
Jack McArdle Drink from a running stream 
There was a college student who working in the college dining hall and who, on his way to work early in the morning, walked past the home of one of his professors. Through a window he could see the light on and the professor at his desk, morning after morning. At night the student stayed at the library until closing, and on his return trip again he would see the professor’s desk light on. It seemed that he was always pouring over his books and notes. One day, after class, the professor was walking along the courtyard when the student approached him with several lecture questions to clarify. Finally the student asked, “Would you mind if I ask you a more personal question?” “Of course not,” replied the professor. So the student asked, “Well, every day I walk by your house and you are so intent at work. What keeps you studying? You never seem to stop.” The professor answered, “Well you see, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.
”Howard Henricks Gifts from the heart 
According to legend, a young man while roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart. Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container. The student challenged his teacher: "Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?" The teacher replied, "You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving -kindness and nothing could be sweeter. Heartfelt gifts deserve the return gift of gratitude." 
Michael Josephson The inner well 
Once there was a woman who had to make a daily trip of a mile to draw water from a public well. Over the years she grew weary of the journey. No matter how much water she brought home, she always ended with an empty container. Then one day she was doing some work in her own garden when in a remote corner she came across a large flagstone lying on the ground. The flagstone was completely covered with moss. Her curiosity flared up. She cleared away the moss and then removed the flagstone to discover a lovely well. She was thrilled. Never again would she have to make the tiresome journey to the public well. She now had an unfailing source of water of her own. – Christ made people aware of their own emptiness, but did not leave it at that. He showed them how to begin to fill this emptiness, not from without, but from
within. Oh, that we might find the inner well, the well that lies hidden under the moss of our hearts.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgie


From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
1: A Samaritan woman evangelist:
 There is a Greek monastery at Mount Athos in which nothing female is allowed. Men can enter but not women, roosters but not hens, horses but not mares, bulls but not cows.  Armed guards patrol the border to insure that nothing feminine passes the gates.  It has been this way for more than 700 years. [Arnold Prater, The Presence, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993).]  Separate but definitely not equal: that has been the attitude toward women of many churches through the ages.  So, it's really remarkable that this particular Samaritan evangelist happens to be a woman.  She would be as surprised about it as anybody.  When she first met Jesus, she was surprised that even he talked to her.  Once converted, she became an evangelist, enthusiastically introducing Jesus to her fellow villagers. 

2: "No drinkin' and no dancin’ area”!  
A couple of Catholic young men from the North were visiting a dusty little town in the back country of West Texas.  It was a hard-shell Baptist town in the Bible belt of the South: "No drinkin' and no dancin’ area”!  But these two were strangers; so they asked a cowboy where they might get a drink.  "In this town," said the cowboy, "we use whiskey only for snakebite: to wash the wound as first aid."  Then he added slyly, "If you guys are so thirsty for whiskey, there's only one poisonous snake in this town and that is in the zoo.  So you better get a ticket to the zoo, go to the snake park, get hold of a cobra through the iron bar of its cage and give it a big hug! The zoo keeper will appear immediately with whisky.”  The woman at the well had a mighty thirst, a thirst like that of these young guys for whiskey, a thirst so big that it led her through five husbands and who knows what else.  And still she was thirsty — a thirst caused by the absence of God in her life.  A meeting with Jesus gave her the living waters of friendship with Jesus and the anointing of the Spirit of God which restored her dignity and changed her life.  

3: “Here comes my friend, Douglass!”  
Carl Sandberg describes the firm stand that Abraham Lincoln took against racial prejudice. One particularly stirring drama unfolded on the night of Lincoln’s second Inaugural Ball.  He had just delivered the blazing address in which he made famous the words, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work that we are in.”  That evening in a White House reception room, Lincoln stood shaking hands with a long line of well-wishers.  Someone informed him that Frederick Douglass was at the door, but security wouldn’t let him in because he was black.  Lincoln broke off from high-level protocol and instructed security to bring  Douglass to him, at once.  The crowd of guests hushed as the great black leader appeared at the door.  In a booming voice that filled the silence, Lincoln unashamedly announced, “Here comes my friend, Douglass!”  And then turning to Douglass, Lincoln said, “I am glad to see you.  I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my address.  There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.  I want to know what you think of it.” Those who see and respect the rich human qualities in those individuals whom others reject blaze pioneer trails through thick jungles of bigotry.  The next generation can walk on the paths made by such giants as Lincoln who drew inspiration from Jesus’ example and teaching!  Today’s Gospel shows us Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman and a social outcast and gives us a model to follow in this world.

