Br. Bernard Delcourt, OHC
Lent 3 A - March 27, 2011
Come to the well
Lord help us follow your example of reconciliation; help us reach out to the Samaritan woman in our life; help us do God’s will as our daily worship. May we all contribute to the harvesting of your fields, to the building of your Kingdom. Amen.
In last week’s gospel, Nicodemus, an insider of the dominant religion came to find Jesus by night and struggled with the teachings he was offered.
This week, in the middle of a hot day, Jesus reaches out to an outsider. He offers her the wellspring of eternal life, no less; if only she will ask him for it.
These two passages, Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, are linked in meaning by the good news that “...God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Both Nicodemus and the Woman at the well, came to believing in Jesus, even if by different journeys.
This week’s gospel reassures us that no one will be denied who will believe in Jesus. Jesus “gets us.” He fully understands all that is good and all that is sinful in us. In full knowledge, he reaches out and desires us to be saved with him, in him and through him.
But let me set the scene of today’s passage. As Jesus ran into increasing resistance from religious authorities in Judea, he decided to eschew confrontation and to continue his ministry in Galilee.
Now, the shortest route between Judea and Galilee goes through Samaria. Most Jews would have preferred the longer route which would have avoided Samaria altogether.
You see, Jews and Samaritans had a centuries-old, intense dislike for each other. In a nutshell, Jews reproached Samaritans for having lost their Jewish integrity; their religious and ethnic purity. But Jesus deliberately chooses to travel through Samaria.
Christ encounters the woman at the well - Richard Serrin
Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well shows us God's desire to free us, each one of us, into a life of integrity; a life in truth and spirit. There is so much in this encounter that speaks to me. This morning, I’d like to focus on reconciliation and worship.
Reconciliation and worship are two great ways to accept Jesus’ invitation to salvation. Let me tell you a bit more about what I see in today’s gospel about these two aspects of the spiritual journey.
First, it is reconciliation that Jesus brings to the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman is invited to face herself as she is, there and then. She is invited to be fully known as she truly is, without social pretenses.
And she is invited to ask for the gift of grace; the well of living water springing up to eternal life. She is invited to step into her own salvation. All that is needed is accepting to be fully known as she is, and to believe.
And it isn't just anyone that Jesus invites in this way; the gender, the social status and the ethnic origin of who he invites shows that God has little interest for our human boundaries of separation.
The apostles, when they return from their errands into the city, are flabbergasted that Jesus would be speaking with a woman, a Samaritan woman and a compromised Samaritan woman, at that!
But, Jesus shows that God's message is for all; for Jews and non-Jews alike; for people in good standing and for outsiders. God doesn't need to choose the most prestigious and privileged amongst us for salvation to be wrought.
The Samaritan woman goes on to become an evangelist in bringing her own people to God.
The disciples too are invited to step out of their own cultural boundaries here. Jesus shows them an enlarged mission; their harvest will extend beyond the Jewish people, starting with those Samaritans they grew up to despise.
Through the events of his meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus also teaches us about true worship. True worship is not linked to a place, be it the temple in Jerusalem or anywhere else. True worship is the lives we live with God, in truth and spirit. True worship is our lives lived in integrity with God.
You see, worship is that, which we do, that embodies our values. By showing up in church this morning, for example, you are demonstrating that you give value to the word and the will of God. Our presence here for the liturgy is a common understanding we have of the word "worship."
But everything we are, and everything we do, can embody what we give value to. When you insist in your relationships on being truthful, respectful and loving, you are worshipping God in God's creatures. When you are re-using, recycling and generally reducing your use of physical resources, you are worshiping God in God's creation, for instance.
All of Life can be worship. Living our lives in truth and spirit is worshiping God in all we are, and all we do. We worship God when we live life as if everything we do mattered.
And Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one, tells us where to look to find the sustenance for our life with God.
Reconciliation and worship start where we meet the Living God; in our innermost heart, in the quiet of willingly being present to all that is.
And there, we are to ask, to receive, and to accept the gifts of God: the well of living water that will spring to eternal life and the food of doing God's will.
But asking, receiving, and accepting are each important steps of this movement of the heart. Grace is never forced on us. We have to make ourselves available to it (possibly with some help).
The Samaritan woman does not seem to have walked to the well feeling ready and able to accept grace, that day. And yet, in her, little by little, Jesus created the room for her to receive grace. Trust that Jesus is making that room for grace in you and move in to live from there.
Jesus starts all of these important teachings, by reaching out to a single person; one person whom, by all conventions, he's supposed to not even speak to. Could this person be me, or could it be you?
I believe salvation starts with our own self. I need to accept to know myself as fully and lovingly as God knows me. I need to build relationships where we aim to know each other as truthfully as God knows us. Salvation starts with any one person you interact with in truth and spirit; it starts with yourself, with God, with any of God’s children.
So hear what the Samaritan woman's story has to tell us.
Through Jesus, God wants us, each of us, all of us, to be reconciled to him, to ourselves and to each other.
We are invited not to harden our hearts with earthly preoccupations but to let the living water spring to eternal life in us.
We are invited to be fed in worship; to be fed in doing God’s will through all of what our life is made of.
Come to the well and let Jesus refresh you. God so loves you.
Note: this sermon comes from my re-editing of a similar sermon I preached on the same gospel in 2008 at St Boniface, Sarasota, Florida.