3rd Sunday Lent A
Sunday 12th March 2023
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
As Jesus was passing through Samaria, he came to Sychar, where Jacob had had land. There, tired by the journey, he settled to rest at Jacob’s well. The disciples had gone into town to get some food. It was midday and strangely, for that time of day, a woman came from the city to get water.
Jesus said to her: ‘Give me a drink.’
The woman was amazed at this and said: ‘Come on! You’re a Jew and you’re asking me, a Samaritan for drink!’ Jews didn’t mix with Samaritans – they despised them, thinking they had betrayed their faith.
‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is offering it, you would have been the one to ask and he would have given you living water.’
‘Sir, you don’t have a bucket. The well is deep. So how are you going to get this “living water”? Are you greater than Jacob who gave us this well? Why, he and his family and all his cattle drank from it.’
‘Ah! Everyone who drinks from this well gets thirsty again but the water I am offering becomes a spring inside, drawing a person up to eternal life.’
‘What! No thirst! I want that water. If I had it I wouldn’t be coming here all the time.’
‘Go and get your husband! Bring him here!’
‘I haven’t got a husband.’
‘No, you don’t have a husband, you were truthful there. You’ve had five but you’re not married to man you’re living with now.’
‘Sir, you are a prophet! Now explain this. Our religious tradition says that we must worship God here, on this mountain, but you Jews say we must worship in Jerusalem.’
‘Believe me, woman, the time is coming when worshipping on this mountain or Jerusalem will be irrelevant. For now, you don’t know what you worship, we Jews do, for salvation comes from the Jews but the time is coming when true worship of the Father will be in spirit and truth and that is the type of worship the Father wants.’
‘The Messiah, the Christ, I know he is coming and when he does he will explain everything to us.’
‘I am he, yes, the one speaking to you.’
At that moment the disciples returned and were shocked to see him speaking with a woman yet none of them asked what he wanted from her or what they were talking about. The woman raced into the city, leaving her jug behind. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done! Do you think this might be the Messiah?’ The people of the city then came out to see Jesus.
In the meantime the disciples were offering Jesus food,
‘Here, have something to eat!’
But Jesus said ‘I have food you know nothing about!’
Baffled the disciples asked each other who could have brought him food. Jesus went on:
‘My food is to do God’s will and to bring about the work he wants done. Don’t you have a saying about the harvest: four months and then the reaping. Well I’m telling you, open your eyes and see. There is a harvest here ready for the reaping. The reaper is getting his wages because the grain is being brought in for eternal life. One sows another reaps and you are about to reap a harvest that you didn’t work for. Others did that, but you will get the reward of their work.’
Many of that town came to believe in Jesus because of the woman’s word – ‘He told me everything I had ever done,’ – and because of the transformation they saw in her. They asked him to stay with them, and he did for two days. Many more came to believe in him after hearing him for themselves. They said to the woman, ‘We believed, at first, because of you, but now we know for ourselves that this man really is the Saviour of the World.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 94:1-2, 6-9.
Come, sing to God,
shout to the Rock of our salvation.
Come, our faces radiant with thanksgiving,
with songs praising God.
Come, worship, bow, kneel
before our maker,
before our God.
we, the people God pastures in love.
If you hear God’s voice this day
do not harden your heart as you did at Meribah,
as you did in the desert at Massah.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you know the desires that well up within our hearts and how we can betray them with narrowness and selfishness. Send us your Spirit to nurture our hearts into the ways of loving that Jesus offered. May our longings dig deep into the soil of your love and may our lives witness to the
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
Jesus in the course of a journey crosses the land of the Samaritans. This people were derived from the Israelites who remained in the land when most of the population was deported into exile. The Jews despised them because they believed they had polluted their faith with pagan practices. On the other hand, the Samaritans themselves believed they had maintained the integrity of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.
So in the midst of a hostile people, Jesus sits to rest. Then along comes an outsider to her own people – a woman drawing water at midday. Nobody but the shunned and desperate collected water in the hottest part of the day. When Jesus speaks to her she is surprised both because he is a Jew and because men did not speak to women in public, but she is not the shy retiring type. With her history of five husbands and living with another man, we know she is a very attractive woman who well knows how to catch male interest. She just can’t keep it. Her five divorces would all have been initiated by the husband. In short, she had been rejected repeatedly. Her present relationship is not marriage – maybe she is getting older, losing her sexual attractiveness and her ability to charm. In the interchange of her conversation with Jesus, we can hear her flirtatious ways but there is also something much deeper: her desperate thirst for life. And it is to this that Jesus constantly appeals.
