John 4:5-42
An Encounter that Transforms, by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

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 becomes 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.”

Jesus 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, “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 truth; 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 who is 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 reaps.’  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.”

The beautiful story of the Samaritan woman in this week's Gospel recounts a powerful encounter of a hurting woman with the Savior of the world.  Typical of John the Evangelist, this story drips with meaning and depth.  It is perfect for Lent because it addresses the issues of encountering the living God, repentance and new life in Christ. 

Jesus runs into a woman at Jacob's well who is a religious and social outcast to the Jews because she is from Samaria.  He asks her for a drink when in fact He intends to give her living water that wells up to eternal life.  He engages her in a conversation that stirs up in her soul the ever-present longing for meaning, lasting peace and perfect love.  Then, Jesus proceeds to offer these gifts to her.

"His disciples had gone into the town to buy food."  Jesus works to make this personal encounter possible.  He breaks with a variety of religious traditions of the day.  It is not common for a rabbi to be present to women in public, especially alone.  When His disciples came back they are surprised that He is alone with her.  In truth, Jesus desires to have a personal encounter and a personal relationship with every one of His Father's children, including you and me.

Next, Jesus removes the obstacles in her life that keep her from receiving the gifts He has to offer.  "Go call your husband and come back"  Something in Jesus' person, His words, tone, eyes and gestures, enables this woman to see her sinfulness and brokenness without getting defensive and running off.  The Lord even states that she has had five husbands and that her present one is in fact, not really her husband.  Jesus touches her heart with His truth and love in such a way that she sees her sins and quickly repents of them.

"The woman left her water jar and went into town."  So enthralled by this life-giving encounter with Emmanuel, the woman forgets why she had gone to the well and she runs into town to tell people about her encounter.  Interestingly, she chooses to invite them to "come see a man who told me everything I have done."  Perhaps her witness continues along these lines: "He knows me better than I know myself.  You have to meet Him.  He has changed my life and given meaning to it in a matter of minutes at Jacob's well.  You have to come and see this man!"  It is also worth noting that these were probably the same people in town that she was trying to avoid by going to the well at noon time.

The woman's testimony about Jesus was convincing: "Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified."  They invite Jesus to stay with them, which He does for two days.  In the end, they come to believe as well.  In fact, their faith grows to a new level because the town people report, "And we know that this is truly the savior of the world."  The Samaritan woman becomes an effective evangelist.

God wants this woman's story to become our story this Lent.  Jesus wants to set up a personal encounter with each of us that is life-transforming.  Jesus wants to help us confront our sin and other obstacles to a healthy relationship with Him.  He wants to shower His mercy upon us and renew the gift of life within us.  Then, Our Lord wants us to go into town and share the good news of His redeeming love with the world.  He wants us to be evangelists.  How is your Lent going so far?

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