Lent 3rd Sunday A: The 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 Life, Hermann 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 Liturgy


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. Today, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and 2,000 monks from Greece and other Eastern Orthodox countries, including Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia. These monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world. The Mount – actually a 335 sq km (130 sq mile) peninsula – may be the largest area in the world from which women, and female animals, are banned. Men can enter but not women, roosters but not hens, horses but not mares, bulls but not cows. Armed guards patrol the border to ensure 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 and 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 in a culture which did not allow a Jewish rabbi to talk to his wife in a public place. Once converted, she became an evangelist, enthusiastically introducing Jesus to her fellow villagers. (Fr. Tony–

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 since these two men were strangers, 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 zookeeper 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. (Fr. Tony–

3:  Photeine, the Samaritan woman evangelist: Venerated as a saint among the Greek and Russian Orthodox and given the name Photeine (Greek) or Svetlana (Russian), which means radiant or shining (from the Greek noun phos or light), the woman at the well has been variously praised by Origen, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Teresa of Avila as: (1) an “apostle,” (2) one who “left her water pot at the well in order to go off and preach the Gospel,” (3) “the first apostle to the Gentiles who invited her neighbors to ‘Come and see’.” Legend has it that when the woman left Samaria to preach the Good News, she eventually made her way to Carthage in Africa where she was imprisoned for the Faith and died a martyr. Another legend, preserved in Spain, says that Photeine (also Photina) converted and baptized Nero’s daughter and 100 of her servants (Margaret Hebblethwaite, Six New Gospels, Cowley Publications, Boston: 1994). Fascinating legends and traditions notwithstanding, the woman of Shechem offers veteran believers and catechumens a living example of the dynamics and ramifications of Christian Baptism including: (1) the overture of God to the sinner 2) the sinner’s growing response in Faith and consequent conversion. (3) the mission of the disciple to proclaim the Good News to others. (Sanchez Archives). (Fr. Tony–

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 WAS 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.”

26-Additional anecdotes:

1) “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 social outcast, giving us a model to follow in this world. ((Fr. Tony–

2) “The dawn is coming!” During those awful days following Dr. King’s assassination on Thursday, April 4, 1968, pandemonium broke out across America. The New York Times sent a reporter into Harlem to interview a prominent minister. He was asked what he was going to tell his people on the coming Sunday — Palm Sunday that year. The minister replied angrily, “I don’t know, but it won’t be about the love of Jesus.” But on that Palm Sunday, another pastor in another large city stood in his pulpit. His name was Martin Luther King, Sr. If anyone had a right to anger or despair or revenge, it was he. But Dr. King, Sr. declared, “The night is never so dark that you cannot see a star. Hold on. Keep the Faith. The dawn is coming!” Can we really get along? Yes, with the help of Jesus. Today’s Gospel presents the detailed dialogue between Jesus and an ostracized Samaritan woman, teaching us how to get along with those who are different, sharing with them the love of God. (Fr. Tony–

3) “Is there more than one way to Heaven?” Around the world of religion today, there are about 2 billion Christians, 1 billion Muslims, 750 million Hindus, 334 million Buddhists, 18 million Jews, and a growing number of people who declare no religious allegiance at all. Once upon a time, religious tolerance consisted of Baptists having a worship service with Methodists or a Protestant marrying a Roman Catholic. Now a Hindu may be your next-door neighbor or a Baha’i may be dating your daughter. All of us down deep in our hearts are trying to decide whether we love or hate Muslims. The religious marketplace has become complex. At the crossroads of Faith, we Christians must now consider our relationships with people of other religions. Tibetan leader, His Holiness Dalai Lama says, “All religions are essentially the same in their goal of developing a good human heart that we may become better human beings.” As the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well described in today’s Gospel becomes intimate, the woman creates distance by introducing a religious debate: “Is there more than one way to Heaven?” Jesus clarifies that He is the Messiah – the way, truth and life.(Fr. Tony–