4:  Anthony de Mello tells the story of the little girl who asks a boy, "Are you a Presbyterian?" He answers, "No, we belong to another abomination." 
5. : Baptizing cow into fish for Lent:
John Smith was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood.  On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill.  Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper.  This went on each Friday of Lent.  On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided that something had to be done about John!  He was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent, and they couldn't take it anymore.  They decided to try and convert John to Catholicism.  They went over and talked to him and were so happy when he decided to join his neighbors and become a Catholic.  After an intensive training in Catholic catechism they took him to their pastor and got him baptized and announced to him:  "You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic."  The men were most relieved, that their biggest Lenten temptation had been resolved.  The next year's Lenten season rolled around.  The first Friday of Lent came, and just at supper time, when the neighborhood was setting down to their tuna fish dinner, came the wafting smell of steak cooking on a grill.  The neighborhood men could not believe their noses!  WHAT IS GOING ON?  They called each other up and decided to meet over in John's yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent.  The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water.  He was sprinkling some water over his steak on the grill, saying, "You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, but now you are a fish."

One of the commencement traditions at Harvard University is Senior Class Chapel. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave "the Yard" to take their places in the world.
The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible, including The Good Book and Sermons. In his gentle ringing tones, that call to mind a cross between a Shakespearean actor and the TV sitcom character Frasier, the inimitable Doctor Gomes took no prisoners as he began: 
"You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren't ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and," - and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis - "you know just - how - dumb - you - really - are." 
 The senior class cheered in agreement. 

"And worse than that," Doctor Gomes continued, "the world - and your parents in particular - are going to expect that you will be among the brightest and best. But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That's a fact - no exceptions, no extensions."
"Nevertheless, there is reason to hope," Doctor Gomes promised. "The future is God's gift to you. God will not let you stumble or fall. God has not brought you this far to this place to abandon you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical. Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid." 
What Doctor Gomes did for the senior class at Harvard, Jesus does for the woman at the well. Before we take a look at the story let me let you in on a fascinating fact. You can go to Israel today and take a journey to Samaria to the town of Sychar. A place the passage of time seems to have forgotten... 
Today's gospel story is all about a miracle molecule called water.

Any water people here? I don't mean sun people who gather at the water because of the sun. I mean true water people. Swimmers? Surfers? Fishermen/women? Boaters? Bathers? Hot-tubbers? Islanders?

Anyone here ever spend a night on an island somewhere? If you live on an island (like we do--Orcas Island, Washington State), you're surrounded on all sides by water, cut off from easy access to the rest of the state, and the country.

Islanders are water people.

But the water that surrounds an island is not so much a barrier as it's a buffer. All that liquid cushions the blows that the off-island world throws our way. Islanders aren't cut off so much as they are bound together. Sometimes for better. Sometimes for worse. But always until the next ferry arrives. If we let our lives go with the flow, the water makes us different.

When we read passages out of the Old or New Testaments, we must always remember that our Bible stories are about desert people. Even more than the island people described above, however, desert people are intimately bound by life-giving, life-sustaining water.

In fact, the miracle molecule of water is always a fact of life or death for the children of Israel. The devastation of droughts changed the face of empires. The absence or presence of water created civilizations or set whole populations on the move.

Again and again throughout the Bible, it's this miracle molecule that transforms God's chosen people... 

 Look Around You 

William Easum, in his book, Dancing with Dinosaurs, suggests that the dinosaurs ate only the vegetation that was right at their eye level. With their massive appetites, they quickly devoured all the food they could easily see. Then he writes: "Still, food was plentiful if the dinosaur merely bent down to reach the vegetation. But perhaps the dinosaur's neck was too stiff to bend down to the vegetation, or the dinosaur was too nearsighted to see the vegetation. Perhaps dinosaurs became extinct because of their unwillingness or inability to see what was happening all around them" [p. 15]. Do you think that he could be making an analogy to the church? Jesus says, "Look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting." If they took that literally and looked around, whom would they see?
Brian P. Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
 Before I Build a Wall... 

