Meditations and Prayers for Lent and Easter

The Third Sunday of Lent: the Samaritan Woman
Meditations and Prayers for the Third Week of Lent

by Victor Hoagland, C.P.
John 4: 4-42

The Samaritan Woman’s Story | Living Water | Believing and Praying

Her Story

John’s gospel says that Jesus, setting out from Jerusalem for his native Galilee, “had” to pass through Samaria. He had to come to the Samaritan town called Sychar, to Jacob’s well. There he had to meet the Samaritan woman.

Not just by chance did Jesus, the Savior, enter that land whose people were so bitterly opposed to their neighbors, the Jews of Judea and Galilee. Not by chance did he come to Sychar, a place of holy memories, near the beautiful site where God promised Abraham “to your descendants I will give this land”; to Jacob’s ancient well where the people of the town still came for water.

“It was about noon, and Jesus, tired after his journey, was sitting by the well.” A Samaritan woman came to the well for water.

The Samaritan Woman

What a strong, unconventional woman she must have been! She came alone to the well at noon, not the usual morning or evening time when women of the town came in groups with their water jars. Nor does she hesitate at the sight of a man sitting alone at the well.

How forceful and sarcastic her answer when Jesus asks for a drink! “What! You a Jew, ask for a drink from a Samaritan woman?” The ancient feud between Jews and Samaritans rises in her blood.

Yet the weary man persists, talking of human thirst and the living waters God provides. Gradually, as he talks of higher things, the woman recognizes he has more to give than water from the well; he fulfills all the memories associated with ancient sacred place.

He tells something, however, she would rather not hear. “You have had five husbands, the man you are living with now is not your husband.”

She must have heard it less as an accusation than as the truth, for she doesn’t turn away. More than accusing her, she felt him refreshing her soul’s thirst.

Eager and inspired, she put down her water jar and hurried to the town to tell her neighbors about the one she met. For two days Jesus stayed in that town. The tired gentle Jew, who sat by Jacob’s well, was welcomed as a Savior.

O Jesus,
Image of the invisible God,
Word made flesh,
tired stranger,
waiting in the noonday lull
at Jacob’s well.

Are we all
the woman with her waterjar,
bent on the chore of the moment,
angry memories in our bones,
our thirst for God
hidden in the business of the day?

Do you meet us gently too,
hardly recognized,
quietly leading our thoughts
towards the deeper waters,
where our souls find rest?

Probing too,
uncovering secrets
we would rather forget.
“Lord, you have probed me,
You know when I sit and when I stand,
You know my thoughts from afar.”

Is the woman,
sure and strong,
our reflection:
sure but unsure,
strong but so weak,
seeking but afraid to find
our Savior so close by?

Living Waters

The Samaritan woman, like many others we meet during Lent in John’s gospel, misunderstands so much Jesus tells her. Yet, without waiting till she understands, Jesus leads her into mysteries deeper still.

At Jacob’s well he promises her a spring of water welling up within her to eternal life. Never would she thirst again.

Does he know of a well somewhere, she wonders clutching her waterjar, a holy well whose waters cure and restore one to health?

To Nicodemus, who misunderstood him too, Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” “How can someone be born again?” Nicodemus asked.(John 3)

The man born blind (John 9) was told : “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”. He went and washed and came back able to see. But he hardly understood how it all came about.

Is our Lenten journey like this? Jesus leading us into the deepest mysteries, while we, like the Samaritan woman and the others, are slow to understand? Is Lent a time when we, like them, pray for faith that far outruns the way we know?

O Jesus,
only faith can help us see.
Earthy, cautious eyes
miss treasure in the field
in water and the bread
in faces known too well.
Only faith can help us see.

“If you knew what God gives”
you tell the woman.
No cleverness knows
or merit buys that gift.
Living water is your gift.
You alone show us what God gives.

Say to our hearts:
“Come to the waters.”
Make us thirst again,
and ask, and seek, till we find.
How can we know
whose flesh and blood we are?
Or what it means to be born again?
Unless you help our unbelief

O Jesus,
who led the woman to believe,
lead us.

Believing and Praying

The Apostles’ Creed and the Our Father, two ancient texts expressing the heart of the Church’s faith and prayer, are presented to those preparing for baptism during the third and fifth week of Lent. The Creed, recalling the wonderful things God has done for the human family, is a sure summary of faith. The Our Father instills a sense of our adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ.

A good Lenten practice is to take to heart these ancient texts, whose words are few but whose mysteries are great, reflect quietly on them, and let them lead us in the ways of faith and prayer.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived
by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand
of the Father.
He will come again
to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Illustration from painting by Angelika Kauffmann: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well

May the Passion of Jesus Christ Be Always in Our Hearts

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