4) A very special horse: St. Thomas Aquinas told of a man who heard about a very special horse and determined to have it for his own. He traveled all over the world. He spent his entire fortune. He gave his whole life to the search for this horse. At last, just moments before he died, he realized he had been riding on that very special horse all that time! You are searching for happiness, perhaps? Look no farther. Look no farther than your own heart. Open your heart to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. He will give you the living water he promised to the woman at the well. You need never thirst again.(Fr. Tony–

5) “Water is life.” Mohandas Gandhi, India’s great Champion, proved to the whole world that a person can go without food for a long, long time – for weeks – but water is something else. I don’t know how long someone can live without water, but it isn’t very long. A baby who can’t keep down fluids will dehydrate and die in just a few days. Adults last only slightly longer. The only life-sustaining substance that we need more frequently than water is air. Water, then, is essential to life. In one sense, water is life. Where there is no water, there is no life. Cactuses and camels and gnarled trees and grasses of the desert can adapt to conditions of low water, but there isn’t any living thing on this earth that can adapt to no water. “Water is life.” Lack of water is death. To be thirsty is to stare death in the eye. It’s no wonder that Jesus turned water and thirst into spiritual teachings as he sat there by Jacob’s well, that ancient and sacred place for quenching thirst. If thirst of the body is the very taste of death, then thirst of the soul is the very picture of spiritual despair. (Fr. Tony–

6) Life-giving water: Almost 30 years ago, Hurricane Andrew (1992) devastated southern Florida. Houses were leveled, trees were uprooted, and human lives were severely disturbed. To cope with this chaos, the National Guard was called out to restore a semblance of order and to respond to immediate human needs. One of the first things the Guard did in the midst of people whose lives had been devastated by water and wind was to supply clean drinking water. In the midst of so much loss, clean drinking water was absolutely necessary to sustain health and life. You may recall the image of a National Guardsman standing next to a tanker dispensing clean drinking water to those who were victimized by Hurricane Andrew. In 1994, we saw the same scene in Rwanda, where thousands died of cholera until the UN could get America and other nations to set up clean water systems to supply life-giving water to the dying. Do we go to Jesus, who alone can satisfy our thirst, as our fountain of water springing up to eternal life? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons). (Fr. Tony–

7) “God will not let you stumble or fall.” One of the commencement traditions at Harvard University is Senior Class Chapel. On the morning of 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 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 described in today’s Gospel. (Fr. Tony–

8) “Well, we never gave pamphlets to people.” Bruce Larsen, in his book, Ask Me to Dance, includes the story of a member of his congregation who had come from another country. Pastor Larsen said of this person, “Her Faith sparkled, and the living water of the Spirit flowed out of her soul to all around her.” He invited her to go with him to a seminar on the topic of evangelism. The leaders had prepared tables filled with all sorts of pamphlets and strategies and demographic studies, all aimed at reaching the un‑churched in their area. At some point during the program the leaders turned to this woman and asked her to share some of the reasons that made the Church so important and so vital in her home country. At first, she was a bit intimidated by the crowds, but then she had this to say, “Well, we never gave pamphlets to people because we never had any. We just showed people by our life and example what it is like to be a Christian, and when they can see for themselves, then they want to be a Christian, too.” (Cited by Rev. Judith Carrick, That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? After her encounter with the Master, the Samaritan woman passed the test for being an effective Christian witness. (Fr. Tony–

9) “I want to be that finger.” The highly esteemed theologian Karl Barth had a painting of the crucifixion on the wall of his study that was painted by the artist Matthias Grunewald. In the painting there is an image of John the Baptist. The artist portrayed John the Baptist pointing his finger to the cross of Jesus in the center of the painting. It’s said that when Barth would talk with a visitor about his work, he would direct them to John the Baptist in the painting, and he would say, “I want to be that finger.” Barth wanted to point people to Christ. (Jeremy Troxler, Pointing people to Christ is our most important task as His people. This is properly referred to as evangelization, sharing with others the love of Jesus Christ. Today’s message is about one of the most effective evangelists who ever lived. But this evangelist had a shady past. (Fr. Tony–

