Saturday, 26 March 2011


GospelJohn 4:5-42 

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied 

‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:
‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’
‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:
‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’
The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’
  At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.
  Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:
‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’
Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

This week in school we were talking about the Sacrament of Reconciliation with our eleven and twelve year olds, some are Catholic, many are not, none had ever made more than their First Confession. Over two or three lessons we led them through being sorry, meaning being sorry and what you can do about it on a person to person level. 

Then we talked about what's left. What's left when your behaviour affects everyone in your family; what if it affects you and you can't say 'sorry' to yourself; what if you never get to say sorry; what if the person doesn't accept 'sorry'; what if; what if 'sorry' is not the right word?

Time then for God to step in, always time for God to step in, but here they saw the need for this Greater Power to be able to take away some of the burdens they were carrying and replace it with the grace; desire and blessing to begin again. A short meditation leading to an examination of conscience saw pencils racing across the page to get events, feelings and regrets out of their system; their obvious honesty was profound.

When we did a short 'stone' meditation by way of a Reconciliation Service; the stones burned hot in their hands as they, as children can, gave over all that they had been holding onto. When the time came to drop the stones in the water - some couldn't wait - some could hardly let go. All felt relieved. It was wonderful to be involved in such freedom. One girl said - I never got what sin is - but it's not feeling right.

It is a pity that the Sacrament of Reconciliation has such a bad press. That it is regarded as a duty on a par with visiting dentists; yet it is pure gift; pure grace. Maybe if we took the time to prepare that we gave our students this week it would probably help; rather than convincing ourselves that God has got a handle on it and knows we are sorry; when it is not God, but ourselves, with the 'need to know'.

 I had never really connected the Samaritan woman with the Sacrament (after all, if there is sin it is implied and if assumed then not 'forgiven' and Jesus always forgives)  

But tonight when  I was making ready around Church, thinking about the Scripture, the Confessional light went on. Here was our priest, in Jesus' name, offering a channel for the living water that is God's grace and forgiveness of all our regrets. Sitting, waiting for friends and strangers to seek out this gift; freely given to anyone who asks. Yet people walk past; having other things to do; other priorities in mind.

Jesus is sitting, waiting too;  his friends off feeding the body rather that the spirit - other priorities; other places to be. 

It is this woman who comes to the well. Maybe not a sinner (though aren't we all?) but not right.  There is something not right about a woman who has grieved for five husbands and whatever the circumstance of the present relationship. There is something not right about a woman coming to the well alone; without women friends; without a child on her back or running around her feet.

This woman is no outcast; she is able to return to her village not imagining that she won't be heard; she can hold her own in conversation with a stranger (too clever for her own good?).  She knows herself;  her longings; she wants to feel right. She is prepared to do the work; to enter into dialogue with the 'enemy'; to enter into relationship with this man who knows her in spite of  the bravado and the stigma of who she is or is not. This man has what she needs and she has the confidence and humility to ask for it.  Not out of shame or even guilt; but with with the optimism that God's grace is the answer; will fill her with light; will make her new. 

And because it does she has the generosity of spirit to bring others to that same well, whilst Jesus' disciples are still wondering what he has been up to. 

What a wonderful way this would be to approach the Sacrament and especially in this time of Lent -when we are seeking our way through desert paths - what an opportunity to find an oasis in which to sit with a friend; to rest; to be unburdened; to be made new.



Margaret said...

The rituals with the children sound wonderful and very meaningful. I hope they can hold onto them, and those feelings, for a while.

Anonymous said...

Great connection Word. You are so right about Reconciliation. It is considered a Healing Sacrament for a reason! It's a feel good sacrament not a scary one...we need some catechesis here.

claire said...

Ah, mairie, how I wish my grandson was in your Catechism class. He is also getting ready for his first reconciliation.
So much to share here! Thank you. I will share your thoughts with my family.
I love every bit of your post. Thank you!

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you all - spent this week repeating the process - I do love this Sacrament. blessings to your grandson and his class, Claire +x

Mari said...

Mairie, I love the way you compare God's grace to an oasis. When we come to his spirit we do feel renewed and refresh and ready for reconciliation.

Jen Daiker said...

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