Third Sunday of Lent (March 19, 2017)

Lent is a time for us to encounter Jesus in a very personal way so that we deepen our baptismal consecration and commitment. John tells us that he wrote about the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief we may have life in his name.”

Notice that, during this encounter, Jesus is drawing the woman beyond earthly realities and concerns to the deeper realities of the eternal. Jesus offers her “living water.” He means water that gives life, but her attention is on earthly water. She asks him, rather sarcastically, if he thinks he’s better than Jacob who gave them this well. Jesus refuses to be side-tracked from his goal - to give her water that will permanently end her thirst. All she can see is the convenience of not having to come to the well every day.

Jesus moves her to a new level by getting her to face the truth of her present situation. But he doesn’t tell her to “come back when you’ve straightened out your life.” The grace he offers is meant to help her to change – here and now.

Rather than make a commitment now, she says that she’s waiting for the Messiah to come. Now, Jesus can offer her the opportunity for a personal commitment: “I am he.”

The purpose of the story is to remind us that even committed disciples need to be brought to deeper understanding and conversion.

How great is our thirst during this Lenten season? What is the “food” we are seeking? What is it that Jesus wants us to understand through our Lenten encounters with him? St. Paul reminds us that God has proven his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Our Lenten journey will be more fruitful if we are sincerely open when we encounter Jesus and are willing to be led by grace into a deeper conversion of mind and heart to the ways of the Lord. Then our hope will be based on the love of God poured out into our hearts.

Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS, is the Executive Director of the De Sales Spirituality Center.