March 12, 2023
Sister Rose Ann Barmann, OSB shares a reflection on the scripture readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
The first Sunday of our Lenten experience took us to the desert where we witnessed and entered the challenge of Jesus being tempted by the devil. This reminded us anew that we too experience temptations like Jesus and our Lenten resolutions fortify us to lean on Christ Jesus in all our daily struggles to be faithful to the Gospel.
Last Sunday, we were privileged to accompany Jesus, along with Peter, James, and John as they climbed the “Mount of the Transfiguration” which is a foreshadowing of our own transformation and transfiguration into our eternal God.
In 2017, I had the good fortune for a wonderful tour of the Holy Land, and as a part of that trip there was the opportunity to go to the Mount of the Transfiguration. First of all, the mountains in Israel and the Holy Land are not like our Colorado mountains. They would be more like our foothills; however, they do have some high mountains that can rival our Rockie. Jerusalem is built on a mountain.
On the Mount of the Transfiguration today, there is a large church that marks the spot of the Transfiguration and Jesus’ encounter with Moses and Elijah and his accompanying disciples. In 207, we attended Mass at the Church of the Transfiguration.
This Third Sunday of Lent marks the halfway point of our Lenten Journey for 2023. We meet up with Jesus not on a mountain but at Jacob’s well and it is around noontime. Jesus has been travelling in the desert and he is tired and thirsty. He sits down by the well where he encounters a woman coming to the well to fetch water. The woman comes in the middle of the noon-day heat to avoid the other women of her town who come earlier in the morning. She avoids the other women for fear of encountering their judgement upon her, for she was a sinful woman; she has had several husbands.
At the well, she encounters Jesus. Jesus speaks with her for a while, and she is deeply touched by this casual but “transforming conversation.” The first thing to note is that the very fact of Jesus speaking to her touched her. She was a Samaritan woman and Jesus was a Jewish man.
Jewish men did not speak to Samaritan women. But there is something more that Jesus said that deeply affected her. As the woman herself tells us, He “told me everything I have done.”
She wasn’t only impressed that Jesus knew all about her past as if He were a mind reader or had a keen intuition about her. There is more to this encounter than the simple fact that Jesus told her all about her past sins.
What truly seemed to touch her was that within the context of Jesus knowing all about her, all the mistakes of her past life and her broken relationships, He still treated her with the greatest respect and dignity. This was a new experience for her! She was a “shunned” woman by the local standards and by all the women and men of Samaria.
We can be certain that she would have experienced daily a sort of community shame. The way she lived in the past and the way she was living at the present was not an acceptable lifestyle in this Jewish community. And she felt the shame of it which, as I mentioned above, was the reason she came to the well in the middle of the day. Out of shame, she was avoiding the scrutiny and judgement of the town folks.
But here was this man, Jesus. He knew all about her but wanted to give her “Living Water” nonetheless. He wanted to satiate the thirst that she was feeling in her soul. As He spoke to her, and as she experienced His gentleness and acceptance, that thirst of hers began to be quenched. It began to be quenched because what she really needed, what we all need, is this perfect love and acceptance that Jesus offers. He offered it to her, and He offers it to us.
Interestingly, the woman went away and “left her water jar” by the well. She never actually got the water she came for. Or did she? Symbolically, this act of leaving the water jar at the well is a sign that her thirst was quenched by this encounter with Jesus. She was no longer thirsty, at least spiritually speaking. Jesus, the Living Water, satisfied her thirst.
On this Third Sunday of Lent, we are called by God’s Word, to recognize the thirst that is within each of us. Once I/we are aware of our thirst and longing for God, we can make a conscious choice to let Jesus alone quench our thirst for the Living Waters that only God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can pour upon us, within us and all around us. It was at our Baptism that we were washed by this same “Life Giving” water that the Samaritan woman thirsted for. O God, you are the Living Water that my/our souls need and longs for daily. So be it.