Lent 3 A - Samaritan Woman at the Well

A Samaritan Woman Evangelist:
There is a Greek monastery at Mount Athos in which nothing female is allowed. Men can enter but not women, roosters but not hens, horses but not mares, bulls but not cows.  Armed guards patrol the border to insure that nothing feminine passes the gates.  It has been this way for more than 700 years. [Arnold Prater, The Presence, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993).]  Separate but definitely not equal: that has been the attitude toward women of many churches through the ages.  So, it's really remarkable that this particular Samaritan evangelist happens to be a woman.  She would be as surprised about it as anybody.  When she first met Jesus, she was surprised that even he talked to her.  Once converted, she became an evangelist, enthusiastically introducing Jesus to her fellow villagers. (FR. Tony Kadavil)
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

During Lent we reflect on God’s loving mercy: he comes to us as sinners with the offer of new life, he puts no limit on those to whom he offers his love and forgiveness, and he bids us to do the will of the Father. Christ is offering us now his love and forgiveness. Let us recall that we are in his presence, let us recall our need, let us ask him to give us new life and pour into our hearts the Holy Spirit.
Textual comments

The story is in two sections:
      - Verses 2 and 3 : At first the woman is content with the water she draws from the well. Jesus very gradually leads her to search for another kind of water which has two characteristics: when you drink it you do not get thirsty again, as it comes from a spring inside of you. Enter into the metaphor so that you can recognize the spiritual journey it evokes for you. When have you experienced Jesus guiding others in this way?

      -  Verses 15 to 24, and 29 :  Here the journey is the woman coming to trust Jesus as Messiah because he leads her to self-knowledge: “He told me everything I ever did.” Recognize spiritual growth as that kind of journey, with Jesus as guide.

       Situate the story in the context of Lent, thinking of all those who will experience conversion and growth at this season, those who will be received into the Church community on Holy Saturday night, or who will take part in Lenten missions.
Fr. Tommy Lane 

In 1888 a man was shocked to read the notice of his own death in the newspaper. It was an error. However he was even more shocked to read that the newspaper described him as someone who found new ways to kill people and became rich from doing so. It was true; he invented dynamite. That morning he decided to change, to devote his energies in a new direction, to work for world peace. He left most of his estate after his death to fund the Nobel prizes. That man was Alfred Nobel.

Early in life, when he was working with dynamite, he was like the woman coming to the well to draw water. Water is necessary for life just as dynamite is necessary for some construction work. But at the well the woman met Jesus and he offered her living water. She was so impressed by Jesus that she left her water jar at the well and went back to the town to tell everyone that she thought she had met the Messiah. She had found the living water and forgot about the water from the well. Alfred Nobel must have had some similar experience the morning he read of his death in the newspaper. Until then he was going to the well to draw water but the false report of his death touched him deeply inside and he totally changed direction, from then on working for peace. In some kind of way he must have met Jesus at the well that morning offering him living water. He might not describe it in that way but deep within him it must have been something like that. He left the jar of weapons at the well and hurried back to the town to tell the townspeople to work for peace.

What about us? We too have to go to the well everyday with our jar because we live in the world. But Jesus makes the same offer to us as he did to the woman at the well:

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 welling up to eternal life.

Each of us has the choice to draw water only from the well every day or to also accept the living water that Jesus offers us. What is this living water? Put simply we could describe this living water that Jesus offers us as the love of God. If we don’t receive this living water from Jesus every day, we will look for satisfaction in ways that will never please. No wonder the woman at the well was now in her sixth marriage! What is the driving force of your life at the moment? Are you all wound up in something that is not the love of God and not preparing you for heaven and not bringing you real deep lasting happiness or are you drinking the living water of Jesus every day?

How can we receive this living water so that we will never be thirsty again? If we are not drinking the living water of Jesus every day surely the first step is to admit that we need this living water that Jesus is offering us. Nothing will ever change if we continue to deny we need the living water of Jesus. Then we can turn to Jesus for his living water. How can we receive this living water from Jesus? In my own case I receive this living water from Jesus by praying every day and reading the Bible every day. Because I receive living water from praying and reading the Bible every day I often remind you of the importance of prayer. I believe that praying is the best way for everyone to receive this living water. Every time we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we are drinking his living water. Every time we turn to Jesus for mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we receive living water from Jesus. This time of Lent is a special season of grace in the Church each year to enable us to drink more and more of this living water that Jesus offers us. Don’t waste Lent so that God is forced to communicate with us in some unexpected way as happened to Alfred Nobel. Instead let us profit from Lent to drink living water from Jesus.