10) Water-bearers and water-sharers: Centuries ago, a waterman used to carry water from the river to the king’s palace in two earthen pots – one perfect, another cracked – and was paid according to the amount of water he brought. Unfortunately, the waterman was poorly paid since much water leaked through his cracked pot. Dejected, the cracked-pot cried, “Master, I’m cracked and bring you less money. Discard me!” The waterman replied, “No! Watch carefully!” Then, he took the two pots back to the river, filled them, and told the cracked pot to look at the pathway on its side. The cracked pot was surprised to see beautiful flowers beneath it. “See that?” explained the waterman, “I knew you’re a cracked-pot, so I sowed seeds along the way. You’ve sprayed water on them and made the king’s pathway beautiful!” Like the king’s waterman, today’s readings describe water-bearers. Two of them, Moses and Jesus bring water to the thirsty. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony–

11) Lessons from Noah’s Ark: There’s an anonymous e-mail making the rounds that says “Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark…” 1. Don’t miss the boat. 2. Remember that we’re all in the same boat. 3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark. 4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big. 5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done. 6. Build your future on high ground. 7. For the sake of safety, travel in pairs. 8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs. 9. When you’re stressed, float a while. 10. Remember the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals. 11. No matter the storm, when you’re with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting. God promised Noah that there would never again be a world-devastating Divine deluge. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus offers the ultimate soul-saturating drink–a living, vital relationship with God made possible by Christ’s own sacrifice. (Fr. Tony–

12) “I hope you won’t lose sight of me in the crowd. Amen.” There was a cartoon I saw some time back, which showed a little boy kneeling by his bed saying his bedtime prayers. He prayed: “As you know, God, Monday is the first day of school. I hope you won’t lose sight of me in the crowd. Amen.” Then he climbs in bed, thinks for a minute, and then crawls out again and adds to his prayer: “Oh, and by the way God, I’ll be the one wearing the red shorts and a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt.” Like this little boy, the woman in the passage for today needed someone to see her. She had lost sight of her own life and was sure that God had, too. She was thirsty beyond measure and needed to drink deeply of what only God can offer. (Fr. Tony–

13) E. T. is one of the most successful movies of all time. It is about an extra-terrestrial creature who heals cuts with the touch of his finger, raises dead flowers to life, and who himself is raised from the dead before he departs from the earth, his spaceship leaving a rainbow in the sky. I would guess that millions of people who had never entered the door of a Church flocked to E.T. and were moved by it. They were searching for a source of hope. They were looking for a model of themselves as people who are loved by a Power that will not let them go even in their darkness. Today’s Gospel tells us about a Samaritan woman who was looking for God to quench her thirst.(Fr. Tony–

14) Ingrid Bergman on Ed Sullivan’s show: Some of you are old enough to remember when Ingrid Bergman was invited by Ed Sullivan to appear on his program, The Toast of the Town. This was around 1958. For our younger members, Ed Sullivan’s show was one of the leading programs on television in those days long ago. Bergman had left her husband and had borne a child to her lover. Now here is what is interesting: When it was announced that Bergman was going to be on the Sullivan show, such a public clamor arose that Sullivan had to rescind his invitation to her. Can you imagine that in light of what is allowed on television today? There has been a definite change in the moral climate in our society. Even in Evangelical Christian circles, it is not unusual to find young adults living together without benefit of wedlock. Meanwhile, the number of unwed mothers is soaring. We think we invented this new amorality. We did not. It has been around since recorded history. All we’ve done in our society today is to make it semi-respectable. But in Jesus’ time, things were a little different. There were still laws on the books that prescribed that the adulteress be stoned to death. So you can imagine how surprised this Samaritan woman was that a man of Jesus’ piety and stature had any dealing with her at all, not only because she was a woman but also because she was not a “nice” woman. (Fr. Tony–

