Sunday, February 24, 2008

Third Sunday of Lent

28A Third Sunday of Lent

Catechism Links
CCC 1214-1216, 1226-1228: baptism, rebirth of water and Spirit
CCC 727-729: Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit
CCC 694, 733-736, 1215, 1999, 2652: the Holy Spirit, the living water, a gift of God
CCC 604, 733, 1820, 1825, 1992, 2658: God takes the initiative; hope from the Spirit

CCC Cross Reference:
Ex 17:1-6 694; Ex 17:2-7 2119
Ps 95:1-6 2628; Ps 95:7-8 2659; Ps 95:7 1165; Ps 95:9 2119
Rom 5:3-5 2734, 2847; Rom 5:5 368, 733, 1820, 1964, 2658; Rom 5:8 604
Jn 4:6-7 544; Jn 4:10-14 694, 1137; Jn 4:10 728, 2560, 2561; Jn 4:14 728, 1999, 2557, 2652; Jn 4:21 586; Jn 4:22 528, 586; Jn 4:23-24 586, 728; Jn 4:24 1179; Jn 4:25-26 439; Jn 4:34 606, 2611, 2824

Back to Deacon’s Bench
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Back to SOW II '14
Back to SOW II '17

Reading 1
Ex 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the Lord,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The Lord answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the Lord, saying,
“Is the Lord in our midst or not?”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the Lord who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading II
Rom 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel
Jn 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

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 become 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 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.”

or

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

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 become 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.

“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.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
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.”

Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

First reading Exodus 17:3 – 7

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’ Moses appealed to the Lord.

‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

Psalm: Psalm 94(95):1-2,6-9

 O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
  hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
  with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
  let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
  the people who belong to his pasture,
  the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
  ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
  as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
  when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Second reading Romans 5:1 – 8

We have seen that, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Gospel John 4:5 – 42

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman 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, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water’.

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life’.

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband’. He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything’. ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about’. So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:
‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the savior of the world’.

Alternative Gospel: John 4:5-16,19-26,39-42

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman 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, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water. I see you are a prophet, sir. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’
Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

Readings and Commentary from the Navarre Bible

3rd Sunday of Lent

From: Exodus 17:3-7

The Water from the Rock
-------------------------------------
[3] But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" [4] So Moses cried to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." [5] And the LORD said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. [6] Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. [7] And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the Lord to the proof by saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

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Commentary:

17:1-7. The severity of desert life (notably hunger and thirst) leads God to help the Israelites in various ways, all of them full of theological implications. The miracle of the manna, which was preceded by that of the water which Moses made drinkable (15:22-25), is followed by a new work of wonder to do with water: Moses causes water to flow from a rock. This happened at Rephidim, probably what is now Wadi Refayid, some 13 km (8 miles) from Djebel Mfisa.

The sons of Israel's faith in God and in Moses has been strengthening little by little; but they often doubt whether God is there at all (v. 7). They begin to murmur and to seek proofs of his presence: have they been brought out of Egypt to die, or to attain salvation? The water which Moses causes to come out of the rock is a further sign to bolster their faith. This episode names two places -- Meribah, which in popular etymology means "contention", "dispute", "lawsuit", and Massah, which is "proof', "test", "temptation". Many biblical passages recall this sin ( cf. Deut 6: 16; 9:22-24; 33:8; Ps 95:8-9), even adding that Moses himself lacked faith and struck the rock twice (cf. Num 20:1-13; Deut: 32:51; Ps 106:32). Lack of trust in the goodness and power of God means tempting God and it is a grave sin against faith -- even more so in the case of Moses, who had experienced God's special love and who ought to have given good example. When man meets some contradiction or some difficulty he cannot immediately solve, his faith may waver but he should never doubt, because "if deliberately cultivated, doubt can lead to spiritual blindness" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church", 2008).

There is a rabbinical tradition which says that the rock stayed with the Israelites throughout their sojourn in the desert; St Paul refers to this legend when he says "the Rock was Christ" (1 Cor 10:4). On the basis of biblical references to the wondrous nature of waters (cf. Ps 78:15-16; 105:4; Wis 11:4-14) the Fathers said this episode prefigures the wonderful effects of Baptism: "See the mystery: 'Moses' is the Prophet; the rod is the word of God; the priest touches the rock with the word of God, and water flows, and the people of God drink" (St Ambrose, "De Sacramentis", 8, 5, 1, 3).

*********************************************************************************************
From: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

Reconciliation Through Christ's Sacrifice, the Basis of our Hope
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through Him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. [5] And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [6] While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man--though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. [8] But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

*********************************************************************************************
Commentary:

1-5. In this very moving passage God helps us see "the divine interlacing of the three theological virtues which form the backing upon which the true life of every Christian man or woman has to be woven" (St. J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 205). Faith, hope and charity act in us in turn, causing us to grow in the life of grace. Thus, faith leads us to know and be sure of things we hope for (cf. Hebrews 11:1); hope ensures that we shall attain them, and enlivens our love of God; charity, for its part, gives us energy to practise the other two theological virtues. The definitive outcome of this growth in love, faith and hope is the everlasting peace that is of the essence of eternal life.