Father James Gilhooley  

A British princess was treated graciously by a shop clerk. She told his employer of his deference to her station. The puzzled shopkeeper said, "Princess, he treats everyone the same way."  

 One reason the Father humanized His Son in the person of Jesus was to allow us to find a divine person eminently approachable. Thus we can latch onto Him in happy days but also in blue ones. One can prove this thesis by using today's Gospel.  

 The first point to notice is the woman is not named. John wanted her to be a type for us sinners. Slip your name into the blank spot. There is room for every mother's child of us.  

 The Christ painted here by the artist John is sensitive and warm. The reader can just about extend a hand and feel the Teacher.  

 When the Gospel opens, Jesus and His people are on the run from southern Palestine. John the Baptist had just been arrested. Christ did not want to wait around until the authorities decided to round up the usual suspects.  

 He and His party were heading quick march into the safety of the northern Palestinian mountains. He knew that territory better than the south. There nobody would lay a hand on Him. He would campaign again but on His own terms.  

 One of the great charms of Jesus, who owned nothing but a toothbrush bought at Wal-Mart, is that He could break camp anytime and at any place. He did not own enough to fill even a brown paper bag. John is asking us why we need to have so many possessions. We need a fleet of trucks to move us. After all, we can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  

 For safety reasons, Jesus was moving through Samaria. The Samaritans disliked the Jews then as much as many Arabs do today. The Jewish police would not dare follow Him lest they be murdered. Ironically, events would prove the Nazarene received a better hearing from the Samaritans than from His own fellow-Jews. He and the twelve were only into the second of their three day journey. They had covered thirty blistering miles and with no bottled water. The party finally came to a deep well fed by a fresh spring of delicious cool water. It was near the town of Sychar.  

 There was a problem. Jesus had no rope or bucket. The well was one hundred feet deep. Shrewd John is faxing us the message that the clever Jesus began His journey without a jar. John here is asking all of us, "Isn't this a Christ you can identify with? Have you not yourselves made similar dumb mistakes?"  

 His apostles rush off to Home Depot to buy rope and a bucket. But the Teacher is too dehydrated to join them. His get up and go had got up and gone. His feet were killing Him. His wet clothing was sticking to His skin. John is shouting to us, "Jesus knew what exhaustion was." Do you feel you cannot relate with Him?"  

 John too is telling us the Messiah gave others the opportunity to do favors for Him. He knew that others are anxious to be generous. Do we accept favors reluctantly?  

 No doubt Christ sat in the shade offered by the well. The energies He had left were spent fighting off the mosquitoes looking for lunch. He was feeling sorry for Himself. Can you not identify with Him?  

 The Samaritan woman found herself attracted to this Christ. Why was she so swept off her feet by the Man at the well? This was not the first man she had met. If anything, she was an authority on men. She could have written her own Dear Abby column. As Christ gently reminded her, she had six lovers. She had forgotten more about men than most women will ever know.  

 Professional prostitute though she might be, Christ engaged this woman as an equal. He showered her with kindness and treated her as a princess. This type of deference she had never received from any of her Johns. They had treated her like white trash. He realized the truth of the aphorism that while words can't break bones, they can break hearts. Christ saw in her not the evil she had done but rather the heroine she could become with His encouragement. 

 Do you believe Jesus will not forgive your sins? Recall the sinner who asked the monk: "Will Jesus really forgive me?" The monk asked: "Do you throw away dirty clothes?" "No." "Then neither will Jesus throw you away. No matter what your past, your future is spotless."  

 Come and drink a glass of cool well water with Christ and confess your sins. 
Michel de Verteuil
General notes

This Sunday’s reading is very long; I suggest that you use the shorter version for your meditation (verses 5 to 30).
Jesus leads the woman along a wonderful journey towards a deeper, more human life. You can enter into the story from the perspective of the woman – when have you (or someone you know)  made a similar journey in your relationship with God, with others, with your own self? Recognize the woman’s resistance to growth, her complacency, her evasions, and her eventual acceptance, partial though it was, of Jesus.