15) “Some things are just too important not to share.” A Mercedes-Benz TV commercial shows one of their cars colliding with a concrete wall during a safety test. Someone then asks a Mercedes engineer why their company does not enforce their patent on their car’s energy-absorbing car body. The Mercedes’ design has been copied by almost every other car maker in the world in spite of the fact that Mercedes-Benz has an exclusive patent. The engineer replies in a clipped German accent, “Because in life, some things are just too important not to share.” [Jim Wideman, Illustration Digest, (Mar-Apr 1992).] As Christians we believe that the Good News of Jesus Christ is one of those things that is too important not to share. The work of sharing the news of Jesus Christ we call evangelization. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus shared the Good News of God’s forgiveness and love with a sinful woman. (Fr. Tony–

16) “Would you read the 23rd Psalm?” Sociologist and evangelical Christian Tony Campolo tells a powerful story about a friend who’s a pastor of a Church in Brooklyn, in a run-down, beat-up area of the city. This friend got a telephone call one day from the local funeral director who said that he had a funeral that nobody wanted to take. None of the ministers in the area wanted anything to do with this funeral. The man had died of AIDS. This friend, Jim, took the funeral. Tony Campolo asked Jim, “What was it like?” Jim said that when he got there, there were about 30 homosexual men. They never looked up at him. Their heads were down and they stared at the floor the whole time he spoke. After the funeral service was over, they got into the waiting automobiles and went out to the cemetery. He stood on one side of the grave with the undertaker and the homosexual men stood on the other side. They were frozen in place like statues. They seemed to be motionless. Not a nerve or sinew moved as he read Scripture and prayed. They lowered the body into the grave and Jim pronounced the benediction. He turned to leave and then he realized that none of them were moving. He turned back and asked, “Is there anything more I can do?” One of the men said, “Yes. They always read the 23rd Psalm at these things and you didn’t do that. Would you read the 23rd Psalm?” Jim said, “Certainly.” And he did. Another man spoke up and he said, “There is a passage in the 3rd chapter of John which says that the spirit of God goeth where it leadeth and you cannot tell on whom the spirit of God falls. Could you read that passage?” And he did. And then one of the men said, “Would you read to me and to all of us that passage that talks about the love of God, that nothing can separate us from the love of God?” And Jim said, “I turned to these homosexual men and I said quite simply this, ‘Neither height nor depth nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, neither life nor death, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’” Jim said nothing was more thrilling than to say to these men, who had been so ostracized and hurt by the Church, that God still loved them and that nothing could separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (30 Good Minutes, Chicago Sunday Evening Club, 2006, Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus reached out to a sinful Samaritan woman. (Fr. Tony–

17) “We are the Samaritan woman”: Rev. Randall D. Bell tells a powerful story about a pastor who stood in court beside a member of his congregation–an individual who had been “out with the boys,” and had had too much to drink. As he was driving home on the rain‑soaked streets and through the dense fog, he turned a corner and heard a sickening clash of metal and breaking glass. Two young people lay dead. They had been thrown from their motorcycle. He was charged with manslaughter and driving under the influence. He sat in court trembling after days of testimony. The judge was about to speak. It could mean years of prison, loss of job, and poverty for his family. The judge spoke: The test for drunkenness had not been properly done; the motorcycle had no proper lights; the jury was ordered to render a not guilty verdict. All that was ominous, and foreboding was now gone. He was a free man. The court declared him “not guilty.” His family kissed him–they could go on with their life, all because he had been declared innocent. Then Rev. Bell adds these words, “Now maybe this story and the way it ended angers you, because you hurt over those young people who were killed. But know this–you and I are that man. His story is our story. We are the sinner who finds himself in the presence of God the Eternal Judge.” ( You see, not only are we blinded by our prejudices against people like the Samaritan woman with her unseemly lifestyle, we are also blinded to the fact that we are the Samaritan woman. We, too, have fallen short of the grace of God, but the Hand of Grace is reached out to us as well. (Fr. Tony–
18) Dare to be different: Dare to be different in all walks of your life. Dare to stand-alone. Dare to stand up for your convictions, even if the crowd around you may move in another way. Dare to be a fool for the sake of Christ. With the Word of God and power of the Spirit, dare to be a Crusader for Christ. Dare to follow the footsteps of our Heavenly Father. Dare to take up the cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads you. Dare to be a real Christian with a strong backbone. Dare to say “no” to momentary pleasures that the world has to offer. Dare to tell others about your Heavenly Dad. Dare to stand for holiness, purity, and sanctity as a dove, no matter what it takes (Judy Sara Mathew). (Fr. Tony– 

