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Purple Podiums

Breaking Open the Word

3rd Sunday of Lent

March 12, 2023

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Poor Moses! The Jews have been so much trouble for him after he freed them from slavery in Egypt. What with the parting the Red Sea, calling on God to feed them manna and quail, and after having a personal encounter with God and receiving the Ten Commandments, and that incident with the golden calf, these people are driving him crazy, and now they want to stone him. Talk about ungrateful, and he spoke of their hardness of heart. At least twice Moses even asked God to just take his life. What he has been through! This book of Exodus is filled with great miracles similar to the gospels. In the first reading he has a new problem, no water in the desert. But God is always with him, and now He tells Moses to strike a rock and water will flow, and so it does. In the spirit of Jesus’ words in the gospel, this is truly physical living water because without it they would all die in the desert. But it’s just a type for the living water Jesus is offering.

The responsorial psalm seems directly aimed at the people of the first reading. If only they would have had this attitude towards God, it even speaks to them. To us, it reminds us that God is faithful and we need to place our trust in Him and warns us not to be like those people.

In the second reading, St. Paul writes that the first effect of justification (being made "right" with God) is that the believer experiences peace. Paul uses the Greek word in the same sense as the Hebrew word shalom, meaning the fullness of a right relationship. In this case, it is peace with God that results in our rightly ordered and obedient relationship with Him through the New and everlasting covenant in the blood of Jesus the Messiah.

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Gospel Explained

There is an even bigger story than just Jesus and the woman at the well. The city Sychar could be a bad translation of Shechem, which fits perfectly both theologically and geographically in the encounter between Jesus and the people of Samaria. There is a lot of history in the Old Testament in this area: covenants made and broken, murders and battles, and a great division.

King David had united the whole area of the 12 tribes of Jacob (Israel) into one, and after his son King Solomon died in 930 B.C. the leaders of the 12 tribes met at this site to proclaim his son Rehoboam the new king. But he caused the great division that separated the Southern kingdom of Judah from the Northern kingdom of Israel, which existed to the days of Jesus. Shechem became the capital of the Northern Kingdom, while Jerusalem was the capital of the Southern Kingdom. It is no small coincidence that this story takes place at this location.

In the dialog between the woman at the well and Jesus, you can sense the separation of the Jewish (Southern) and the Samaritan (Northern) people. Jesus has come to this very location to bring the separated halves together. Samaria and Galilee (Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum) are all part of the Northern kingdom. Many gospel stories show that Jesus clearly cared for the people of this area; recall the Good Samaritan story and the healing of the 10 lepers. So this story is the beginning of the end of the great separation.

This story takes place at Jacob’s well, where he gave its water to his children, which would become the 12 tribes of Israel.

Jesus asks for a drink, and the woman rejects His request as socially not possible, and she shows the animosity between their religions, even to deny Him just a cup of water to a thirsty man on a hot day. The beginning of His reply is easily missed. He tells her “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you...” Jesus is not just thirsty, He’s on a mission, for her. At first, she called Him a Jew. Then as she got more curious of Him, she called him Sir. When He told of her sins, she called Him a prophet. Finally, to the village folks she called Him the Messiah, the Christ.

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Today's Theme

The theme for this Sunday’s readings is redemption.

This is a great example of how Jesus asks for something before He has something to give. The water was the common ground between the woman and Jesus. Water was the purpose of the woman’s visit, and Jesus used water to reach her. She rejected His request for a drink because she was a Samaritan, He a Jew, and He should not be talking to a woman alone. But Jesus then offers her a drink of life giving water. She thinks it will forever satisfy her thirst and wants it, but can’t see how He can provide it. He is offering her an amazing gift, His grace, but she is not ready for it yet.

She first needs to acknowledge her sinful life and Jesus helps point that out to her. When He does it shocks her, and she calls Him a prophet. She now realizes He is talking about something more than just water, and they then have a discussion about the differences of their faiths. Jesus says soon that will come to an end and everyone will worship the same God in truth. When she speaks of the Messiah as one who will know everything, He then reveals clearly that He is the Messiah, the Christ. She is one of very few people that He directly disclosed this; to almost everyone else He spoke indirectly. When He said that, and as she realized He knew everything about her, she believed in Him. Then she received the living water, His redemption and grace. Filled with that gift she couldn’t contain it, and she completely ignored her reputation in that town and had to tell everyone about Him. Her enthusiasm was addictive, and they had to see this amazing man. Her word brought them to Jesus, and then hearing His word the whole town believed in Him as the Christ. Her gift of grace made her the very example of a disciple of Jesus.

In the Acts of the Apostles (Ch. 8) when the apostles were scattered because of persecution by the Jews, Philip went to a certain town in Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them. The people gave him their full attention and many were converted and baptized. Philip also cast out demons and healed many people, and there was great joy in that city. With the people so open to conversion, it is likely the same town near Jacob’s well where today’s gospel story occurred. When this news reached Jerusalem, Peter and John went there to see for themselves.

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Theme in our Life Today

There is a Godly intersection at Jacob’s well. Jesus did not take the usual route between Jerusalem and Galilee that all Jews took, down along the Jordan river to avoid going near the Samaritans. He intentionally took the high country route that passes through Samaria. No wonder He was thirsty and tired. And then He sent the apostles to town to get food, I wonder if this was just a way to be alone? Then the Samaritan woman arrives at the well. The town women typically went to the well together in the early morning or evening to escape the heat, but this woman came at the hottest time of the day. It’s likely she was there at noon to avoid the other women, who probably looked at her with disdain for her lifestyle. So it seems Jesus had intended to meet this woman alone at the exact time. He was intent on meeting her because He was hoping she would be His disciple to the people of her town.

Have you ever had an intersection with someone in a situation that changed you, or them? Were you surprised by the outcome afterwards, and thought that maybe God had His hand in the event, either for your sake or for the other person? God is always looking for people who simply make themselves available to do His work in the world. The woman in today’s story had made a mess of her life, but after the encounter at the well with Jesus, with great joy she went through her town telling everyone about Jesus and drawing them to Him. They believed her, in spite her well known bad reputation, because of the great graces Jesus had poured over her. She was filled with His living water. Jesus too was affected by her response to His living water, because He didn’t even feel like eating. Doing the Father’s will had filled Him up too.

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Prepare for Sunday

1. Can you think of a time that a chance meeting with someone made a permanent positive change in your life? If so, did you ever thank them?

2. Did you ever have a chance meeting with someone that made a permanent positive change in their life? If so, did you ever thank God for that?

3. Can you think of a time when you had an experience in your life that afterwards made you realize that you had an intersection with God?

Let us pray:

Lord God, Just like Jesus at Jacob’s well,
teach us to how to encounter people in our lives
that we might say to them "come and see."
May we be like the Samaritan woman:
willing to examine our lives in Jesus’ presence,
that we may be true worshipers of the Father in spirit and in truth,
that we may share with others what it is like to meet Jesus.
The truth revealed the unnamed woman’s faults,
yet liberated and redeemed her.
This Lent, may your truth reveal us to ourselves and set us free in you.

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