As long as we are in this present life we do have peace to some degree--but with tribulation. Therefore, the peace attainable in this life does not consist in the contentment of someone who wants to have no problems, but rather in the resoluteness full of hope ("character") of someone who manages to rise above suffering and stays faithful through endurance. Suffering is necessary for us, because it is the normal way to grow in virtue (cf. James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:5-7); that is why it is providential (cf. Philippians 1:19; Colossians 1:24) and leads to joy and happiness (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

"A person who hopes for something and strives eagerly to attain it is ready to endure all kinds of difficulty and distress. Thus, for example, a sick person if he is eager to be healthy, is happy to take the bitter medicine which will cure him. Therefore, one sign of the ardent hope that is ours thanks to Christ is that we glory not only in the hope of future glory, but also in the afflictions which we suffer in order to attain it" (St. Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on Romans, ad loc.").

A person who lives by faith, hope and charity realizes that suffering is not something meaningless but rather is designed by God for our perfecting. Perfection consists "in the bringing of our wills so closely into conformity with the will of God that, as soon as we realize He wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might, and take the bitter with the sweet, knowing that to be His Majesty's will [...]. If our love is perfect, it has this quality of leading us to forget our own pleasure in order to please Him whom we love. And that is indeed what happens" (St. Teresa of Avila, "Book of Foundations", Chapter 5).

5. The love which St. Paul speaks of here is, at one and the same time, God's love for us--manifested in His sending the Holy Spirit--and the love which God places in our soul to enable us to love Him. The Second Council of Orange, quoting St. Augustine, explains this as follows: "To love God is entirely a gift of God. He, without being loved, loves us and enabled us to love Him. We were loved when we were still displeasing to Him, so that we might be given something whereby we might please Him. So it is that the Spirit of the Father and the Son, whom we love with the Father and the son, pours charity into our hearts" (Second Council of Orange, "De Gratia", Canon 25; cf. St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 102, 5).

6-11. The friendship which reigned in paradise between God and man was followed by the enmity created by Adam's sin. By promising a future redeemer, God once more offered mankind his friendship. The scale of God's love for us can be seen in the "reconciliation " which the Apostle speaks about, which took place on the Cross, when Christ did away with this enmity, making our peace with God and reconciling us to him (cf. Eph 2:15-16).

The petition in the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", is an invitation to imitate the way God treats us, because by loving our enemies "there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who, by the death of his Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to himself the human race, which before was most unfriendly and hostile to him " ("St Pius V Catechism", IV, 14, 19).

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From: John 4: 5-42

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
-------------------------------------------------
[5] He (Jesus) came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. [6] 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.

[7] There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." [8] For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. [9] The Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. [10] 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." [11] The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do You get that living water? [12] Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" [13] Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water I shall give him become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." [15] The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."

[16] Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." [17] The woman answered Him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband.'; [18] for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." [19] The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. [20] Our fathers worshipped on this mountain; and you say in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." [21] Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. [23] But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth." [25] The woman said to Him, "I know that the Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things." [26] Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

[27] Just then the disciples came. They marvelled that He was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" [28] So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, [29] "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" [30] They went out of the city and were coming to Him.

[31] Meanwhile the disciples besought Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." [32] But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." [33] So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought Him food?" [34] Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. [35] 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. [36] He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."

[39] Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." [40] So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of His word. [42] They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."

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Commentary:

4-5. There are two normal routes for going from Judea to Galilee. The shorter one went through the city of Samaria; the other, which followed the Jordan, was longer. Jesus took the Samaria route, perhaps not just because it was shorter and busier but also to have a chance of preaching to the Samaritans. When He was approaching Samaria, near Sychar, the present-day El 'Askar, at the foot of Mount Ebal, He met this Samaritan woman.

6. The Gospels, particularly St. John's, sometimes gives us a little bit of information which seem irrelevant but really are not. Like us, Jesus did get tired, He needed to take regular rest, He felt hunger and thirst; but despite His tiredness He does not waste an opportunity to do good to souls.

"Recollect yourselves and go over the scene again slowly in your minds. Jesus Christ, "perfectus Deus, perfectus homo", is tired out from His travels and His apostolic work. Perhaps there have been times when the same thing has happened to you and you have ended up worn out, because you have reached the limit of your resources. It is a touching sight to see our Master so exhausted. He is hungry too: His disciples have gone to a neighboring village to look for food. And He is thirsty [...].

