3rd Sunday of Lent ~ 12 March 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 17: 3 -7; Responsorial: Psalm 95; II: Romans 5: 1-2, 5-8; Gospel: John 4: 5 -42
We are in the midst of our Lenten pilgrimage. As we seek to follow and draw closer to Christ we are called to grow as a people of faith in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Many are the ways of fasting and giving of ourselves in alms that the Spirit of God can lead us to do. But it is in prayer we encounter God who will show us the ways of His Kingdom.
This 3rd Sunday of Lent brings us the Gospel account of Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. This encounter of redeeming love is unusual in numerous ways. It is only found in the Gospel of John. It is the longest shared conversation between Jesus and any person. It shares an encounter that would have been contrary to many of the beliefs and prejudices of the Hebrew people in that it was with a woman, a woman of the shunned people of Samaria, and a woman, an individual of a clearly inappropriate, fallen moral life. The significance and lessons from these realities are all essential to recognize and accept as lessons of God’s intentions and graces. But in focusing on these specific elements, we can lose sight of another message that God may want us to hear.
This encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is a powerful lesson and an invitation to prayer. In spite of, and because of the many problems of this meeting we can see and follow the footprints of Jesus coming to a beloved soul. We can see the footprints of Jesus seeking us to pray with him. We can learn the Desires, Designs, Drawing graces, and Developing course of the Living Waters of Jesus.
God’s Desires at the Well: The travels of Jesus with his disciples are well recorded in the Gospels. The Messiah journeyed the length and breadth of the land of the beloved Hebrew people. So it was unusual, and for some very inappropriate when Jesus led his followers on the detour into Samaria. Good, faithful, observant Jews did all they could to avoid those people, that place of so much bitter division. But the desires of Jesus were clear, through Samaria they would go. As Christ chose to rest at the well in the midday heat his disciples went to find some lunch. It was the desire of God, of Jesus to come to Samaria and it is the desire of our Lord to come to where we are in life. Even if we might be in a place of need, failure, or inadequate faith. Jesus knew whom he would meet at the well that day. And Jesus knows whom he will meet as he seeks us where we are in life’s journey. It is this desire of God that brings us to meet the Designs of God in the place of prayer.
God’s Designs are encountered in the place of prayer. When the Samaritan woman came to the well that day she did not likely expect to meet with anyone. The village women would normally come in the morning or evening hours to draw the water and carry the heavy jugs back to their homes. To do such tasks in the heat of the day would many the chore all the more oppressive. It is likely this woman came midday to avoid her neighbors and their scorn and disgust at her fallen nature. So when she came that noon and encountered this Jewish Rabbi, Jesus she met with him and the surprise by God’s designs. This woman needed the water. from the well. It was a necessity for life. And this woman needed love. It was necessary for life. Her Creator used both of these basic needs as part of the designs of God to call her to this place of prayer. She came for water. She came at this odd time because of her failures in love. God calls us through our needs and will bring us to prayer through our broken, fallen struggles of life. It is as we respond that we, like the Samaritan woman, will then experience the amazing drawing power of God’s mercy.
God’s DRAWING graces into healing freedom. This woman of struggle came to the well expecting to draw water from the deep recess of the ancient cistern. Little did she expect that as she gave water to Jesus he would then start drawing, from the depths of her sin-wounded soul both the truth of who she was and the liberating Truth of whom God would redeem her to be. One of the reasons we may sometimes fear coming to Jesus in prayer is we may sense his desires and designs to draw from us that what would soil and destroy the person we are created to be. It is very difficult in true prayer with our Lord to hide sin, weakness, and illicit desires. It is also foolish as God knows our hearts to their deepest depths. And like the Samaritan woman Christ would confront us, for who we are. But Jesus did not detour to Sychar to condemn, reject and hate this woman. Indeed he was forthright in bringing her to see her sin. But the drawing graces of God call forth not just what is wrong but draws us to what are God’s desires and designs. It is as we allow the Holy Spirit to draw us to Christ in prayer we find our sins and failures exposed and cleansed. It is then we find the Truth, Jesus, of who we are, in Him to be revealed. And we experience that when the Son makes us free we are free. Indeed! But Jesus did not stop with just this holy conversion by God’s grace and love. Jesus, then, in prayer led this, now holy woman, to share her witness, her personal kerygma, the proclamation of JGod in her life.
God’s DEVELOPING of our witness. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman of the springs of living water which he would bring her to drink and share. It is to this holiest of wells that God had brought this woman in this encounter, in prayer. And she quickly realized that this purest most delicious water was meant to be shared. Off she went into Sychar to the very neighbors and people she had long avoided. And her longings had grown from the false appetites of the flesh to that holy love to share Jesus and all God was doing in her life. And from this time of prayer at the well the living waters of Christ would flow, cleanse and fill the lives of many for countless ages. We never suspect what our times with Jesus at the well of prayer may bring in our own lives and in the lives of those he then leads us to meet. It is well beyond all we can imagine what our sips of God’s grace, wherever we may be in life can bring in and through us as we but listen to and heed our Savior.
This Lenten season of meeting Christ in holy love at the wells of prayer in our lives may we each, and together, grow in the desires, designs drawing mercies, and developing graces of God.