19) Doing the impossible: An incredible story of determination and success is reported about Musa Alami, an Arab gentleman educated at Cambridge. He made the Judean desert to blossom like a rose. He went beyond Jordan to the edge of Jericho to the great, bleak, arid desert of Jordan Valley. With the exception of few oases, nothing had been cultivated in this hot and weary land. Everyone said that nothing could be cultivated because no water could be brought to this place. “What about tapping the underground water,” asked Musa. Everyone laughed aloud and said, “Has anyone heard of such a thing in this desert?” There was no water under that hot desert and for ages it was covered by the Dead Sea water; and now the sand was full of salt, which further added to its aridity. Musa Alami decided that he could find water there. A few poverty-stricken refugees from the nearby Jericho refugee Camp helped him in the digging. They dug, not with any drilling-equipment, but with pickaxe and shovels. Day after day, month after month they dug. For six months they dug, then one day the sand beneath was wet, and finally sweet water gushed forth. The Arabs who had gathered there, did not cheer, but wept. Water had been found in the ancient desert! (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony–
20) Finding our own 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 up with an empty container. Then one day she was doing some work in her own garden when in a remote corner she came upon a large flagstone lying on the ground. The flagstone was completely covered with moss. Her curiosity flared up. She cleared away the moss then removed the flagstone to discover a lovely well. She was thrilled. Never again would she have to make that tiresome journey to the public well. She now had an unfailing source of water of her own. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holyday Liturgies).

21) Barriers erected to prevent abuse: Some of you may be familiar with George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. It’s a bit like a fairy tale but it’s really a comment about a certain political regime. It contains a story of how the animals on a farm oust Farmer Jones and his family and take over the farm. They want a better life and start off with the grand vision that all animals are equal, and that all property is shared. Soon the pigs take control and one of them, Napoleon, becomes the leader of all the animals. He is tyrant. Equality amongst the animals is out, and the pigs use and abuse the rest of the animals on the farm. The pigs use the other animals for their own purposes and discard them if they are no longer useful. Most of us know what it’s like to feel used and abused by others. We have the best intentions and try our best to be helpful but all we have done is taken for granted and we are discarded like a used Kleenex. It is a well-known fact that when people feel they have been used and abused and their good nature exploited they become suspicious, bitter and cautious for fear of being hurt again. Barriers are erected, relationships shunned, because they never want to be used and abused again. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus lifts such a barrier of prejudice to save a sinful woman. (Fr. Tony–

22Cornea donated transformed a child’s life: Their daughter sees today because of a cornea transplant.  Their joy is tempered by the realization that the cornea belonged to another nine-year old killed in an auto accident.  The deceased child’s family finds some peace in knowing that a part of their daughter will live on — and the recipient family is transformed by what they have received.  Not only a physical piece but the deceased child’s generosity and selflessness live on, as well, in the recipient’s family’s new dedication to advocacy work on behalf of organ donation. For the evangelist John, today’s Gospel is not just about a sinful woman reconciled to God by Jesus, but about a woman who is so transformed by her encounter with Jesus that she becomes a witness for his reconciling presence in the midst of her people.  We have all experienced such grace, such generosity, such compassion that changes our perspective and approach to life — we embrace the Goodness that has embraced us; we become vehicles of the Compassion and Grace that has blessed our lives. (Connection). (Fr. Tony-  