One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost. Of all his writings, my favorite is "Mending Wall." It's the story of two New England farmers who go out each spring to mend the rock fences that have fallen down over the winter. They do it every spring, under the belief that "good fences make good neighbors." But this particular spring, one farmer is beginning to question that long held assumption. As they work their respective sides of the fence, wearing their fingers raw with the rocks, he begins to reason. "He is all pine and I am all apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines. Why is it that we need to build these fences back every spring?" Then he says this:
Before I built a wall, I'd ask to know
What I am walling in or walling out
And to whom I am like to give an offense
For something there is that doesn't love a wall
That wants it down.

Friends come in when the rest of the world is going out. And this day Jesus stopped to befriend the woman at the well. That's the Jesus I want to know. Do you know Him?

J. Howard Olds, Faith Breaks,
A New Creation 

Once there was a man on a train going across the desert in Arizona. He was the only person in the car who had not pulled down the window shades to keep out the glare of the hot sun on the parched earth. In contrast to the other passengers, he kept looking out his window, and seemed actually to enjoy the dismal scene.  
After a while the curious man seated across the aisle, asked, "Sir, what do you see in that wasteland that makes you smile?"  
"Oh," he replied," I'm in the irrigation business, and I was thinking if we could only get water to this land that the desert would become a garden."  
That's what Jesus is teaching His disciples. He wants us to see the world's people as He sees them. Every one of them is precious in His sight. By divine grace, they can become a new creation, made beautiful in holiness. 
Robert E. Coleman, Evangelism: Behold the Harvest!
I Can't Remember
 A few years ago, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The archbishop decided to check her out. 
'Is it true, m'am, that you have visions of Jesus?' asked the cleric.
'Yes,' the woman replied.
'Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession. Please call me if anything happens.'
Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition.
Within the hour the archbishop arrived. 'What did Jesus say?' he asked.
She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. 'Bishop,' she said, 'these are his exact words: I CAN'T REMEMBER. ' 
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out, 116-117
An Unexpected Evangelist

 This wonderful man was not well educated and his manner was somewhat rough and crude. He became a Christian and took the Lord's requirement seriously. He kept pestering his pastor to put him to work. Finally, the minister handed him a list of ten names with this explanation: "These are all members of the church, but they seldom attend. Some of them are prominent people in the community. Contact them about being more faithful. Here is some church stationary to write letters. Get them back in church."
The man accepted the challenge with rugged determination and enthusiasm. About three weeks later a letter from a prominent physician whose name had been on the list arrived at the church office. Inside was a large check and a brief note: "Dear Pastor, Enclosed is my check for $1,000 to help make up for my missing church so much, but be assured that I will be present this Lord's Day and each Lord's Day following. I will not by choice miss services again. Sincerely... P.S. Would you please tell your secretary that there is only one `T' in dirty and no `C' in Skunk."
Ah, those unexpected evangelists. To this day, that nameless Samaritan woman, the first unexpected evangelist, is revered in many cultures. In southern Mexico, La Samaritana is remembered on the fourth Friday in Lent, when specially-flavored water is given to commemorate her gift of water to Jesus. The Orthodox know her as St. Photini, or Svetlana in Russian. Her name means "equal to the apostles," and she is honored as apostle and martyr on the Feast of the Samaritan Woman. 
Can you do what she did? Invite friends and neighbors? Of course, you can. 
David E. Leininger, Collected Sermons,
 Criticizing Evangelistic Efforts 

One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody's reply was "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don't do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."  
James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) p. 178.
That First Longing

Carl Jung, the great psychoanalyst, tried to explain why so many people were fascinated by UFO phenomena. He wrote: "We are all born to believe. The eyes may be wrong, but the psyche is right. We are all looking for a perfect model of ourselves."
C. S. Lewis made the same point when he observed: "Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job, but something has evaded us." (quoted in The Joyful Christian)
Robert Bachelder, Between Dying and Birth, CSS Publishing Company
 Keeping Perspective
 "This is the transcript of an ACTUAL radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Canadians: "This is a lighthouse." 
(This story had been challenged by many as only a joke created by someone - TK)