Third Sunday of Lent: (John 4:5-42)
Jesus and the Samaritan woman
This Sunday’s Gospel invites us to a conversation at a well. Jesus is passing through Samaria, a hostile enough place for Jews. However, he takes time out and rests. It is here the encounter for this Sunday’s Gospel takes place. An encounter between two very different people: a Jew and a Samaritan, male and female, two people with totally different religions, political and social backgrounds. The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews and they were not allowed to speak to each other. One wonders if Jesus, in opening up the conversation is inviting us to see that his mission is universal, that it embraces all people, respects gender and knows that all genuine encounter leads to transformation. Hence for Jesus, the opening up of a conversation is worth the risk and the breaking of the law.
During the recent Congress for the Mission of the Order we were reminded that encounter is the primary mode of preaching. Jesus obviously understood this very well and later we will see the Samaritan woman take on wholeheartedly this form of preaching.
It is through their very simple, deep and sincere conversation that these two people come to recognise their different thirsts. Jesus makes the first move by asking for a drink, the woman is surprised and decides to let Jesus know who she is. Was that just in case he might want to withdraw his request? Here Jesus opens up a whole new conversation allowing the woman to get a first glimpse of who he really is. What trust, what openness, what confidence placed in the stranger. The woman must have felt a relationship of trust was already building. By her many questions she allows us to see this conversation go deeper and deeper. We see a beautiful openness in Jesus and in the woman; an openness that leads to truth, to the knowledge of who each one is and their truth about themselves. Finally, the conversation leads to an understanding of true worship and its place in our lives.
We can only imagine the woman’s surprise when Jesus reveals he is the one who is expected; the one who will teach all things.
The woman’s response to the whole conversation and to this revelation is not to wait and to converse with the disciples but rather to hurry back to her own people, share the good news and invite them to come and meet Jesus.
We may well ask who are the strangers in our midst today? Are we prepared to risk the starting of conversations and open ourselves up to the transformative power of God in ourselves and in the other? Let us too become preachers of grace and truth like this wonderful gospel woman of Samaria.
Srs. Virginia Villaverde and Caitríona Gorman