Reflection for Sunday – March 12, 2023

Readings: Exodus 17: 3-7; Romans 5: 1-2, 5-8; John 4: 5-42 
Preacher: Sr. Joan Sobala

The Samaritan city of Sychar in today’s Gospel is called Nablus today—a city that is regarded as a dangerous place of overt friction between Palestinians and Israelis, as we saw a few weeks ago on the news.

The ancient well is still there, where weary passers-by can still refresh themselves at its cool waters.

Jesus sat at that well.  His disciples had gone off to buy provisions. As Jesus rested, He realized He was thirsty, but had no means to get water from the well. Along came a nameless Samaritan woman with a complicated past.  As she drew water, he said to her:

“Give me a drink.”

Startled, the Samaritan woman responded: “You are a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?”

This part of the Gospel story stunned Jewish listeners, for Jews and Samaritans had nothing to do with one another. How dare a rabbi speak in public to a Samaritan woman?  Neither religious law nor social convention would allow it. The interaction was unseemly and just not done.

But Jesus, in speaking with this woman, shattered convention and showed that a new order governed relationships. For her part, the woman must have found his kindness as refreshing as the cool water of the well.

By asking her for water and by accepting the water from her, Jesus made a difference to this woman. He honored her dignity. By acknowledging her past without condemning her, Jesus gave her new motivation. By revealing himself to her as the Messiah, Jesus shared his own gift with her—salvation true and real. She became a missionary to the villagers among whom she was formerly unacceptable.

Who is today’s Samaritan woman? Who do you and I ignore because of the accident their birth? Whose dignity do we tarnish because they don’t think and feel as we do? Whom do we refuse a drink from our own precious well because they are a stranger? Whose life do we limit because they don’t laugh or love or pray as we do? Who is diminished by our antagonism or worse—by our indifference?

Jesus is presented in this Gospel as the great bridge-builder, the one who breaks down traditional animosities and prejudices. He is the living proof that God’s love extends far beyond our own.

Paul makes the same point about the breadth of God’s love in today’s second reading, where he reminds us that God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… while we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.

Early on in the Israelites journey of God in the Old Testament, as we see In the first reading today, the Israelites in the desert went to Moses with their thirst. Moses went to God who told Moses to strike the rock and there it was, thirst- quenching water. Jesus, Moses and Paul all knew that, in things large and small, God would provide and there would be life-giving changes because God provided.

All three readings today are a kind of anticipation of Easter, for it has always been at Easter that the Christian Community welcomed new members into its midst through the Sacrament of Baptism. Jesus’ promise to the Samaritan woman of a spring gushing up to eternal life is fulfilled again and again when women and men in every generation recognize Jesus as savior.

The reality of God’s love, which has been poured out into our hearts, compels us to be bridge-builders as well. Bridge-building takes imagination, and imagination leads to risk taking.

Jesus showed a lot of imagination and took a big risk in today’s Gospel. The woman was dumbfounded that he would speak with her. The disciples with Jesus were too.

If we really want to think of ourselves as His disciples, if our baptism means anything to us at all, then let’s pray during these remaining weeks until Easter for more imagination in looking at our world and at one another.

                                       Look and look and look

                                       until we really see in one another

                                       what Jesus sees in people.

Pray that we are ready to take the same kind of risk in reaching out to others that Jesus took–and takes in our day.

In the face of all the negativity rampant on our world, with whom have we taken a risk as we rightly ask ourselves:

Who has given me a cup of cold water?  To whom have I given a cup of cold water?

Sr. Joan Sobala, SSJ
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