Third Sunday of Lent – Year A Ex 17:3-7; Ps 95:1-2,6-9; Rm 5:1-2,5-8; Jn 4:5-42
Dear brothers and sisters, today, on the third Sunday of Lent, the Church offers us the opportunity to meditate on the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We can contemplate two aspects of the encounter: on the one hand, what the woman does, and on the other, what Jesus does. Both must be models for us and for our conduct, especially during this Lenten journey.
The Samaritan woman must be a model for us as soon as she came to Jesus and found salvation there. We know that she was a sinner, and not only a sinner, but also one with a very bad reputation. We know that from two details that Saint John gives us. First, the evangelist tells us that “it was about noon” when the woman came looking for water. In the area of the Holy Land, at that time, women used to go for water either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when it wasn’t so hot. If the woman came to fetch water at noon, it was because she wanted to avoid people. The other detail is that the well, which John describes for us in great detail, is half a mile from town; surely there were wells in town, wells that would have been closer for her. Yet, the woman looked for water at that isolated, distant well, and this, again, precisely to avoid people.
However, Jesus did not let her escape. Being God, from all eternity Jesus knew that this woman was going to look for water in that well at that moment, and, instead of going with His disciples to look for food, He stayed there, precisely in that well, at noon, waiting for her.
We are like the Samaritan woman. We are sinners, and while perhaps our sins have not isolated us from our families and our communities (although maybe they have), they have certainly isolated us from God. However, Jesus awaits us. He is always waiting for us, to make us return to God the Father. He is waiting for us in the confessional, right here, in the church, if only we take the time to draw near.
To get closer to Jesus, all we have to do is admit that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness. So, think about it: the Church asks us to confess “at least once a year,” and the perfect time is now during Lent. If you have not confessed, please approach Jesus, who awaits you in the sacrament of confession. What happened to the Samaritan woman will happen to you as well: “The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people.” In other words, she “left her water jar” and returned to people, which means two things: on the one hand, now she doesn’t care about material things, the things that were so important before, since she found living water, the only thing that’s really worth having. On the other hand, she has returned not only to God, but also to her people, and she wants to share salvation with them.
On the other hand, we have another model: Jesus must be a model for us as He shows in His patience and His way of speaking and dealing with the sinful Samaritan woman.
We all know someone who is far from the Church. It can be a husband or wife, or a son or daughter, or a family member, or a friend, whoever they are. Many times, we become discouraged, because, even with prayers and sacrifices, we see no change or even hope for change. As always, we must set our sights on Christ and His way of speaking with the Samaritan woman.
Christ knew perfectly well that the woman was a sinner; however, Christ did not start the conversation there. As Fulton Sheen wrote, between the Incarnate Holiness and a sinful woman, the least common denominator was a desire to drink cold water. There the conversation and conversion began.
We Catholics have a great truth, a truth that governs the universe, and which we must always keep in mind: sin never makes anyone happy. Sin never makes you happy because it can’t; sin is the absence of goodness, of light, of life. It is trying to fill an infinite void with finite things. Deep down, even if the person does not want to say or admit it, the sinner is not happy, and they will never be happy as such.
So, we have to affirm the good that is in each person, as Pope Benedict XVI used to say: each person needs someone to tell them, and “with more than words: it is good that you exist. . . . Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings.” Only when we start with love, saying to the sinner with words and actions that “it is good that you exist,” only starting there, the sinner can come to know the love that God has for them, and, later, they can learn and understand how to respond to this love, leaving sin and giving yourself to Jesus with all your heart.
Many times, we have to explain to sinners, with much charity and patience, why they are not happy, and the root will always be their sins. This is what Jesus did: “Go call your husband and come back.” What a gentle way to make the woman think about her life, to make her understand her sin, without criticizing her, without reproaching her!
Today, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us ask for the grace to draw near to Jesus, who is waiting for us, and to imitate His patience and His charity with sinners in our lives.