Marcia Ziska, OSB
3rd Sunday of Lent
Isaiah 12: 1-6; John 4:5-42
Our scriptures this evening both speak about water. Isaiah refers to “drawing water joyfully from the wells of salvation” which we will again hear at the Easter vigil and the Gospel of John invites us to consider quenching our thirst with living water.
The gospel story about the woman at the well is familiar to all of us. And we have three reminders of this story here on the first floor of our monastery. I am confident you are all aware of the large woman at the well painting hanging outside the pastoral care office in Dooley Center, right? And there is the stained glass illustration by the drinking fountain that we walk by numerous times each day. I was made aware of one other woman at the well picture which I went searching for! I am not sure I had ever noticed it. Do you know where it is? I invite you to go searching for it like I did!
So, what is our gospel message? This gospel text, according to the Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, “transforms conventional expectations and challenges the status quo.” In what way? Before I speak of the gospel passage, I would say that in light of our meeting today: the clearing of our calendars with appts and events in the monastery and at Sophia for the next six weeks, not celebrating the Eucharist each day, only having a communion service on Sunday — all have the potential to transform us and certainly will challenge my status quo. May we heed Isaiah’s words: “God indeed is our strength. Let us be confident and unafraid.”
Now back to the gospel. The Samaritan woman speaks in a cynical, even a caustic tone to Jesus. Her rude insolence and disrespect, however, doesn’t seem to deter Jesus from staying in conversation with her. His patience actually softens her sarcastic attitude and lowers her defenses. She becomes curious about receiving the water Jesus offers and then eventually makes a statement of faith calling him a prophet.
How does this happen? Jesus is a wonderful spiritual director and he demonstrates a couple valuable Benedictine values. First of all, he respects her, he treats her as fully human. He listens, and as a good Benedictine, he listens with the ear of his heart. Jesus is non-judgmental, he accepts the Samaritan woman as she is, he is patient with her, giving her time and space to respond. We do that as spiritual directors. This humane treatment of her, a woman and a woman from Samaria, creates a sense of trust in her. Because of this trust, she invites other Samaritans to come and listen. In this lively exchange between Jesus and her, the status quo is challenged. She becomes a witness to the faith.
Lent is a season to follow Jesus more closely. How can we imitate what Jesus did in his conversing with the woman at the well? As this third week of Lent unfolds, I invite us to be mindful of how we listen and treat one another and those we encounter. As a spiritualdirector, I ask myself: do I welcome each directee with a non-judging attitude, do I accept each one as she/he is? Similar questions can be posed with community.
Can we be patient with one another, create space where trust can be deepened, listen and be present to one another’s fears in the midst of the corona virus uncertainty, the future planning we are doing, the inevitability of growing smaller??? This is our challenge, it is our reality. Let us embrace it, along with what we have heard today, so that we, too, might bear witness to our faith and to all those strong women on whose shoulders we stand! Let us together, as community, go with Jesus to the well!