"Whenever we get tired--in our work, in our studies, in our apostolic endeavors -- when our horizon is darkened by lowering clouds, then let us turn our eyes to Jesus, to Jesus who is so good, and who also gets tired; to Jesus who is hungry and suffers thirst. Lord, how well you make yourself understood! How lovable you are! You show us that you are just like us, in everything but sin, so that we can feel utterly sure that, together with you, we can conquer all our evil inclinations, all our faults. For neither weariness nor hunger matters, nor thirst, nor tears ... since Christ also grew weary, knew hunger, was thirsty, and wept. What is important is that we struggle to fulfill the will of our Heavenly Father, battling away goodheartedly, for our Lord is always at our side" (St. J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 176 and 201).

7. Jesus has come to save what was lost. He spares no effort in this mission. The hostility between Jews and Samaritans was proverbial; but Jesus embraced everyone, He loved all souls and He shed His blood for each and every person. He begins His conversation with this woman, by asking a favor of her – which indicates God's great respect for us: here we have Almighty God asking a mere creature to do Him a favor. "Give Me a drink": Jesus makes this request not just to share His physical thirst but because His love made Him thirst for the salvation of all men. When nailed to the cross He again said: "I thirst" (John 19:28).

9. The Samaritan woman's reply starts the dialogue and shows how well she is responding to the action of grace in her soul: her readiness to talk to Christ, who was a Jew, is the first stage in her change of heart. Later (verse 11), by taking a real interest in what Christ is saying, she opens up further to God's influence. Her religious feelings begin to revive ("our father Jacob": verse 12). Jesus rewards her and she replies truthfully: "I have no husband" (verse 17, omitted); and, seeing that Jesus has penetrated the intimacy of her conscience, she makes an act of faith: "I perceive that You are a prophet" (verse 19).

10. As in His dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus makes use of common expressions, to get across teachings of a much deeper nature. Everyone knows from experience that water is absolutely necessary for human life; similarly, the grace of Christ is absolutely necessary for supernatural life. The water which can truly quench man's thirst does not come from this or any other well: it is Christ's grace, the "living water" which provides eternal life.

Once again, taking occasion of human interests and preoccupations, Jesus awakes a desire for things supernatural; in the same way as He led St. Peter and others away from their work as fishermen to involve them in the apostolic work of being fishers of men, He leads the Samaritan woman away from her chore of drawing water from the well to the point where she desires to find this better water which wells up to eternal life (verse 14).

13-14. Our Lord's reply is surprising and really captures the woman's attention. Here is something greater than Jacob, someone offering her water that will quench her thirst once and for all. Christ is referring to the change worked in every person by sanctifying grace, a share in God's own life, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the soul, the great gift which those who believe in Him will receive.

We worry about the future, we are full of desires to be happy and at peace; a person who receives our Lord and remains united to Him as a branch to the vine (cf. John 15:4-5) will not only slake his thirst but become a well of living water (cf. John 7:37-39).

16-19. Although the woman cannot yet realize the deep meaning of what He is saying, Jesus uses her growing interest to reveal to her His divinity, little by little: He shows that He knows about her life, the secrets of her heart; He can read her conscience. In this way, He gives her enough to motivate her to make her first act of faith: "I perceive that You are a prophet". Her conversion has begun.

20. The origin of the Samaritan people goes back to the period of the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians in the eight century before Christ (cf. 2 Kings 13: 24-31). They were foreigners who very quickly integrated with the Israelites in the region. After the Babylonian captivity they tried to ally themselves with the Jews for political reasons and to contribute to the rebuilding of the temple, but the Jews would have none of them. From that time onwards the Jews and the Samaritans were always hostile to each other (cf. Ezra 4:1ff; John 4:9).

On this occasion, the Samaritan woman, now fully aware that she is speaking to someone of authority, asks our Lord one of the key questions affecting the religious life of the two peoples: where was the right place to offer worship to God; the Jews held that only Jerusalem would do; whereas the Samaritans claimed that the shrine erected on Mount Gerizim was also legitimate (they based their claim on some passages in the Pentateuch: cf. Genesis 12:7; 33:20; 22:2).

21-24. Jesus not only answers the question but takes advantage of it to confirm the value of the teachings of the prophets and thereby reaffirm revealed truth: the Samaritans are in the dark about many of God's plans because they do not accept any revelation not found in the first five books of Sacred Scripture, that is, in the Law of Moses; the Jews, on the other hand, are much nearer the truth because they accept the whole of the Old Testament. But both Samaritans and Jews need to open themselves to the new Revelation of Jesus Christ. With the coming of the Messiah, whom both peoples are awaiting, and who is the true dwelling-place of God among men (cf. John 2:19), the new, definitive, Alliance has begun; and neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem count any more; what the Father wishes is for all to accept the Messiah, His Son, the new temple of God, by offering Him a form of worship which comes right from the heart (cf. John 12:1; 2 Timothy 2:22) and which the Spirit of God Himself stirs people to render (cf. Romans 8:15).

