Lent Sunday 3A: Jesus at the well with the Samaritan Woman

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)
Gospel text:  John 4:5-30

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).
Woman at wellJesus 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.

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.

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;
thirst for God– 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 .
A man in need shares his faith with Pope FrancisWe 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.
Thomas O’Loughlin
The assumption of these resources is that the community is not celebrating the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process; if it is, then its liturgy will differ from that in the Missal (pp. 96-7) and have its own specific requirements.

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.

Homily Notes
Mystery of God1. Lent is a time for the whole community to prepare to celebrate new life that arises from 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.
woman_at_the_wellHowever, 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.
Jesus and FamilyTherefore, 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.
For meditation
But anyone who drinks the water that I will give will never be thirsty again:the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life. (Jn 4:14)
 Donal Neary SJ:  
The well is deep
A famous picture has the Samaritan woman looking into the well and seeing there her image – and the image of Jesus. In the depths of the well of her life is the presence of Jesus.
In the depths of the well, when we are in love, pain, death, decision, joy, we find God. God is near when we are near to our­selves, even in shame and sin. We thirst for meaning in life, for knowing we are totally loved, for community and companion­ship – and God offers all this.
This is the offering of God – the living water is the Holy Spirit. We thirst for inclusion – the disciples in this story did not want Jesus talking to a woman. So much of the religion of the time separated people. In the depths of the well we are all equal.
We find the mercy of God in the well. As we go into the depths of prayer and ourselves we are open to mercy. We may put con­ditions on God’s mercy – naming our sins, or numbering them. At the bottom of the well is the water of mercy.
Of the mercy of God, Pope Francis says that ‘there is no sin or crime of any kind that can erase from the mind or heart of God even one of the children he has created’ (November 2013).
Imagine yourself looking into a well; see the face of Jesus looking at you from its depths. He looks at you with love. Lord, send me the living water of the Holy Spirit.

Each of us/ may drift through life/ casually like the lonely Samaritan woman. For each of us,/ our meeting with the Eternal/ may happen at a moment/ least expected. Like a flash,/ Jesus may light up/ the depth of our soul. He may appear to us/ under the veil of the least/ of his brothers and sisters/ suffering along the road. Who knows the day or the hour/ that Jesus may reach out to us?  

We are engrossed/ in anxiously guarding/ our water jar/ - of health, name, reputation, position, friends/ - as if it were the world itself. We run around/ drawing water from countless wells/; the water of praise to refresh our failing self-esteem,/ the water of success to keep alive a sense of importance,/ the water of pleasure to delight our senses. Poor Samaritans that we are. Meanwhile/ the Eternal may be waiting/ around the corner with living water/ to nourish our deepest self. He may be waiting at a curve of the busy road/ along which/ our life is/ hastily speeding/ to its end. 

Stumbling around/ in a murky night of/ small commitments,/ petty worries,/ little lusts/ and useless irritations/ we forget that/ Jesus may come/ like a thief/ in the night. He did so/ in the night/ of the Samaritan woman. She was on the brink of spiritual starvation. She wanted abundant life/ and had sought for it/ in many a relationship. Jesus came to tell her/ that life cannot be abundant/ without him as the living water.    It is only Jesus/ who brings joy/ to our life. 

From The Connections:

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.

‘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.   
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. 

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading from the Book of Exodus we read of the Israelites grumbling and complaining against Moses. They had left Egypt for the journey to the Promised Land. Now as they journey, their faith is put to the test as they experience thirst and are surrounded by dry desert rocks. When things go well, people seldom think of God and blessings are taken for granted, but when things go wrong, God is immediately blamed for the situation. Yet God does not punish his people, he is patient with them. He does the impossible for his people; He provides water from the rock.  

Water of LifeHermann Hesse's book 'Siddhartha' narrates the wanderings of a man in search of inner peace and self-realization. As a Brahmin boy Siddhartha had everything -intelligence, handsome features, wealth -but he was restless. So he renounced his family and set off to seek happiness. In succession he tried the asceticism of the Eastern monks, the way of enlightenment under the Buddha, the pleasures of sensual indulgence, and the luxuries of wealth, but all these only left him disappointed and disillusioned. Disgusted to the point of despair, Siddhartha considered committing suicide in a river, when he suddenly heard from the depths of his subconscious the holy word "Om" that begins and ends all prayers. The remembrance of that word awakened Siddhartha's slumbering spirit to realize anew that all is divine and that loving devotion to the universe is the key to happiness. The water of the river helped him die a symbolic death to his old life of futility and emptiness and be born again to a new life of fulfillment and happiness. 

