3rd Sunday of Lent: Woman At The Well

March 17, 2017 | Reflections From Sr Mary

What makes this world so lovely
is that somewhere it hides a well. 

These are the opening words of one of Macrina Weiderkehr’s reflections on that wonderful story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman which we will hear in this Sunday’s Gospel. I think it comes at a perfect time as after a few weeks of our Lenten journey, we are certainly in need of a well!

We know the story…
Here is a woman who comes to get water from Jacob’s well. She is a Samaritan, a race of people the Jews utterly despise as having no claim on their God…and she is also an outcast, one who is looked down upon by her own people. She comes alone in the heat of the day to draw water from the community well. This is unusual as drawing water and chatting at the well early in the day is the social highpoint for most other women. She, however, is not like “most other women”. She is ostracized and marked as immoral, an unmarried woman living openly with the sixth in a series of men. Into this “well scenario” comes Jesus.

Can we place ourselves at the well and watch the interaction between Jesus and the woman? Just as Hosea reminded us a couple of weeks back, here we see Jesus in what we could call “lure mode”! He throws out a line to the woman with a lure on it! Perhaps he stayed by the well to do just that. He asks her for a drink. His gaze is upon this woman and he is provocative and challenging. He offers her life – the living waters of his love but she doesn’t bite and becomes terribly practical telling him that he doesn’t have a bucket!

He casts the line a second time telling her that the water he gives will turn into a spring inside her – now he is really dangling that brightly coloured lure before her. She seems to hear this time and wants this water that means she will never get thirsty again, never have to come to the well again, never have to be embarrassed again by having to come secretly in the middle of the day. But, Jesus wants to lure her even more so he casts again. He cares about this woman who is an outcast, a sinner, a “refugee”. I wonder did he have Hosea’s words in mind as he did this? I will lure her into the wilderness where I can speak to her heart. I will betroth her with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love. I will love the Unloved and say to No People of Mine that you are my people. 

When Jesus confronts her with her life of sin and tells her that he is the Messiah, the woman suddenly forgets her reason for being at the well; she leaves her water jug behind and hurries back to tell the people to Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ? 

Jesus has lured her into his love, forgiveness and mercy and in doing so, frees her to leave her old life behind. His loving gaze surrounds her and washes over her –
she is now wanted,
cared for at last,
no longer an outcast,
not shamed or put down or dismissed,
here was someone who could see something of value in her.
This is grace… this is the living water, the loving gaze that Jesus pours upon her and upon all of us.

As I said, we all know this story well but the Church gives it to us every year at this time in Lent so that we can plumb its depths a little more… for, like a good well, it will always provide much more of that life-giving stuff! And, like the love and mercy of our God, its ability to refresh and renew us is limitless.

So, I suggest to all of us over the coming days leading up to this weekend, to search for a well, an oasis in our Lenten journey. And in whatever form you choose to pray, put yourself in the same position as the Samaritan woman… approach the well as you are, with all your gifts, characteristics, problems, worries, failings… and meet Jesus there.

Strike up a conversation… maybe you will start, maybe he will… take it slow, meet his gaze and hold it if you can, feel his eyes upon you, listen a lot…perhaps to words, or perhaps to his gaze or maybe just sit in silence with him… whatever happens in your encounter, dip your bucket deep in the well of that life-giving water offered so freely to us, the waters of cleansing, love, grace, mercy and refreshment.

Funnily enough, we seem to be surrounded by water these days so we shouldn’t have to look too far to find any number of wells! And, we only have to look around at the effects of all this water to see just what refreshment it can bring.

If the constant rain can green our fields and bring bounteous growth, how much more can the living waters of God’s mercy, and love, green our weary souls and bring new life and growth in the depths of our being. What makes this world so lovely is that somewhere it hides a well. May each of us find one this coming week and drink deeply with delight!

The words I have been quoting from Macrina are but a taste of her beautiful reflection. As we conclude, let’s listen to the whole thing!

A Well Reflection

Macrina Wiederkehr

What makes this world so lovely
is that somewhere it hides a well.
Something lovely there is about a well
so deep
un-piped and real
with buckets and buckets
of that life-giving drink.
A faucet will do in a hurry,
but what makes the world so lovely
is that somewhere
it hides a well!

people are like wells
deep and real
natural (un-piped)
calm and cool,
They bring out what is best in you
They are like fountains of pure joy
They make you want to sing or maybe, dance.
They encourage you to laugh
even, when things get rough.
And maybe that’s why
things never stay rough
once you’ve found a well.

Some experiences are like wells too.
People create them
They are life-giving happenings
They are redeeming experiences
They are wells,
Wells of wonder,
Wells of hope.
When you find a well
and, you will some day,
Drink deeply of the gift within.
And then, maybe soon
you’ll discover
that you’ve become
what you’ve received,
And then you will be a well
for others to find.

So, lift up your eyes and look around you:
Over the mountains, down in the valley
out in the ocean, over the runways
into the cities, into the country
sidewalks and highways
paths in the forest
into the hearts of a thirsty people.

And I beg you
don’t ever stop looking
because what makes this world so lovely
is that somewhere
it hides a well,
a well that hasn’t been found yet.

And if YOU don’t find it
maybe no one will!
And if you don’t be one
nobody will find you!

Questions for Reflection

  • Where do I need a well in my life at present?
  • What kind of practical things do I put in the way of really allowing the gaze, the words and love of Jesus to touch my soul?
  • Are there any patterns in my life or maybe voices in my head which are recurring…and I am not really heeding? If so, try to bring them to mind and write them down. What are they saying to me? What might Jesus be saying to me in and through them? How can I allow his life-giving water to refresh them or bring a greater clarity?
  • What kind of a well am I to others?
  • Am I selective in my well giving?
  • How can I become that well, by which Jesus sits and offers life giving water to others…all others?
  • Am I prepared to share buckets and buckets from the well deep within me or do I ration my giving to preserve myself?
  • Am I open to finding the well deep within others