23) What is water? What am I thirsting for? In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller wrote of the ways in which her teacher, Annie Sullivan, led her as a child out of the dark world in which her deafness and blindness had imprisoned her. “I remember the morning that I first asked the meaning of the word, Love. This was before I knew many words… (My Teacher) tried to kiss me but at that time I did not like to have anyone kiss me except my mother. Miss Sullivan put her arm gently round me and spelled into my hand, I LOVE Helen. ‘What is love?’ I asked. She drew me closer to her and said, ‘It is here,’ pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious of for the first time…’You cannot touch love, but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy.’…” (J. Maurus in Source Book of Inspiration; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony–

24) He came cursing: The former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once described a visit he had made to a part of the Moslem world that segregates women much as was done in Judea 2,000 years ago. One evening as Douglas was talking with two Moslem women, the husband of one of the women arrived on the scene. He came cursing. “His face was livid,” said Douglas. “He lunged at his wife with closed fist, hit her on the side of the face, and knocked her to the ground.” Later the husband came to apologize to Mr. Douglas, but not for his own behavior. Amazingly he apologized for his wife’s conduct. He hoped Mr. Douglas would not think too badly of his wife for what she had done. What was his wife’s “disgraceful” conduct? She had spoken to Douglas. [Henri Cormier, The Humor of Jesus (New York: Alba House, 1977).] It’s no wonder that when the woman in today’s Gospel met Jesus, she was shocked that he would talk to her. (Fr. Tony–

25) “MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR GOD, THE LIVING GOD!” It is said that some years ago a vessel sailing on the northern coast of the South American continent was observed to make signals of distress. When hailed by another vessel, they reported themselves as “Dying for water!” Dip it up then,” was the response. “You are in the mouth of Amazon river.” There was fresh water all around them, and they had nothing to do but to dip it up, and yet they were dying of thirst because they thought themselves surrounded by sea water. — People are often ignorant of God and without His Word. How sad that they should perish for lack of knowledge! During this Lenten Season, we are challenged to come to the well and meet Jesus there. He will give us living water, which is water that does not run out because it grows from within, and it quenches our deepest thirst – the thirst for God – “My soul thirsts for God, the living God!” And this is the Good News of today. (Fr. Lakra). (Fr. Tony–

26) Jesus the source of “Living Water.” It never ceases to amaze me that my body is composed of seventy percent water. It is hard to imagine that seventy percent of the flesh standing before you today is water. That means about 154 pounds of water is standing before you right now. I am not going to tell you what I weigh but I can guarantee you that 70% of my body weight and your body weight is composed of water. There are two and a half quarts of water in my blood. There are fifteen quarts of water in the extra plasma in my body. There are thirty quarts of water in the cells of my body, allowing all those little cells to grow. It always amazes me that 154 pounds of water are standing before you today at this moment. Truly, I am living water. Some people say that I am a bag of wind. Others say that I am a bag of hot air. But I am really a bag of water. I am a great big bag of water. Standing before you today is walking, breathing, living water. I am truly living water. Water is important to my diet It amazes me that I cannot live without water, that water is more important to my diet than food. It amazes me that I can exist for thirty days without food, but I can exist only one to four days without water. I cannot live without water. It amazes me how absolutely necessary water is for by body to exist. Likewise, it always amazes me that during my first nine months of life, I was in the water of my mother’s womb. I began in a bag of living water. I lived as a fetus for nine months in my mother’s womb. I could not live without that water surrounding me and in me. Truly, as a fetus, I was surrounded by living water. The water around me was truly the water of life. The bag of water around you as a fetus and me as a fetus was living water. Water is part of our everyday life. Water is part of our essential life. It is with these images that we hear the great words of Jesus when he says, “The water I give is living water. Whoever drinks of the water I give will never thirst. He who believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. The rivers of living water I give will become a spring of living water, welling up into eternal life.” (Rev. Edward F. Markquart). (Fr. Tony–


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)