In the dynamic of the conversation, Jesus brings it back to her need – for living water, for love, for true faith – all the while treating her with the utmost respect. Ultimately he can reveal himself to this woman as ‘Messiah’. What a contrast with Nicodemus, in the previous chapter. There the privileged male Jew, a religious and learned leader simply cannot understand. That conversation goes round and round. Here an ‘ignorant’ despised woman, met in the middle of the day, is lead by a mixed conversation to not only wonder if Jesus is the Messiah but also to be so radiantly transformed that the people who recently shunned her now leave the town to see Jesus, simply on the strength of her word.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Thirst and hunger: two basic human experiences that we know from the time of our birth. So basic and yet used so profoundly as symbols of our heart’s need in this Gospel section. The woman of Samaria thirsts for love and acceptance. Jesus hungers to have his Gospel preached.
In the conversation of Jesus with the woman, Jesus turns his own thirst into an opportunity to recognise this woman’s thirst for life. All her relationships reveal of woman full of passion – but also a person looking for love in all the wrong places and suffering because of it. Jesus did not see her passion as something to be castigated but as an opportunity to show her how much she desperately needed the Spirit, the living water of God to well up within her. Her desires were so deep only God could fulfil them. When Jesus offers her this living water springing up within her she cannot keep this new relationship to herself. She, who was shunned, now tells the town and wakes them up to a new possibility in faith. This is precisely the response Jesus wants, that he hungers for. So when the disciples return offering him food, he can say he does not need it as his hunger has been assuaged. His Good News is being preached.
We all suffer from this thirst and hunger. We thirst to know the deep, abiding love of God and we hunger to have an influence for good in our world. We need to feel our thirst, even if it means facing our failure. Once Jesus slakes that thirst, we need to hunger to share that Good News with others. The gift of faith will only truly be received when we give it away.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
What a woman – so much life, so much vivacity. She has a personal magnetism and vivacity I’ll never have. Her setbacks hadn’t set her back. When Jesus spoke to her, she didn’t retire, shy and confused that a man had broken such a social barrier. No, she stepped right up in the conversation and was prepared to engage this man in dialogue…and didn’t Jesus like it! Here was a person ready to engage with what he had to say and courageous enough to face her personal failure. _This_ is the person to whom he first openly reveals who he is…and what a response he gets. Having been led through self-knowledge to knowledge of him, she goes immediately to preach this Good News to the people of her city. Those people must have been so astounded at the transformation in her that they left the city to come to Jesus.
Too often and too easily, we have made religion a dull and insipid thing as though our faith should make us tone down life. With the transformation of this woman we see Jesus doing exactly the opposite. Previously this woman had used her personality to attract a few men – now it is a whole city. This is a challenge to us: each of us have attractive aspects to our personality. These Jesus wants to use to preach Good News. Imagine how you could do this! Imagine what Lady Gaga could do with a change of focus! Jesus offers us the fullness of life. May his Spirit fill our minds, hearts and lives so that we might radiate his glory.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
There are so many studies for the scene with the Samaritan woman that one could be lost for hours looking at them. Below offers a selection.
– Early fresco from the catacombs.
– Rembrandt, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Rembrandt painted this scene a number of times. This representation is an unusual study in dark and light. (click red text)
– George Richmond, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. This is a wonderful study of the dynamics of the scene. The woman stands glorious in her voluptuousness but with eyes lowered as though she has entered into a time of self-reflection. Jesus, strong and secure. looks clearly at her with respect and an alertness to the coming change. (click red text)
– Angelica Kaufmann, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well.
– Li Wei San, The Eternal Water.
– He Qi, Samaritan Woman and Jesus.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
Throughout our lives, God has come to us in love, spoken to our hearts and given us words of encouragement. Most often God comes through other people. Initially the woman of Samaria would have seen Jesus only as a tired man beside the well yet because she was open to his words her life was transformed.
Over this coming week, mull on the people who have spoken words that have transformed your life.
– who spoke words of encouragement? what did they say? did you believe them?
– who spoke words of love? what did they say? did you embrace them…and their words?
– who spoke words of challenge? did you take up the challenge? did you thank them?
As you mull on these people sent to you by God, thank God for the richness you have received. In turn try to speak words of encouragement, love and challenge to the people you met this coming week.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Rest knowing that you have been created and re-created in God’s love.
When you are tranquil in that love, consider one event in your life over which you feel shame. Do not try to sort it out, argue about it, justify it or run away from it, simply sit there offering it to Jesus. Allow Jesus to take it into his loving hands. See what he does with it.
Rest in the love of your God.