March 19, 2016
So he came to a city of Samar′ia, called Sy′char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There came a woman of Samar′ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar′ia?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that 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 have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain;[a] and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks 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 Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “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, “Has any one brought him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Just because we walk into a McDonalds, it doesn’t make us a hamburger. Speaking Jesus’ words doesn’t make me Jesus. As Father John waits impatiently for his doctor’s release, me standing here, giving this homily does not make me Father John. Nor does entering the doors of a church, make us Christians. But, when we enter the doors of the church, we should desire to be better Christians. Standing here giving this homily, should make me desire to be more like Father John. Speaking the words of Christ should make me desire to be more like Jesus. Walking into a McDonalds should make – wait a minute – strike the last part…[laughter]
So, today we begin a journey within a journey. The Scrutinies* are a 3-week journey to help us during our Lenten journey to dig a little bit deeper. – to strive for the light, to live a new way. Now, we know from Genesis that in the beginning the world was covered with water and darkness. And then God separated the darkness with light, and the water with land. And then He created life. We’re going to see this scend replayed on Easter Vigil, when our Elect are plunged into the darkness under the waters of Baptism and raised back up to receive the light, which is symbolized by a lit candle, and join a new life. This is something we should all desire – a holy longing, if you will, to belong to a community of like believers. And so, the title of this 3-week series – Belonging.
Have you ever awakened after a really deep sleep, and just been totally out-of-kilter? It takes a while to really figure out what’s going on. That’s what we hear in today’s Gospel reading. Things are completely out-of-kilter. Jesus doesn’t leave the Apostles to find some quiet place, but rather He sends them away.
A woman comes to draw water from the well at the hottest part of the day. Now all the women would normally come to draw their water early in the morning when its nice and cool, and it would become a social event, where they would share stories, and share events that had happened. But this woman has come alone, in the heat of the day, and is obviously living outside of society. She’s an outcast. And yet, Jesus says to her, “Give me a drink.” But she doesn’t give Him a drink. Rather, she asks Him why a Jew would ask a Samaritan for anything, because for her, this was out-of-kilter. Why? Because while Samaritans were technically Jews, they were looked down on by the Jews returned from the exile – Jews who saw themselves as more pure of blood. And when Israel would be conquered, which happened several times, the conquerors took only the best and brightest – the leaders – into exile. So, Samaritans were pretty much left up in their hills, where they would eventually marry those who had conquered them, diluting the purity of their Jewish blood, while also taking on the worship of pagan gods. This is why the Jews say the Samaritans as inferior.
But Jesus continues His conversation with her and tells her all about herself – about her 5 marriages, which bears a strong resemblance to the Samaritan people’s relationship to each of the conquerors. But does the woman become offended by His words?
Due to my job here, I have the opportunity from time to time to go to lunch with our pastor. That can be a very entertaining time. But when it comes to dessert, if there is tres leches cake, Father John will transform before your very eyes. He becomes very eloquent in speaking about how he was the first person to discover tres leches cake. [laughter] He tells you about the ingredients. He tells you about how it’s made. He tells you about what’s the best temperature to serve it, and what’s the best time to serve it. All with this evangelistic fervor that makes you desire this tres leches cake so much. So much that you are going to want it for breakfast. [laughter] You’re going to want it for lunch. You’re going to want it for dinner, for any snack time that you could possibly have. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you’re going to want to put your clothes on and go find tres leches cake.
No, the Samaritan woman was not offended. Instead, she becomes the greatest of all the pre-Resurrection evangelists. She sees her encounter with Jesus much as Father John’s description of tres leches cake. She returns to the town and tells everyone about the man she had met while drawing water and does it with such fire that everyone wants to meet Him, to speak to Him, and to hear Him preach.
She came to that well thirsting, expecting what she has always known – that stagnant water at the bottom of the well. Instead, she went away something more. She had become living water, on fire for the Word. Jesus was thirsting also, as we hear. He was thirsting for the conversion of this woman, and all who would hear the word of God.
The woman at the well was an outcast who had a holy longing to belong – to belong to something greater than she had ever known. She was thirsting, and Jesus gave her drink. The people wanted to meet Jesus, not because they knew of who Jesus was, but rather because they trusted the words of this woman in her evangelistic fire, and listened to her, and invited her back into their trust. And then they invited Jesus and the Apostles to stay with them for 2 days and to share the Word.
Just stepping into a McDonalds doesn’t make us a hamburger. Just because she married 5 times and lived with a man presently not her husband did not make her bad is the eyes of Jesus. Just because we make mistakes doesn’t make us evil, any more than attending church makes us good.
Next week – the Second Scrutiny – we’re going to hear about the healing of the blind man who is also an outcast from society, believed to be unclean, simply because he was born blind. But Jesus, once again, is going to stand the world on its head, and another with a holy longing is allowed to enter society and a state of belonging.
Do you thirst? Do you hunger for Christ? When we speak of the Eucharist, we should all speak as Father John speaks of tres leches cake – with such love, such wonder, such desire that everyone who hears us speak wants what we have. That’s what the woman at the well did. Today is our chance. Our chance to experience a new and beautiful state of belonging.
*The Scrutinies are very special rites that are celebrated on the middle three Sundays of Lent, at liturgies where the Elect are present. The Elect are those in our midst who are preparing for Baptism.
At least that’s what I heard Him say…