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Jesus Encounters the Woman at the Well… 

woman_at_the_wellCORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – God has created the human person for happiness.  We will always be restless until we find it.  However, the complete acquisition of happiness will only be fully realized in eternity.

The Samaritan woman in this Sunday’s gospel narrative exemplifies the search that everyone has embarked upon.  She desires the peace and the happiness that the things of this world cannot provide.

First, the fact that the Samaritan woman is unhappy is evident from the gospel passage.  She has been living a sinful life.  Because of her sinful life, she does not draw water from the well located in her village.  Instead, she journeys to another well that is located more than a half of a mile away.  We can conclude from this fact that she was a social outcast.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly” (John 4: 16-18).

Secondly, her profound unhappiness causes her to search for meaning and peace.  The first encounter that the Samaritan woman has with the Lord deeply affects her.  She is surprised that he even speaks with her.  The Jews and the Samaritans did not speak to each other.  Moreover, the rabbis of that time would not speak to women.  Therefore, these two facts alone surprise her and begin an encounter that changes her life forever.

Jesus brilliantly uses the circumstances of the well, the water and her quest as parts of a pedagogy that brings her along an intense personal encounter.  Initially she relates to Jesus strictly on a human level.  After addressing him a number of times by calling him “sir,” her mind and heart begin to open and she realizes that he is a prophet.  At this point, she moves on to even a deeper level.  Her soul opens up to the reality that Jesus is the Messiah.  “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4: 26).

It is interesting to observe how the Samaritan woman becomes a true apostle once she encounters the Lord Jesus for who he truly is.  Here, like in other parts of the gospels, we see that the true disciple of the Lord will always be a passionate apostle.

“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4: 39-42).

Lent provides us a special time to examine our lives.  We are all called to conversion.  Conversion is a continual process.  We are always in need of change.  Without a doubt, Lent is the most demanding time of the year for the true disciple of Christ.  Lent provides us an opportunity not only to intensify our spiritual practices, but this penitential season also gives us a unique opportunity to reflect deeply on the progress of our journey towards eternal life.

Lent is a time for seriously questioning ourselves about our relationship with God.  We might ask whether there are any particular sins or attachments that might prove to be obstacles to our achieving eternal salvation.  A serious Lent is not only like a spring-cleaning in which we cleanse our souls of the clutter that has been accumulating there, it is also a time when changes in the way we live our lives may be in order.

Every day we are faced with choices and challenges that affect our relationship with the Lord.  It is not easy to be faithful. However, God’s grace makes discipleship not only possible; it also makes it an amazing adventure.

We must not be surprised that Christianity essentially implies a daily, personal struggle.  Commitment and battle go hand in hand.  We have to take very seriously the fact that our human nature is wounded by original sin.  Discouragement is never an option for true disciples of Christ.  Every day presents a new opportunity to begin again.  God’s loving mercy is always available to us through the sacrament of Confession.  It is precisely God’s loving willingness to forgive our sins that fills us with the hope of eternal life.

There is an interesting story about a small group of college students that lived in Spain many years ago.  Unfortunately, they were known for their very sinful lives.  One day, one of the girls of the group was killed in a tragic car accident.  Naturally, even though her friends no longer attended church, they decided to go to the wake and the funeral.

During the rosary, something amazing occurred.  While one of the decades was being prayed, the deceased girl awoke, stood up in the coffin and said, “Do not pray for me.  I am in hell”.    The impact of this miracle was so tremendous, that two of the boys of the group had profound conversions.  However, the other members of the group were untouched by the miracle and continued to live their immoral lives.

Conversion means that we drink from the well of divine life, rather than from the swamp of sin.  “Jesus said to her, ‘Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 13-14).

As we continue to unravel the meaning and application of this Sunday’s gospel narrative, we can look at the gospel passage from another vantage point.  Not only is the Samaritan woman searching for happiness, Jesus also seeks out the salvation of the woman.  The gospels continually display a two-sided equation: man’s search for God and God’s search for man.

In this Sunday’s gospel narrative, we are struck by the fact that Jesus is tired and he stops at the well to rest.  The heat is oppressive and Jesus is exhausted.  Nevertheless, forgetful of his own personal needs, Jesus is absorbed by an uncontainable desire for the eternal salvation of the Samaritan woman.

This uncontainable desire for the eternal salvation of all mankind is illustrated in the beautiful words that Our Lord spoke to Saint Margaret Mary during the third apparition of his Sacred Heart, which took place on June 16, 1675.  “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love”.

The gospel helps us to understand what allows Jesus to love us unconditionally.  He is not hindered by his own personal comfort.  A passion drives everything that he does.  “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4: 34).

Just as Jesus sought the eternal salvation of the Samaritan woman, he seeks us out as well.  He continually reaches out to us and desires our eternal salvation.

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Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas and is a member of the Board of Directors of Human Life International. Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum.  He has also published a book calledMan to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life.  You can click here for the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.  His second book, Get Serious! will be available soon.  You can visit Father James on the web at www.FatherJames.org.