This is why the Church's solemn Magisterium teaches that through Baptism we become true worshippers of God: "By Baptism men are grafted into the paschal mystery of Christ; they die with him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him. They receive the spirit of adoption as sons 'in which we cry, Abba, Father' (Romans 8: 15) and thus become true adorers as the Father seeks" (Vatican II, "Sacrosanctum Concilium", 6).

25-26. This is the last stage in the Samaritan woman's conversion: she has come from acknowledging her sins to accepting the true teaching about worshipping the Father in spirit and truth. But she still has to recognize Jesus as the Messiah; on this subject she simply confesses her ignorance. Seeing that she is favorably disposed, Jesus explicitly reveals that He is the Messiah: "I who speak to you am He".

These words of our Lord are especially significant: He declares that He is the Messiah, and He uses words--'I...am He"--which evoke the words Yahweh used to reveal Himself to Moses (cf. Exodus 3:14) and which on Jesus' lips indicate a revelation not only of His messiahship but also of His divinity (cf. John 8:24, 28, 58; 18:6).

27. "During the course of His life on earth, Jesus our Lord had all manner of insults heaped upon Him and was mistreated in every way possible. Remember the way it was rumored that He was a trouble-maker and how He was said to possessed (cf. Matthew 11:18). At other times, demonstrations of His infinite Love were deliberately misinterpreted, and He was accused of being a friend of sinners (cf. Matthew 9:11).

"Later on He, who personified penance and moderation, was accused of haunting the tables of the rich (cf. Luke 19:7). He was also contemptuously referred to as "fabri filius" (Matthew 13:55), the carpenter's son, the worker's son, as if this were an insult. He allowed Himself to be denounced as a glutton and a drunkard....He let His enemies accuse Him of everything, except that He was not chaste. On this point He sealed their lips, because He wanted us to keep a vivid memory of His immaculate example--a wonderful example of purity, of cleanliness, of light, of a love that can set the whole world on fire in order to purify it.

"For myself, I always like to consider holy purity in the light of our Lord's own behavior. In practicing this virtue, what refinement He showed! See what St. John says about Jesus when "fatigatus ex itinere, sedebat sic super fontem" (John 4: 6), wearied as He was from the journey, He was sitting by the well. [...]

"But tired though His body is, His thirst for souls is even greater. So when the Samaritan woman, the sinner, arrives, Christ with His priestly heart turns eagerly to save the lost sheep, and He forgets His tiredness, His hunger and His thirst.

Our Lord was busy with this great work of charity the Apostles came back from the village, and they "mirabantur quia cum muliere loquebatur" (John 4:27), they were astonished to find Him taking to a woman alone. How careful He was! What love He had for the beautiful virtue of holy purity, that virtue which helps us to be stronger, more manly, more fruitful, better able to work for God, and more capable of undertaking great things!" (St. J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 176).

28-30. Grace brings about an amazing change in this woman. Now her whole thinking centers around Jesus; she forgets what brought her to the well' she leaves her pitcher behind her and goes off to the town to tell people about her discovery. "The Apostles, when they were called, left their nets; this woman leaves her water jar and proclaims the Gospel, calling not just one person but influencing the whole city" (St. John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St. John", 33). Every genuine conversion is necessarily projected towards others, in a desire to have them share in the joy of encountering Jesus.

32-38. Our Lord uses the occasion to speak about a spiritual form of food—doing the will of God. He has just brought about the conversion of a sinful woman and His spirit feels replete. The conversion of souls must be the Apostles' food also, and the food of all those who through priestly ordination are sacramentally associated with Christ's ministry (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9-15; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 11: 27-29). Apostolic work sometimes means sowing, with no apparent results, and sometimes reaping where others sowed. The Apostles will reap what was generously sown by the patriarchs and prophets and especially by Christ. And they in their turn must prepare the ground, with the same generosity, so that others can later reap the harvest.

But it is not only ministers who have this apostolic role: all the faithful are called to take part in the work of apostolate: "Since all Christians have different gifts they should collaborate in the work of the Gospel, each according to his opportunity, ability, charism and ministry; all who sow and reap, plant and water, should be one so that 'working together for the same end in a free and orderly manner' they might together devote their powers to the building up of the Church (Vatican II, "Ad Gentes", 28).

39-42. This episode shows a whole evangelization process at work, beginning with the Samaritan woman's enthusiasm. 'The same thing happens today with those who are outside, who are not Christians: they receive tidings of Christ through Christian friends; like that woman, they learn of Christ through the Church; then they come to Christ, that is, they believe in Christ through this report, and then Jesus stays two days among them and many more believe, and believe more firmly, that He indeed is the Savior of the world" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 15, 33).

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Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

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