HOMILY Third Sunday of Lent Cycle A March 15, 2020
The Gospel we have been privileged to just hear is not only long, it is theologically and spiritually very meaty and rich. I would like to focus on the overall transformation of the Samaritan woman from being a sinner and an outcast, to becoming a disciple of Jesus, and ultimately a missionary. I see that movement as an archetype for all of us in our relationship to the Good News of Jesus, moving from sin and isolation to discipleship that blossoms in missionary witness to the Gospel.
The Gospel opens with the statement that it was about noon. Living in central Texas we all know that means it was getting to the hottest part of the day. All the other women in the village had come earlier, in the cooler morning to draw their water, which made the most sense. But this woman comes alone, at an uncomfortable time, presumably to avoid the shaming and taunts and rejection by the other women of the village. Perhaps, since it was not a big village, she had slept with several of their husbands, and she rightly feared that they may throw more than insults. So she comes in the heat of the day when she knows no one else will be there.
Sin and guilt isolate. Sin always alienates us from God, from other people, and even from ourselves. That is what sin does.
Jesus engages her in conversation. That was against the rules and norms of that society, but Jesus came to seek out and save what is lost, and He does not let social conventions and niceties get in His way. Like Nannie McPhee, Jesus sometime shows up when He is needed but not wanted.
I have had the experience of wanting to do something my way, according to my rules and my plan, but some cautionary thought comes to mind, or a passage of scripture pops into my head, or some good advice comes from a staff member or another Paulist, and I need to confront my not-so-Christian desires. Likewise, Jesus inconveniently appears in the life of this woman. Perhaps you have had that experience too.
Jesus challenges her. “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Jesus states the facts, without sugar coating it.
Scripture scholars tell us that the Samaritans worshipped other gods besides Yahweh. This is why the conversation of the woman with Jesus turns to the issue of worshipping God. And in the Old Testament there is a literary theme of espousal between God and His chosen people. Therefore Jesus may not be speaking only about the woman having several sexual partners, but rather about the worship of false gods. So also for us, our making pleasure or fame or power or wealth or other created realities our “gods”, is a type of faithlessness and infidelity to God. Jesus calls each of us on our spiritual “adulteries” when we do not put God first in our life.
The woman leaves her water jar. St John mentions this I believe as a symbolic action. The woman has now received the living water that Jesus gives, or better, that Jesus is, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” and no longer relies on the former forms of quenching her thirst for love. The water jar is superfluous.
The woman goes and spreads the Good News about Jesus. “Could he possibly be the Christ?” she asks. She witnessed to Jesus and His saving work in her life. That is what every one of us, as a disciple of Jesus, is called to do. Maybe in a less dramatic fashion than this woman did, but still we are called to witness to the saving work of Jesus in our lives. Not primarily by words, but by the quality of our lives and actions. We are to demonstrate that we have heard Good News in our lives.
The Gospel states: “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”
She became a missionary disciple, which is what every one of us is called to be. She is a role model for us. By an encounter with Jesus, and by His grace, we are commissioned and empowered to proclaim the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
This Third Sunday of Lent, may we open our hearts to the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we too my proclaim with the Samaritans of that town, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”