You can enter the story with Jesus, the ideal leader, parent, teacher or spiritual guide. Notice how he meets the woman where she is, needing her assistance; how he is patient with her but also challenges her to grow to what she is capable of. 

Homily Notes

1. Lent is a time for the whole community to prepare to celebrate new life that arises from water:

water which cleanses, renews, and enlivens.

It is a preparation for a renewal by the whole community of its allegiance when we declare that ‘we know that Jesus really is the saviour of the world’ in the renewal of baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil.

2. It is also a time when we reflect on our trust and hope in God: the people were tested by God to see would they call to him as the saviour. How would we fare in that test, or is our trust and hope elsewhere?
John Litteton
Gospel Reflection 

From whom or from where do we draw life? This question can be answered on several levels. Maybe we draw life from our spouses as we experience their love. Perhaps we draw life from our children whenever we rejoice in their talents and achievements. We may draw life from the fulfilment and satisfaction provided by our work that makes a real difference to the quality of life for us and for other people. Or we may draw life from our hobbies that renew our enthusiasm for life.

However, on a deeper level — that of the depths of our being — from whom do we draw life? For Christians, there is only one completely satisfactory answer to this question. Christians believe that God is the sole author of life and that they draw life in all its fullness from God, in and through his Son Jesus Christ. The fountain of living water is to be found with Jesus: a fountain from which eternal life gushes.

We all share in the fruits of this living water because, through baptism, we share in the death and resurrection of Christ. We have become his brothers and sisters and, together in the Church, we are God’s family on this earth nourished by the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. During Lent, even as we fast and do penance, we are challenged to rediscover the person of Jesus from whom we draw life, the only life that ultimately matters.

Therefore, we need to pray to God asking that Jesus, the living water, may strengthen us in our weaknesses. If only we could drink once again with pure hearts from the fountain of life, hearts that have been renewed by a true spirit of repentance and reconciliation. When we respond to the loving presence of the God in our lives, we learn to love and respect other people.

Like most people, the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well was seeking life and the truth. Yet she was unknowingly speaking to the Life and the Truth. Jesus offered to make a real difference in her life while she listened attentively to his words. We can make a real difference to others and ourselves by listening attentively to the word of God, the true fountain of life, and by living according to its message of hope and life.

Therefore, let our prayer for today and always be: God our Father, we draw our life from you. You are the fountain of life. Your word is living water without which we die. Enable us, through the death and resurrection of your Son and through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, to grow in love and understanding. Accompany us on our journey through life, so that we may go with confidence into your world as a new creation — one body drawing life from the one fountain of life — so that the world may believe. 

Scripture prayer

The task of the educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.“  …C.S. Lewis

       Lord, the world is thirsting for living water.
       So many people are content with water which, when they drink it,
       leaves them thirsty for more:
       – in personal relationships they look for security and domination;
       – in positions of authority they enjoy lording it over others;
       – they sacrifice precious things for the trappings of power;
       – compromise their principles for popularity.

       Send them Jesus who will lead them to ask for another kind of water:
       – trust in relationships;
       – service in authority;
       – sincerity and truth rather than power;
       – integrity at whatever cost;
       the kind of water which they will drink and need never be thirsty again,
       water that they do not have to go to a well for
       because it comes from a spring inside them and wells up to eternal life..

“One does not seek to find a master, neither does one find a master. When the disciple and master meet they simply recognize each other.”     …Mariella Robitaille, Canadian contemplative nun
      We pray for teachers, parents, community leaders, spiritual guides,
       that like Jesus they may
       – wait at the well where people gather,
       – speak to them about down-to-earth realities they know,
       – be patient when they are arrogant or mocking,
       – challenge them to move beyond where they are,
       – give them space until of their own accord
       they put down the water jar that was so important to them
       and hurry away.

       Forgive us preachers of the gospel that we come to others as superiors,
       – afraid to acknowledge that we are tired and thirsty;
       – afraid to ask them for a drink;
       – conscious that we are rabbis and they are women;
       – that we are Jews and they are Samaritans.