Albert Cylwicki in ‘The Word Resounds’ 
The Gospel has the encounter between Jesus and the woman looking for water at the well at Sychar, in Samaria. Jesus is sitting by the well, when the Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well. She comes because she needs water, but there is a deeper need, a need of acceptance, not satisfied by her many irregular love-relationships. At the well there is Jesus who is also thirsty, not so much for water as for slaking this woman's real thirst. Strange as it might seem God is thirstier for us than we are for him! He asks the Samaritan woman "Give me a drink." But Jesus goes beyond barriers that human beings create and quickly moves from the superficial to the things that really matter. "If you knew who it is who is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would be the one to ask and he would give you living water." Once again we see the woman missing the point of the real water that Jesus is promising, when she argues: "You have no bucket sir, and the well is deep, how could you get this living water? Jesus, with infinite patience leads her from the water of that well to the real water which he can give her, which will turn into a spring within that leads to life. Now that the curiosity and desire of this woman is aroused she quickly asks for this water. But before Jesus gives her this water he makes her see that she has to put her relationships in order. "Go and get your husband first." The talk about her personal life is too threatening and so she quickly tries to move far away from it. But Jesus is not to be put off.  
Finally Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah, the one who can satisfy the deep hunger with her and when she believes she discovers that she does not need the water of that well any more, her thirst is slaked and she leaves her bucket behind and runs off to the village to tell everyone that she has found the Messiah. 
A stream of living water within 
A very devout and good parish priest had served for many years in a big-town parish and decided to shift gears by moving to the parish of a small rural congregation. On his first day he was invited to a meal at the house of one of his parishioners. Talking about that meal he says: "All through that sumptuous meal, there was something bothering me. All during the dinner I could hear the sound of running water, and it really bothered me. Back in the city that sound was bad news. Someone had left a tap running or there was a leak in the plumbing, and the ceiling was about to cave in. For two hours I listened, and heard little else but the sound of running water. Finally, I could no longer contain my inner frustration, so I mentioned it, and asked about it. With a smile, my host explained the situation to me. It seemed that forty years before, when the people had built the farmhouse, they discovered a spring of water right in the middle of the property. They built a spring room around it and then planned and built the rest of the house around that inner spring room. For forty years, the people who lived in that house had come to be conscious of that spring of water right at the very core of their home, and its significance for them grew over the years. I thought to myself "That is what Jesus is constantly trying to tell us: that it is possible to build the rooms
of our lives around the life-giving spirit." 
Jack McArdle Drink from a running stream 
There was a college student who working in the college dining hall and who, on his way to work early in the morning, walked past the home of one of his professors. Through a window he could see the light on and the professor at his desk, morning after morning. At night the student stayed at the library until closing, and on his return trip again he would see the professor’s desk light on. It seemed that he was always pouring over his books and notes. One day, after class, the professor was walking along the courtyard when the student approached him with several lecture questions to clarify. Finally the student asked, “Would you mind if I ask you a more personal question?” “Of course not,” replied the professor. So the student asked, “Well, every day I walk by your house and you are so intent at work. What keeps you studying? You never seem to stop.” The professor answered, “Well you see, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.

”Howard Henricks Gifts from the heart 
According to legend, a young man while roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart. Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container. The student challenged his teacher: "Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?" The teacher replied, "You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving-kindness and nothing could be sweeter. Heartfelt gifts deserve the return gift of gratitude." 

Michael Josephson The inner well 
Once there was a woman who had to make a daily trip of a mile to draw water from a public well. Over the years she grew weary of the journey. No matter how much water she brought home, she always ended with an empty container. Then one day she was doing some work in her own garden when in a remote corner she came across a large flagstone lying on the ground. The flagstone was completely covered with moss. Her curiosity flared up. She cleared away the moss and then removed the flagstone to discover a lovely well. She was thrilled. Never again would she have to make the tiresome journey to the public well. She now had an unfailing source of water of her own. – Christ made people aware of their own emptiness, but did not leave it at that. He showed them how to begin to fill this emptiness, not from without, but from
within. Oh, that we might find the inner well, the well that lies hidden under the moss of our hearts.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgy


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.

4:  Anthony de Mello tells the story of the little girl who asks a boy, "Are you a Presbyterian?" He answers, "No, we belong to another abomination." 

5. : Baptizing cow into fish for Lent:
John Smith was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood.  On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill.  Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper.  This went on each Friday of Lent.  On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided that something had to be done about John!  He was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent, and they couldn't take it anymore.  They decided to try and convert John to Catholicism.  They went over and talked to him and were so happy when he decided to join his neighbors and become a Catholic.  After an intensive training in Catholic catechism they took him to their pastor and got him baptized and announced to him:  "You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic."  The men were most relieved, that their biggest Lenten temptation had been resolved.  The next year's Lenten season rolled around.  The first Friday of Lent came, and just at supper time, when the neighborhood was setting down to their tuna fish dinner, came the wafting smell of steak cooking on a grill.  The neighborhood men could not believe their noses!  WHAT IS GOING ON?  They called each other up and decided to meet over in John's yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent.  The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water.  He was sprinkling some water over his steak on the grill, saying, "You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, but now you are a fish."

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)