We enter the home stretch of Lent. The gospel readings from this point on will be long, really long. This week we hear about the woman at the well. Next week we encounter the man born blind. Just when we think Jesus rocks because he restores sight, the following week he raises Lazarus from the dead. Then we arrive at the passion.
This is the itinerary for the remainder of the Sundays of Lent. Wear comfortable shoes, cause standing you will for a while (in your best Yoda voice).
Just a few things about this gospel with Jesus and the woman at the well.
First, as we read the gospel of John, know that nothing is random or accidental. Everything has meaning. Everything is significant and placed where it should be. John writes with layers of meaning. There is always more than meets the eye.
For instance, at the beginning of Jesus ministry in the weeding feast of Cana, Mary is present. At the end on the cross, Mary is present. The gospel writer wants us to connect the dots. There are significant things to be aware of that occur at these points in salvation history.
Today, in the gospel, Jesus as for a drink. Give me a drink he states to the woman who approaches the well. JEsus ask for a drink twice in the gospel of John. The gospel writer perhaps wants us to link the two events together.
Jesus asks for a drink, once at the well and once on the cross.
Once as a weary traveler exhausted from the rigor of the journey and once as a crucified criminal, beaten and bruised from his travels to Calvary.
Both cases, Jesus comes disguised. That is,it takes some convincing in order for the folks around to begin to realize who this person is, to uncover his real identity.
The woman at the well requires a lengthy discussion before she begins to see clearly who it is that is asking for a drink. In fact Jesus has to flat our tell her, "I am he, the one who is speaking with you."
At the cross the same thing occurs. The good thief enters into a dialogue with his partner in crime and in doing so he finally realizes that the man crucified between them was different and he exclaims, "JEsus remember me when you come into your kingdom." The centurion standing by proclaims the same sentiment upon Jesus' death, "surly this was the Son of God."
Jesus came disguised. It took some convincing in other for them to realize his true identity, his true worth.
Jesus often comes disguised in our life. How often does Jesus identify himself with the least of our brothers and sisters. Which means in the face of every stranger who is on a journey, in the face of the criminal and in every and each face in between, we are asked to stop and look again that we might see in the face of the other the radiant face of Christ.
Do we recognize him?
Grace wants to help us see differently. Grace wants to empower us to look beyond the surface and truly see in the depth of the reality before us, face to face. There we hear the words of Jesus, "I am he."
Secondly, the encounter with the woman at the well and Jesus was a chance encounter.
The woman, the mere fact she is going at high noon to get water suggest that she is avoiding people. She doesn't want to draw attention to herself. She does't want to be noticed. Normally, women would go together to the well at the cool of the morning. Never alone, never at noon, unless there is shame associated with their lifestyle. It seems our woman was being shunned by the community. To avoid further ridicule, she goes alone at noon.
She just wants to get to the well, get the water, and get it home, with little snags along the way.
Yet, she encounter an interruption. There is a man waiting at the well. And if it isn't bad enough, this man wants to have a conversation. This is breaking all the social norms. I'm quite sure it was frustrating. The woman had a choice to make: she could get angry and let it boil over, she could get into a yelling match as to why this interruption shouldn't be happening, or she could receive it as a gift.
We too have decisions to make. When we encounter unexpected interruptions into our daily routine. We can get angry, have a blow up, or receive it as an invitation from God saying, "Give me a drink."
The woman enters into the interruption and experiences grace and transformation. How often does God want this for us and we kick the goad so to speak, we fight the moment rather than receiving it as that which might lead to our transformation.
Notice the conversation with Jesus moves form the surface to a little deeper. It get shown right personal, "you have had five husbands and the one you are with now is not your husband."
We live too much on the surface. How much of our life is spent one the top layer of existence with our every getting down deep where the dirt is. We need to take a risk every now and then and get to the dirt. It is in the dirt where seeds can be planted and true germination and growth begins to take place.
It is challenge God has for us daily.
It is a good challenge for Lent.
Lastly, notice that when Jesus speaks to the woman about he reliving situation, he doesn't condemn her or shame her. When we meet people like this woman we are the first to point the finger and call names and place labels: adultery, fornicator, sinner.
Yet, Jesus sees woman who is in pain, whose life has become one disappointment after another, who is longing for something better. So he elevates her. He lifts her form the shame and hiding that she was in to living out in the open with new purpose.
She is empowered. She runs to the market place and openly invites others to come and see this man. She went from avoiding people to engaging with them.
What JEsus does for the woman we too are called to do for one another. We have Christ living in us. We have the gifts already at our finger tips to empower others to rise from the ashes of their lives and begin a new.
This too is a challenge for us. It is easy to step on people when they are down. It is more fulfilling to lift them upwards and outward.
Give it a go.