3rd Sunday of Lent – Homily (Fr. Smith)

It is significant that Jesus meets the woman at the well at Noon. It is the hottest time of the day and people have returned home to get out of the sun. Yet there is this one woman. She did not oversleep but has chosen this time intentionally. As the story will reveal she is a person of what we once quaintly called “loose morals” and is shunned by her community. These noontime visits were most likely part of her daily routine and Jesus would have been a considerable annoyance to her. She did not know that it would be the beginning of a journey for her and one that you and I have either fulfilled or must do so to be a Christian. 

Jesus does not help matters by ordering her to give him a drink. He spoke in the imperative and without even a halfhearted please or prospect of thank you. The woman is used to being treated with disrespect by her own but will not take being ordered about by a Jew.  Rather than attacking her however Jesus continues the conversation by asking her a question. The woman responds by calling him “Sir”. She continues the conversation by questioning him about the well.  It has nourished people for centuries how could Jesus compete with that?  He tells her that he is offering more than Just water and she admits that she desires it.  

Here, Jesus changes his approach and tells her to bring her husband. She must acknowledge her rather complicated living arrangements. Rather than condemning her he congratulates her for her honesty.  She is amazed that he knows this and calls him a prophet.  

She now asks him a very important question. The Jews and the Sarmatians differed on many things, and one of the most important was worship. The Jewish temple was of course in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans worshiped on Mt Gerizim. This was the cause of considerable disagreement but to complicate matters about 100 years before Jesus the Jews destroyed this temple. She now trusts Jesus enough to ask how to find God and where to worship him. He tells her that it will not be by one side destroying the other but by all the people who worship the LORD coming together as promised in the prophets.  She knows that this was the calling of the Messiah.  

We need to look for a moment what is being offered. 

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 

The hour, the moment of contact with God is now here and the way of true worship of God, gloriously revealed as Father, is through Jesus. We will not come to worship him by our own power he is seeking us. God wants us more than we want him. 

Now look at this woman’s inner journey. She first greeted Jesus with the hostile “Jew”, then when she became intrigued with “Sir”, then recognizing that he was gifted by God “Prophet”, and ultimately seeing that he was the key person for both the expectations of Jews and Samaritans, “Messiah”. This is paralleled by an exterior journey. Previously, she was reluctant to even go the well with the other women yet now she ventures into the village to tell everyone about the Messiah. How amazing that she has the courage to tell Samaritans whose respect she did not have that a hated Jew is the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams.  

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.” 

Jesus performed no miracles there. All they have was the woman’s word. She must have been on fire.  

They came to see Jesus and asked him to stay with them. He accepted and many more came to believe in him because of his word. Again, no miracles, no mighty acts or signs just his word.  

But when Jesus left, they told the woman:  

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 
This is interesting and beautiful. Before Jesus she was estranged from her community, now she is part of it again. She journeyed from outside to inside. But the final step in understating Jesus that he is more than the messiah but rather “the savior of the world” came from the community.  

This is a universal reality for Christians. The more intimately we come to know Jesus the more we need to share that knowledge and the more we know Jesus the more we know ourselves.  

Also, the more we know Jesus, the more deeply we become part of he his community and there is some knowledge that can only come from the community because it must be lived before it can be known.  It is the town that tells her that this is the savior. A savior is not only a person who can give us something after we have died but changes the world around us here and now. It is not only an individual who is saved but a community. To be saved is to know that it is our relationship with Jesus that creates our identity. It gives us meaning today and a home for eternity. Often people will ask “are you saved” but the real New Testament question, especially in John, is “are we saved”? Are we in St. Charles Borromeo Parish bind together not simply by geography, Catholic parents, habit and cultural ties, but by sharing the life of Jesus? 

In a few moments, we will pray over Makiko and ask God to reveal His loving kindness to her. But before that we will ask for a moment of silence. Let it speak to us. Let it ask us if we have found Jesus here, and if yes, if we know how to share him with Makiko or anyone else who wishes to join us? We can say to her that we know that Jesus is our Savior if we go to Mass seeking to strengthen our relationship with Him and leave it committed to strengthening our relationship with our neighbor.