The Woman at the Well

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A) - John 4:5-42

At the end of her conversation at the well, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Now surely we can say: SHE IS A BELIEVER!

She leaves her water jar and quickly went into town to tell others about Jesus. Do you have that same sense of urgency to share what you know about Christ? Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in Christ because of the word of this woman’s testimony!

The people of that town invited him to stay with them, and ‘He stayed there two days.’ Many more began to believe in him because of His word. The story concludes with their stating “we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

The word of God must be transmitted by person to person. God cannot deliver his message to those who have never heard it unless there is someone to deliver it. It is at once our privilege and our responsibility to bring people to Christ. The introduction cannot be made unless there is a person to make it. That introduction is made on the strength of personal witness. The cry of the woman was “He told me everything I have done”.

It was not to a theory that she called her neighbors. The power of Jesus’ love and compassion had really overtaken her. The kingdoms of the world can only expand into the kingdom of the Lord when men and women themselves experience the power of Christ, and then transmit that experience to others. 

Jesus is the Saviour. He rescues men from the evil and hopeless situations in which they find themselves. He breaks the chains that bind them to the past and gives them hope to meet the future. The Samaritan woman is in fact a great example of his saving power. The town she lived in would no doubt have labelled her a character beyond reform. They knew she has had five husbands and was living with a sixth man. And she would no doubt have agreed for herself that a respectable life was no longer attainable. But Jesus came and rescued her in two ways: He enables her to break away from her past and He opened a new future to her.  

In this story we can fully see God’s need for us to help build the Church. Let us hear some of Paul’s words on this subject. From his letter to the Romans (10:14): “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” 

As I said earlier: “God cannot deliver His message to those who have never heard it unless there is someone to deliver it.” It’s up to us individually and in our support of vocations – priests, woman religious, deacons, catechists – as well as providing resources for faith formation. Many of these things can only happen when there is positive support behind the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Yes – training of diocesan priests and deacons depends on the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. It just doesn’t fall out of the sky. 

There is yet another important lesson to be learned from this weekend’s Gospel from John. The first is Jesus’ loving acceptance of a woman with a sinful past, leading her to become a disciple witnessing Christ’s power. The second lesson is Jesus’ acceptance of a community of people who were foreign to his own culture. The Samaritans’ worship of Yahweh had mixed influences from other religions in the region. It was different enough from Jewish worship to cause the two groups to no longer associate with each other. The bad feeling between the two was further aggravated when the Samaritans offered to help rebuild the temple after the exile and were turned down by their Jewish brothers and sisters. Other incidents deepened the resentments and they became bitter enemies. The coming together of Jesus with the people in town for a couple of days and their praising him as the Savior of the world was a pretty amazing act of reconciliation between two cultures.

So today’s liturgy highlights the evil of exclusion on any level: in our personal lives, in our society, and in our religious structures. It demands that we ask the questions: Who is out? Who is in? Are we guilty of excluding others? Does this gospel passage challenge our attitudes about people who hold different points of view than we do? Perhaps we can add to our Lenten reflections our thoughts about other Christian brothers and sisters who worship differently than we do. Do we consider ourselves right and they are wrong? Our insistence that we are right can become an idol in and of itself.

The gospel continues to invite us to scrutinize in the areas of exclusion, sin, and idolatry, and to ask Christ, the liberator, to deliver us from evil. Amen!

Deacon Phil 


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