“I would not have anyone think that I became a Catholic because I was convinced of the truth. I became a Catholic because I fell in love with the truth.”  …Eric Gill, English religious sculptor 

A man in need shares his faith with Pope Francis

  Lord, we thank you for great people we have known
       who in eyes of the world appear to be needy,
       but really are not:
       – those who are in prison but in reality are free;
       – those who have few possessions but are wealthy;
       – those who live in small houses with place for many;
       – those who have no power and yet influence thousands.
       It seems at first that they are thirsty and we have access to wells .
       We soon realize that we are the ones who should be asking for living water
       and they have it to give us. Thank you, Lord.

       Lord, forgive us that we run away from the important questions,
       we argue whether we should worship on this mountain or in Jerusalem,
       forgetting that you are Spirit,
       and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.

       “My cell will not be one of stone nor wood, but self-knowledge.”    …St Catherine of Sienna
       We thank you for those who have led us to understand ourselves better;
       it was as if they told us everything we ever did,
       so that we had a fleeting experience of meeting the Christ.




Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well illustrates the principal role of Jesus as the Messiah: to reconcile all men and women to the Father.  As a Samaritan, the woman is considered an outcast by the Jews; as a known adulteress, she is scorned by her own village.  With kindness and dignity, Jesus reconciles her to God.

This Gospel has long had a special place in baptismal catechesis:  In revealing himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman, Jesus speaks to her of the fountain of water he will give -- the life-giving waters of baptism.  From Jacob’s well springs forth the living waters of the Messiah Christ.

The Samaritan woman is, for the evangelist John, a model of a disciple’s experience of faith:  In a personal encounter with Jesus, she confronts her own sinfulness and need for forgiveness; she then comes to realize the depth of God’s love for her; reconciled with God, her life is transformed; she is then sent forth to share with others her “faith story” of what she has seen and heard of this Jesus.


Water is the predominant symbol in today’s readings:  As water sustains life and cleans away the grime and filth that can diminish and destroy life, in the waters of baptism, the sins that alienate us from God are washed away and we are reborn in the Spirit of compassion and community.

All of us who have encountered Jesus are called to the work of reconciliation (rather than judgment), to reach out and bring forth from one another the good each one of us possesses as a son or daughter of God.

All of us who have encountered Jesus are called to be reconcilers, not judges; we are called to lift people up, not drive them to their knees.  In so many ordinary ways we can help one another realize new life and hope in Christ if we are willing to tear down the walls that divide us, to reach over the distances between us, to build bridges over chasms of mistrust and prejudice.  

Easter transformation begins with a recognition of sin.  As Jesus confronts the woman at the well with the reality of her own sinfulness and brokenness, we must confront our own sinfulness and, in doing so, realize our need for God.  Sin is a reality in the lives of each one of us; but through Christ, forgiveness, reconciliation and rebirth, are just as real and possible. 

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.”

John 4: 5-42

‘Everything I have done . . . ’

Their daughter sees today because of a cornea transplant.  Their joy is tempered by the realization that the cornea belonged to another nine-year old killed in an auto accident.  The deceased child’s family finds some peace in knowing that a part of their daughter will live on — and the recipient family is transformed by what they have received.  Not only a physical piece but the deceased child’s generosity and selflessness live on, as well, in the recipient’s family’s new dedication to advocacy work on behalf of organ donation.

He opened the letter from the college’s financial aid office informing him of the scholarship award.  Friends of “Mrs. G” had set up the scholarship and designated it for a student studying to be a math teacher like their beloved teacher and friend.  The scholarship letter included a biography of Mrs. G written by one her former students who had helped set up the fund at the college.  The incoming freshman realized what a remarkable teacher she was — this woman named for his scholarship award — and resolved to become the same kind of dedicated and generous teacher she was for her students.

They could not stop talking about it.  They had spent the day at the Habitat for Humanity site, sponsored by a local church.  It didn’t matter that they knew nothing about carpentry; there was plenty to do and skilled craftsmen there to teach them.  That evening in the dorm, they talked about the terrific people they had met — including the single mom and her two little girls who will live in the house.  The next Saturday, two of their buddies joined them on the site to help frame the house — and came back to the dorm as happily exhausted as their friends were the week before.

