Meet Me at the Well
Third Sunday of Lent 2023
I am certain you recall the sermon from two weeks ago:
“Lent is meant to be an experience of newfound intimacy with Christ.”
Walk with me through this moving encounter in our gospel,
an experience of newfound intimacy with Christ.
Samaria, to the west of the River Jordan, between Judea (Bethlehem, Jerusalem…) and Galilee (Cana, Nazareth…).
Samaritans, disliked “half-breeds” considered to have defiled the Jewish faith.
Jesus, however, travels freely through Samaria and interacts freely with Samaritans.
A deliberate encounter at the well, the well where Jacob met Rachel (Genesis 29).
Was that a prefiguration of this?
Does Jesus come spiritually to “espouse” the Samaritan woman,
whose life is drudgery, whose heart is broken?
Is Jesus being revealed as Bridegroom of our souls?
High noon, i.e. the sun at its peak--not the hour to draw water.
“Tired out by his journey” (4:6; chosen, real fatigue), Jesus sits.
A strategic initiative.
So to encounter this woman alone, Jesus sends the disciples to fetch lunch,
them whose presence would likely have been intimidating.
The Samaritan woman’s daily routine, going through the motions, exhausted.
Jesus engages her rather directly; seemingly rude.
“Give me a drink.” ...no introduction, no “please”, nothing.
Some might have responded,“Excuse me: who are you?”
She could have responded, “Nobody tells me what to do.”
Why is Jesus not gentler, more inviting and poetic with her,
beaten by life and by the mid-day sun,
Unfortunately, Jesus’ tone cannot be heard.
Jesus seeks to awaken, to reach through the heaviness.
She is understandably unable to respond with enthusiastic interest.
Not an order, not a command.
Jesus chooses to be vulnerable with her, to beg from her.
Unfortunately, her tone cannot be heard.
Cynicism? Disturbance at Jesus’ forwardness?Surprise at Jesus’ freedom?
Jesus does surpass two strong barriers: a Samaritan and a woman.
She asks about Jesus’ disregard of protocol: “How is it?”
Jesus responds with mysterious references: “the gift of God”, “living water”…
Not immediately or exactly on the same page.
Blasé and burdened, she only manages to point out
that Jesus is ill-equipped to draw water! You don’t even have a bucket.
Little by little, Jesus reaches her and reveals a gift.
She begins to want it, somewhat self-servingly.
It would mean no more fetching water, i.e. no more drudgery (!).
Jesus capitalizes on the gradual awakening of her heart.
He asks her to fetch, not water, but her husband.
The latest fellow, however, doesn’t even qualify as “husband”.
Why this request when aware of her pain and her despair?
His finger right on the painful wound.
Perhaps the only way truly to reach her: take the initiative,
and uncover her well-guarded sore Himself.
Jesus reads into her broken heart--lovingly.
The sign of this?
Instead of crushing embarrassment,she recognizes in Jesus a prophet
who can receive another, deeper wound of her heart,
which she has had since childhood, regarding worship.
Not uncommon and odd as it may sound,
a deeper wound, for deeper love even than spousal love.
“Hurt by church”, conflicting stories, unsure and stifled heart,
she no longer worships.
Jesus, however, opens and heals her heart.
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship.
What Jesus reveals Jesus gives.
Henceforth, thanks to Jesus, the Messiah, worship is in spirit and in truth.
What does this mean?
We worship with Jesus, Who, being the God-man, alone worships perfectly.
And Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to us who know not how to pray.
In spirit: worship in the Holy Spirit, Who prays in us, and enables us to pray.
In truth: worship in all that we are, including our bodies.
Our form of worship, by the way, sets the stage and invites this well…
Jesus heals this woman in her two wounds.
They don’t necessarily disappear, but they no longer have the last word.
She will freely love.
He gives her living water
that will become…a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.
Living water? Water is normally not “living”…
Ahhh: a metaphor to indicate something that flows from its source.
Living water is divine love, love connected to its source: God.
Divine love heals us and enables us to love again—one another and God,
and it ought to gush.
This woman has found her purpose and her freedom,
in being loved by and loving the Messiah.
The small but significant sign of this?
The woman left her water jar and went back to the city.
Her little claim to fame, amidst the drudgery, relativized and unimportant.
Let us, this day, this morning,
find and be found again by the One who is our purpose and our freedom:
Jesus, Who reads into and welcomes our hearts,
Who comes to us in quiet, real ways, especially in the Eucharist.
He takes the initiative and meets you in your fatigue, your heaviness, your burdens, your struggle to worship, your well-guarded wounds, your broken heart.