Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sermon Extra-2-At the Well

Jesus and Samaritan at Jacob's well
Third Sunday in Lent Year A

23rd March 2014

Reading 1 Exodus 17:1-7

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95

reading 2 Romans 5:1-11

Gospel John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,

near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

Jacob’s well was there.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.

It was about noon.
A woman
of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her,

“Give me a drink.”

His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him,

“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”

—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—

Jesus answered and said to her,

“If you knew the gift of God

and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘

you would have asked him

and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him,

“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;

where then can you get this living water?

Are you greater than our father Jacob,

who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself

with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;

but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;

the water I shall give will become in him

a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him,

“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty

or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
said to her,

“Go call your husband and come back.”

The woman answered and said to him,

“I do not have a husband.”

Jesus answered her,

Jesus answered her,

“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’

For you have had five husbands,

and the one you have now is not your husband.

What you have said is true.”

The woman said to him,

“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.

Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;

but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her,

“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming

when you will worship the Father

neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

You people worship what you do not understand;

we worship what we understand,

because salvation is from the Jews.

But the hour is coming, and is now here,

when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and

and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

God is Spirit, and those who worship him

must worship in Spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him,

“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;

when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus said to her,

“I am he, the one speaking with you.”
At that
moment his disciples returned,

and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,

but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”

or “Why are you talking with her?”

The woman left her water jar

and went into the town and said to the people,

“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.

Could he possibly be the Christ?”

They went out of the town and came to him.

Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”

But he said to them,

“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”

So the disciples said to one another,

“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”

Jesus said to them,

“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me

and to finish his work.

Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?

I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.

The reaper is already receiving payment

and gathering crops for eternal life,

so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.

For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another

I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;

others have done the work,

and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”
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.”

When the Samaritans came to him,

they invited him to stay with them;

and he stayed there two days.

Many more began to believe in him because of his word,

and they said to 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.”
A woman
of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her,"Give me a

begins the dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman, in
which Jesus promises her “living water” which will last
eternally. This idea of “living water” is often taken as being
the main theme of this passage, or at least one of them, and
rightly so.

But for me, the fact that this encounter takes place at a well
puts the whole story in a different light. I am reminded of
other stories, Old Testament stories where the well was a place
for romance and courtship! Specifically, it was at a well that
two of the great love stories of the Book of Genesis began:
Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel. (Jacob, of course, is
mentioned three times in this Gospel text) .

In the case of Isaac, it was actually a servant sent by his father
Abraham who did the courting. [Genesis ch.24]. Abraham, as you
probably know, had been called by God to leave his homeland and
settle in the land of Canaan, but he dearly wished that his son
should marry a woman from among his own people – from among his
own kin, in fact. When the servant reaches his destination, he
stations himself by the well outside the city, in the evening
when the women will come to draw water. He prays urgently to God
that the young woman from whom he asks for a drink of water
(note the parallel with today’s Gospel!) will be the one whom
God has chosen for Isaac. This, of course, means she has to
fulfil Abraham’s requirement that she should be a close
kinswoman. The story continues:

There was
Rebekah …with her water jar on her shoulder. The girl was very
fair to look upon, a virgin, whom no man had known. She went
down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. Then the
servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me sip a little
water from your jar. “ “Drink, my lord,” she said. (vv
16-18a).Of course, it turns out that God has answered the
servant’s prayer: the girl is the daughter of Abraham’s brother.
After the negotiations are over, she leaves her home – with her
consent, mind – and goes with the servant to Canaan. When Isaac
meets her, we are told simply that “he took Rebekah, and she
became his wife, and he loved her.” (v. 67).
In the
case of Jacob, once again his father wants him to marry a girl
from among his own kinsfolk, and in this case, Jacob himself
goes a-courting. [Gen. ch. 29]. He arrives at his destination,
and again waits at a well. He enquires of some men there about
his uncle, Laban – this time, it is a relative on his mother’s
side – and, the story continues:

While he
was still speaking to them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep,
for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of
his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s
brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the
well’s mouth, and watered the flock… then Jacob kissed Rachel,
and wept aloud. (vv. 9-11)This time, Jacob doesn’t return home,
but – as we all know – he agrees to work for Laban for seven
years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. At the end of the
seven years, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying his elder
daughter, Leah, instead – so Jacob works yet another seven years
to win Rachel. How’s that for true love?
Back to
the Samaritan woman at the well: one curious section of the
dialogue is the discussion about the woman’s “husband”, when
Jesus informs her that she has had five husbands and her present
one is not her real one (4:16-18). I always found this to be a
rather jarring note, until I did a Bible Study course some years
ago. The teacher was Michael Trainor, a priest (of the best
kind!) as well as a respected New Testament scholar. He pointed
out that in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the word
“husband” was associated with God. God was often depicted by
means of the metaphor of the “husband”, married to his beloved
I have
always loved that image. It can be found in some of the
loveliest poetry in the Old Testament, such as in the following
passage from Isaiah. The context is God’s promise of the
restitution of Israel after the Babylonian exile:

You shall
no more be termed Forsaken/ And your land shall no more be
termed Desolate/ but you shall be called My Delight is in Her/
and your land, Married/ for the Lord delights in you,/ and your
land shall be married./ For as a young man marries a young
woman,/ so shall your builder marry you,/ and as the bridegroom
rejoices over the bride,/ so shall your God rejoice over you.
(Is.62:4-5) This certainly makes sense of Jesus’ mention of
“husbands” in his conversation with the Samaritan woman. Jesus
is proposing a new “marriage” to her, a marriage with the God
whom he himself knows so intimately.

In the book of Genesis, when the Israelite nation was just
coming into being, it was important for the patriarchs Isaac and
Jacob to marry within their own kinship group. But now, anyone
and everyone can be drawn into union with God, even across lines
that separate people, such as Jews and Samaritans.
What’s more, humans will no longer be one step removed from God,
as it were – as a result of formal worship, be it in the Temple
or on the Samaritan mountain or wherever else. God now wants us
to worship “in Spirit and truth”. Each person can be intimately
and personally embraced by God.
It’s a love story that continues to this day.

Somehow I
felt this reflection needed a beautiful art work to illustrate
it. I came across a photo of a lovely and rather unusual
sculpture by Stephen Broadbent entitled “The
Water of Life”.

by CathyT ,
Adelaide, South Australia, Friday, March 21, 2014, 17:59