For the evangelist John, today’s Gospel is not just about a sinful woman reconciled to God by Jesus but a woman who is so transformed by the encounter that she becomes a witness of his reconciling presence in the midst of her people.  We have all experienced such grace, such generosity, such compassion that changes our perspective and approach to life — we embrace the goodness that has embraced us; we become vehicles of the compassion and grace that has blessed our lives.  All of us who have encountered Jesus are called to the work of reconciliation (rather than judgment), to reach out and bring forth from one another the good each of us possesses as a son and daughter of God. 


Mass in the prison is always interesting. The men are very attentive to what is going on and quick to understand my meaning. I spoke recently about how it seems there are no longer any bad people who die. Everyone who dies was one of the best people who ever lived. They were happy, fun-loving, sociable, popular and, invariably, would give you ‘the shirt off their back’ and what’s more, they would now be ‘up there’ – ‘at peace’ – drinking beer with their dead relatives or catching huge fish in their new big fishing boat. 

The prisoners were smiling and nodding in agreement. I joked that sometimes I wondered what would happen if I mischievously said, ‘I think so and so was such a bad person they must have gone straight to hell.’ What would the reaction be? 

The truth is that I am no more entitled to say someone has gone to hell than they are to say someone has gone to heaven. It simply isn’t up to any of us to make that judgment, one way or the other. As St Paul says: There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men's hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God (1 Cor 4:5). 

He will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men's hearts; not us.

So next someone dies, either a famous personality or someone close to us, let us not say they have gone to heaven or to hell; let us simply say they have gone to stand before the throne of judgment from which the Lord will pass just and final sentence on each one of us. Indeed, that throne would be aptly named the Throne of Justice. 

However, let us never forget that the Lord has another throne of judgment. This throne stands on earth in every confessional throughout the world and only a validly ordained priest may sit on it. This throne is called the Throne of Mercy. 

We come to this throne to humbly confess our grave sins, our mortal sins – and sometimes we have only venial sins to confess. We examine our conscience and confess our sins – their name and their number. And we do not receive a sentence of hell at this throne; we receive only and always a sentence of mercy and forgiveness. 

Let me read to you Joey Lomangino’s account of his confession to the famous priest St Padre Pio. He was not ready for what happened. 

“I went into Fr Pio, into the confessional, and I knelt down on the kneeling bench and Fr Pio was sitting right in front of me. And he took me by the hand like that and I was shocked because I thought of the American confessional, you know, with the panel. So when I knelt down and Fr Pio had me by the hand he told me in Italian, ‘Joey, confess yourself.’ 

And to be very honest with you I was embarrassed because I wasn’t leading the right life and I was just so flabbergasted I didn’t know just what to say. And so Fr Pio took me by the hand, like that, and he tells me in Italian, confess yourself and again, I just found it very difficult to speak to him. 

And then in perfect English he says to me, ‘Joey,’ he says, ‘do you remember when you were in a bar with a woman named Barbara? Do you remember the sins you committed?’ And in perfect English he went right down the line and telling me the people I was with, the places I was at, and the sins I committed. And, of course, I was perspiring,  but I had the grace by God to realise that if I had to endure all of that to get back to being happy, it was worth it. And I really believed that Fr Pio could help me. 

So, of course, when he came to the bottom of all my sins when it felt to me like a thousand years he said to me in Italian, he says, ‘Are you sorry?’ And I says, ‘Yes, I am Fr Pio’ and he gave me absolution for my sins and my eyes started to roll in my head and I started to rub my eyes like this.. and then all of a sudden my mind became very, very clear and he put up his stigmata hand to my lips, I kissed the stigmata then he gave me a little smack in the face and he tells me in Italian, “Joey, a little patience and a little courage and you’re going to be alright.’  

I was thirty-three years old and I felt like I was sixteen. I had a firm purpose of amendment; I was sorry for all the sins I committed in my life and I felt so good and so clean that I just didn’t want to get involved with anybody because I was afraid that just by talking I was going to lose the grace that I received. 

Perhaps Joey’s account of his privileged moment with St Pio will help us to understand the Samaritan woman’s account of her privileged moment with Jesus. Like all good confessors Jesus ‘sat straight down’ and the woman makes her entrance. 

‘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.’ 

A moment later: 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...' 

After Mass I was kept busy for half an hour hearing the confessions of a number of the prisoners. If you come to Reconciliation this Lent I promise you, you will not receive justice; you will receive only mercy. Your sins will be completely forgiven, once and for all, and you will be entirely restored to friendship with God. And then, and then, you will have nothing to fear from the Throne of Justice. 


