Summary: Year A. Third Sunday in Lent John 4: 5-42 March 3, 2002 -- THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95 Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1) Roman
Year A. Third Sunday in Lent John 4: 5-42
March 3, 2002 -- THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1)
A Samaritan woman gradually comes to belief in Jesus. She then spreads the word and many of her townsfolk come to Jesus because of her testimony.
The key to understanding John is to realize it is written on two levels simultaneously. Level one is the level of brute facts, the natural, physical level. Level two is the level of interpretation, the supernatural level, open only to believers. “Natural” man interprets reality also, but not from and by the light of eternity. We might call this second level “sacramental awareness” because it is the ability to see through or beyond the physical data to a more-than-physical meaning. Realities are seen as, become, signs of greater realities, that is, as sacraments or sacramentals.
This story tells of what happened between Jesus and a Samaritan woman on level one and what it means on level two. It is the drama of a person struggling to rise from the “things,” of this world to belief in Jesus. The point of the story is meant to apply to everyone since all must come to recognize who it is who speaks when Jesus speaks through the details of our lives, that is, to recognize the divine voice within the human voices and situations that is, sacramental awareness, and ask for what we need, ask for what is called in the story “living water.” As water is essential for life on the natural level, living water is essential for supernatural life. The story goes on to show how the woman’s receiving the living water benefited not only her but broadens to benefit, by her witness, an entire town, by her, beginning the same process in each of her neighbors. It is the story of how the Servant’s of Jesus’ obedience benefits and saves everyone who believes in him and how this is replicated in the mission of the Church over a wider space and extended time. This is a story about how the water of Christian Baptism is not merely to be “poured on or over.” It must sink in. The Christian must drink it in and let it flow through his or her being. This is a story of what happens before, during and after Baptism of any adult or Confirmation in the case of an adult baptized at birth. This story, like all the stories of and about Jesus, is to be “laid over” one’s personal story in order to see both the similarities and differences, to enjoy and enhance the similarities and change and correct the differences.
There are three scenes in this short play. Scene One involves Jesus in a dialogue with the Samaritan woman, clearing up her misunderstanding verses four to twenty-six. Scene Two involves a dialogue with the disciples, clearing up their misunderstanding verses twenty-seven to thirty-eight. Scene Three involves the conversion of the townspeople verses thirty-nine to forty-two.
In verse four Samaria: This is the region between Galilee and Judea. Before the Assyrians conquered the area in 722BC these folks were Jewish, but the Assyrians mixed the population with foreign colonists that is, five different races, who subsequently intermarried with Jews. Henceforth, they were considered by “pure bloods,” to be only “half Jews,” thus not real Jews at all. That was problem one. Problem two developed in the fifth century BC when the returned-from-exile Jews were trying to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritans gave them a hard time. Problem three was the straw that broke the camel’s back. At the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century BC, when the Jews rose up against the tyranny of Syria, the Samaritans sided with Syria. The rebel leader, John Hyrcanus, destroyed Schechem, the capital of Samaria, and their Temple on Mt. Gerizim which was built to rival the Jerusalem Temple, in retaliation for their treachery. There was so much bad blood between Samaritans and Jews that Jews would not pass through their country. They would go miles out of their way rather than be caught dead in Samaria. No self-respecting Jews would even talk to a Samaritan. Remember the notion of “corporate personality.” Samaritans would forever be held responsible for what their ancestors did, just as if they did it themselves.
In verse five, Sychar: There is some dispute about what this means, for there is a modern village called Askar, undoubtedly derived from “Sychar.” However, it is too far away from Jacob’s well to fit into the story as told. We will take it as meaning Schechem, a reading found in an important Syriac version, the ancient capital of Samaria, since Jacob’s well is at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, 250 feet away from the town.