The Invitation

The Gospel Reading for today (short version), the third Sunday of Lent, is John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42.

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria 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, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

“I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Its a different sort of scene here, isn’t it? Jesus, a Jew, with a Samaritan woman. It goes against the cultural grain. This sort of thing just wasn’t done. It wasn’t socially acceptable. The mindset of the Jews and Samaritans, either group the one towards the other, reminds me of the old Jim Crow laws. Only in this instance there wasn’t even the pretext of “separate but equal”. And this makes what happens here all the more striking.

Do you think that what Jesus really wanted was water? Or was asking for water a way of extending an invitation to the Samaritan? Because if she had known who it was that was speaking to her she’d be asking him for water. He lets her know that immediately. So whats going on here doesn’t have anything to do with her giving Jesus water. This is his way of extending an invitation to her, letting her know, giving her the opportunity to ask him. And he doesn’t make the offer in ignorance. He knows all about her and, in the longer reading, lets her know that for him her life is an open book. Despite this he still makes his offer, his invitation. And it stands. He doesn’t retract it at any point or for any reason. He has living water to give and the chance is hers.

There are a lot of people in this world who are forced onto social “reservations” just as many Native Americans were forced on literal reservations. There are a great many people in this world who are told, one way or another, that they are “separate but equal”, with the emphasis on the word separate. Every culture has its untouchables, the outcasts, those willfully ostracized. The world is still made up of Jews and Samaritans. And there are all sorts of reasons for it. Some of these reasons can even be made to sound plausible. None of these reasons are ever good, and never will they be Godly. In heaven? Everybody drinks from only one water fountain.

Think about the people who, for whatever reason, are made to live apart. Apart from “acceptable” society. Maybe its religion, perhaps its skin color, it can be something as simple as their speaking another language. But they’re Samaritans as opposed to Jews, or vice versa. They’re different, and lacking in some respect. And because of this no one would ever think to ask them for a drink of water. Neither would they think of extending to them an invitation of any kind.

Jesus saw things, he saw the woman at the well, differently. For him there were no outcasts, none that were unclean. There were, there are, only lost sheep needing to be found. There were, there are, only people dieing of thirst who don’t even know they’re dieing. There were, there are, only people needing an invitation.

Jesus spent two days with the people of that Samaritan village. He ate with them, he drank with them, he talked with them, he went into their homes. And during all of this his only goal was to extend to each one of them an invitation. Today? He has you and me, us, to work through. This means that we’re the ones extending the invitation now. Do we exclude the Samaritans, or do we go into all the world? Jesus set the example. Its our choice whether or not we follow it. Its our choice whether or not we follow him. Its our choice whether or not we extend the invitation.

Having said all of the above I’ve made my point. And now I have one more point to make. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.” A good example is one to be followed. (A good reason to daily read The Lives of the Saints.) Today we are blessed. We are being given a marvelous example to follow, a good Catholic example. God has blessed us with Papa Francis, who I’ve started to think of as the Pope of the Annunciation. Because that’s what he’s doing. He’s announcing Christ to the world in a very personal way. He’s extending the invitation. Pray for the Holy Father.

 

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