Thirst is an uncomfortable and even painful feeling: dryness, emptiness, craving for water.  We have all been thirsty and know what it feels like to long for a glass of cold water, though most of us will never truly know the agonizing thirst of people stranded in the desert, shipwrecked, or in desperate poverty.  The thirst of the Israelites in the desert was so severe that it caused them to doubt God, grumble against Moses, and even question God’s providence in leading them out of slavery in Egypt.  They tested the Lord and sought water as a sign that he was really with them.

To the well in the Samaritan town of Sychar comes a woman drawing water for her household.  She comes at noon, in the heat of the day, not in the morning when the other women of the town routinely fetched water.  She avoids the crowd out of shame for her less than honorable lifestyle.  Jesus reveals that she has had several husbands, and is now living with a man who is not her husband.  Jesus thus uncovers her real thirst: the thirst of her soul for intimacy and belonging.  The pain of loneliness, and thirst for fulfillment in life, has led her down a path of heartache.  In response, he promises to give her living water that will quench her thirsting soul for good.  This water of life is his love, his presence.  Just by being with Jesus, and experiencing his compassion and understanding, the woman’s life changes for the better.  Once she comes to realize he is the Messiah, there is much joy in her heart—joy that overflows into her inviting others to meet him.  Jesus’ voice, heard with sincere faith, softens the woman’s heart, and changes her life forever.  She embarks on a new journey of peace and intimacy with God after encountering Jesus.

The love of God has been poured into our hearts, Paul reminds us, through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us in our Baptism and Confirmation.  Seeking the living water we need to quench our thirsting souls means tapping into the grace of our Baptism, and asking the Spirit to make the gifts we have received from him come alive in us.  His love never disappoints, and can always break the chains of fear, shame, and sin in order to free us to live a new life with God.  This new life then becomes attractive and fruitful in the conversion of those who see our Christian way of life, and want to be part of it.

Lent is a time of conversion, of focusing more on our Baptismal vocation to love God, and one another, in preparation for the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter.  In this Holy Season, we have the blessed opportunity to encounter Christ more deeply through the Stations of the Cross, the music and prayers of the season, and the Lenten call to more prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Ask Jesus to give you the living water of his loving presence.  Ask the Spirit to open up the gifts of your Baptism.  Seek intimacy with God.  He will give you love that will not disappoint, love that will change your life for good, forever.

Encountering Christ is the gateway to conversion and evangelization.  Listen carefully to the Lord’s voice, and allow his compassionate word to soften your heart, and direct you in a path of holiness.  Then, others will see the change conversing with Jesus makes in your life, and will want to meet him as well.  The Lord, who is in our midst, has a tremendous gift to offer us—a gift of love that will quench the thirst of our souls.


From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: A Samaritan woman evangelist:


There is a Greek monastery at Mount Athos in which nothing female is allowed. Men can enter but not women, roosters but not hens, horses but not mares, bulls but not cows.  Armed guards patrol the border to insure that nothing feminine passes the gates.  It has been this way for more than 700 years. [Arnold Prater, The Presence, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993).]  Separate but definitely not equal: that has been the attitude toward women of many churches through the ages.  So, it's really remarkable that this particular Samaritan evangelist happens to be a woman.  She would be as surprised about it as anybody.  When she first met Jesus, she was surprised that even he talked to her.  Once converted, she became an evangelist, enthusiastically introducing Jesus to her fellow villagers. 

2: "No drinkin' and no dancin’ area”!  
A couple of Catholic young men from the North were visiting a dusty little town in the back country of West Texas.  It was a hard-shell Baptist town in the Bible belt of the South: "No drinkin' and no dancin’ area”!  But these two were strangers; so they asked a cowboy where they might get a drink.  "In this town," said the cowboy, "we use whiskey only for snakebite: to wash the wound as first aid."  Then he added slyly, "If you guys are so thirsty for whiskey, there's only one poisonous snake in this town and that is in the zoo.  So you better get a ticket to the zoo, go to the snake park, get hold of a cobra through the iron bar of its cage and give it a big hug! The zoo keeper will appear immediately with whisky.”  The woman at the well had a mighty thirst, a thirst like that of these young guys for whiskey, a thirst so big that it led her through five husbands and who knows what else.  And still she was thirsty — a thirst caused by the absence of God in her life.  A meeting with Jesus gave her the living waters of friendship with Jesus and the anointing of the Spirit of God which restored her dignity and changed her life.  

3: “Here comes my friend, Douglass!”
Carl Sandberg describes the firm stand that Abraham Lincoln took against racial prejudice. One particularly stirring drama unfolded on the night of Lincoln’s second Inaugural Ball.  He had just delivered the blazing address in which he made famous the words, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work that we are in.”  That evening in a White House reception room, Lincoln stood shaking hands with a long line of well-wishers.  Someone informed him that Frederick Douglass was at the door, but security wouldn’t let him in because he was black.  Lincoln broke off from high-level protocol and instructed security to bring  Douglass to him, at once.  The crowd of guests hushed as the great black leader appeared at the door.  In a booming voice that filled the silence, Lincoln unashamedly announced, “Here comes my friend, Douglass!”  And then turning to Douglass, Lincoln said, “I am glad to see you.  I saw you in the crowd today, listening to my address.  There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.  I want to know what you think of it.” Those who see and respect the rich human qualities in those individuals whom others reject blaze pioneer trails through thick jungles of bigotry.  The next generation can walk on the paths made by such giants as Lincoln who drew inspiration from Jesus’ example and teaching!  Today’s Gospel shows us Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman and a social outcast and gives us a model to follow in this world.


One of the commencement traditions at Harvard University is Senior Class Chapel. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave "the Yard" to take their places in the world.

The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible, including The Good Book and Sermons. In his gentle ringing tones, that call to mind a cross between a Shakespearean actor and the TV sitcom character Frasier, the inimitable Doctor Gomes took no prisoners as he began: 

"You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren't ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and," - and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis - "you know just - how - dumb - you - really - are." 

The senior class cheered in agreement. 

"And worse than that," Doctor Gomes continued, "the world - and your parents in particular - are going to expect that you will be among the brightest and best. But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That's a fact - no exceptions, no extensions."

"Nevertheless, there is reason to hope," Doctor Gomes promised. "The future is God's gift to you. God will not let you stumble or fall. God has not brought you this far to this place to abandon you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical. Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid." 

What Doctor Gomes did for the senior class at Harvard, Jesus does for the woman at the well. Before we take a look at the story let me let you in on a fascinating fact. You can go to Israel today and take a journey to Samaria to the town of Sychar. A place the passage of time seems to have forgotten... 

Today's gospel story is all about a miracle molecule called water.

Any water people here? I don't mean sun people who gather at the water because of the sun. I mean true water people. Swimmers? Surfers? Fishermen/women? Boaters? Bathers? Hot-tubbers? Islanders?

Anyone here ever spend a night on an island somewhere? If you live on an island (like we do--Orcas Island, Washington State), you're surrounded on all sides by water, cut off from easy access to the rest of the state, and the country.

Islanders are water people.

But the water that surrounds an island is not so much a barrier as it's a buffer. All that liquid cushions the blows that the off-island world throws our way. Islanders aren't cut off so much as they are bound together. Sometimes for better. Sometimes for worse. But always until the next ferry arrives. If we let our lives go with the flow, the water makes us different.

When we read passages out of the Old or New Testaments, we must always remember that our Bible stories are about desert people. Even more than the island people described above, however, desert people are intimately bound by life-giving, life-sustaining water.

In fact, the miracle molecule of water is always a fact of life or death for the children of Israel. The devastation of droughts changed the face of empires. The absence or presence of water created civilizations or set whole populations on the move.

Again and again throughout the Bible, it's this miracle molecule that transforms God's chosen people... 


 Look Around You 

William Easum, in his book, Dancing with Dinosaurs, suggests that the dinosaurs ate only the vegetation that was right at their eye level. With their massive appetites, they quickly devoured all the food they could easily see. Then he writes: "Still, food was plentiful if the dinosaur merely bent down to reach the vegetation. But perhaps the dinosaur's neck was too stiff to bend down to the vegetation, or the dinosaur was too nearsighted to see the vegetation. Perhaps dinosaurs became extinct because of their unwillingness or inability to see what was happening all around them" [p. 15]. Do you think that he could be making an analogy to the church? Jesus says, "Look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting." If they took that literally and looked around, whom would they see?
Brian P. Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes

 Before I Build a Wall... 

One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost. Of all his writings, my favorite is "Mending Wall." It's the story of two New England farmers who go out each spring to mend the rock fences that have fallen down over the winter. They do it every spring, under the belief that "good fences make good neighbors." But this particular spring, one farmer is beginning to question that long held assumption. As they work their respective sides of the fence, wearing their fingers raw with the rocks, he begins to reason. "He is all pine and I am all apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines. Why is it that we need to build these fences back every spring?" Then he says this:
Before I built a wall, I'd ask to know
What I am walling in or walling out
And to whom I am like to give an offense
For something there is that doesn't love a wall
That wants it down.

Friends come in when the rest of the world is going out. And this day Jesus stopped to befriend the woman at the well. That's the Jesus I want to know. Do you know Him?

J. Howard Olds, Faith Breaks,
A New Creation 

Once there was a man on a train going across the desert in Arizona. He was the only person in the car who had not pulled down the window shades to keep out the glare of the hot sun on the parched earth. In contrast to the other passengers, he kept looking out his window, and seemed actually to enjoy the dismal scene.  

After a while the curious man seated across the aisle, asked, "Sir, what do you see in that wasteland that makes you smile?"  

"Oh," he replied," I'm in the irrigation business, and I was thinking if we could only get water to this land that the desert would become a garden."  

That's what Jesus is teaching His disciples. He wants us to see the world's people as He sees them. Every one of them is precious in His sight. By divine grace, they can become a new creation, made beautiful in holiness. 

Robert E. Coleman, Evangelism: Behold the Harvest!
I Can't Remember
 A few years ago, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The archbishop decided to check her out. 

'Is it true, m'am, that you have visions of Jesus?' asked the cleric.
'Yes,' the woman replied.
'Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession. Please call me if anything happens.'

Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition.
Within the hour the archbishop arrived. 'What did Jesus say?' he asked.
She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. 'Bishop,' she said, 'these are his exact words: I CAN'T REMEMBER. ' 

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out, 116-117
An Unexpected Evangelist

 This wonderful man was not well educated and his manner was somewhat rough and crude. He became a Christian and took the Lord's requirement seriously. He kept pestering his pastor to put him to work. Finally, the minister handed him a list of ten names with this explanation: "These are all members of the church, but they seldom attend. Some of them are prominent people in the community. Contact them about being more faithful. Here is some church stationary to write letters. Get them back in church."

The man accepted the challenge with rugged determination and enthusiasm. About three weeks later a letter from a prominent physician whose name had been on the list arrived at the church office. Inside was a large check and a brief note: "Dear Pastor, Enclosed is my check for $1,000 to help make up for my missing church so much, but be assured that I will be present this Lord's Day and each Lord's Day following. I will not by choice miss services again. Sincerely... P.S. Would you please tell your secretary that there is only one `T' in dirty and no `C' in Skunk."

Ah, those unexpected evangelists. To this day, that nameless Samaritan woman, the first unexpected evangelist, is revered in many cultures. In southern Mexico, La Samaritana is remembered on the fourth Friday in Lent, when specially-flavored water is given to commemorate her gift of water to Jesus. The Orthodox know her as St. Photini, or Svetlana in Russian. Her name means "equal to the apostles," and she is honored as apostle and martyr on the Feast of the Samaritan Woman. 

Can you do what she did? Invite friends and neighbors? Of course, you can. 

David E. Leininger, Collected Sermons,

 Criticizing Evangelistic Efforts 

One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody's reply was "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don't do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."  

James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) p. 178.
That First Longing

Carl Jung, the great psychoanalyst, tried to explain why so many people were fascinated by UFO phenomena. He wrote: "We are all born to believe. The eyes may be wrong, but the psyche is right. We are all looking for a perfect model of ourselves."

C. S. Lewis made the same point when he observed: "Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job, but something has evaded us." (quoted in The Joyful Christian)

Robert Bachelder, Between Dying and Birth, CSS Publishing Company
 Keeping Perspective

 "This is the transcript of an ACTUAL radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.


Canadians: "This is a lighthouse." 
(This story had been challenged by many as only a joke created by someone - TK)