Archive for the ‘Woman at the Well’ Category

Finding Jesus in our Isolation — 3rd Sunday of Lent—Year A

March 16, 2020

Today’s Gospel story contains a valuable lesson for us in our present situation.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there
at [Jacob’s] well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

There is a weird detail contained in these passages: the woman is going to the well to draw water at noon. It’s hot at noon in the Middle East, so Jesus and the woman are the only ones there. Why didn’t she come in the morning or the evening when the heavy job of hauling water would not have the added burden of the midday sun and heat? It’s because she didn’t want to be there when the other women would be around. Jesus reveals that the woman has no true husband and that she has had five different mates through the years. Jesus knows this supernaturally but her neighbors know something of these facts naturally, through local gossip. This woman has a reputation and if she were to go to that well at the same time as the other women they would make her feel unwelcome, through their words or their silence, with their eyes and their body language. They have quarantined themselves from her and she has socially distanced her heart from them.

In the middle of her day,
in the uncertainties of her life,
amid the stress of her tasks,
in her personal isolation,
she is surprised to encounter Jesus there.

He says 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. … 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.”

Jesus wins over the woman’s soul, she leaves her water jar behind and joyfully proclaims her great discovery. Meanwhile, the returned disciples urge Jesus, ‘Rabbi, Teacher, eat something!’ But he says to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know. … My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.” Of course Jesus is hungry—physical realities are real—but he has nourishment in his soul, from his relationship with God his Father and his deepening relationship with those he has come to save, like this woman at the well.

Now in likening the woman at the well to one quarantined from others, I am not advising you to take unnecessary or imprudent risks amidst this current Coronavirus pandemic. In these months ahead, some of us will be called to acts of particular courage; nurses and doctors come first to mind. But we should not blithely, unnecessarily place ourselves in foreseeable natural dangers expecting God to perform miracles to protect us. Recall how Satan tempted, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” We must not act presumptuously.

The reason I mention the woman finding Jesus in her isolation is because, whatever our health may be, we need to encounter him there as well. Public Masses continue in our diocese, but it is very probable that these will be suspended in the future, just as Catholic Churches suspended public Masses a century ago during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I will personally be very surprised if we are having Mass here together two weeks from today. [Post-Script: On the evening of March 17th, Bishop William Callahan directed his priests to abide by Wisconsin’s statewide ban on all gatherings of more than 10 people announced earlier in the day. As a result, we are cancelling all remaining public Masses at my parishes.] Yet even in times when public Masses are readily available, most hours of our week and not spent inside of a church.

In the middle of your day,
in the uncertainties of your life,
amid the stress of your tasks,
in your personal isolation,
you can encounter Jesus there.

He is with you and within you, so you are never really alone.
Jesus says:

“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as scripture says:
‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”

Wherever you are, find him there, and draw on his graces.

I seem to recall a story about St. Faustina Kowaska, the Polish nun and visionary most closely associated with the Divine Mercy devotion. When she was confined to her convent infirmary, suffering from the tuberculosis which would eventually take her life, she lamented that for one or more days in a row she had been unable to receive Holy Communion. In a vision, Jesus reassured her, saying, ‘Whenever you receive me in the Eucharist, I remain within you until you receive me again, unless you cast me out through mortal sin.’ Similarly, in the sixth chapter of John, Jesus famously declares:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. … Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

Christ’s Church encourages frequent, even daily, reception of Holy Communion as a helpful devotion toward holiness, but whether your next communion is one week or three months from now, know that Jesus is with you to provide his sufficient graces for your life. If public Masses are suspended in our diocese, realize that I and other Catholic priests, even if standing alone in our churches, will still be offering the Holy Mass daily for you and the whole world. And we will be bringing Confession, Holy Anointing, and Viaticum to the sick, as is our calling and duty, for as long as we are able. This Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic is rightfully concerning. (I urge you to read my bulletin article this weekend.) But whatever comes we need not fear, for “we know that all things work for good for those who love God,” and “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” As Jesus would very often say, “Be not afraid.

Nicodemus & the Woman at the Well — 3rd Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 22, 2014

A Water Well in the DesertNicodemus and the woman at the well could hardly be more opposite–but for the fact that in neighboring chapters of John’s Gospel they both encountered Jesus. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. She was a simple Samaritan peasant. He was an educated “teacher of Israel.” She was, according to the Jews, a member of a heretical sect. He was at the center of the religious center. While she, as we will see, was an outcast among outcasts.

He came to Jesus at night, but she “about noon.” Both are odd times. Why wasn’t he traveling by the ease and safety of daylight, and why wasn’t she fetching water at a cooler time, before sunrise or after sunset? He feared the Jews who hated Jesus and so came under cover of darkness, while she was avoiding the townspeople who despised and judged her. While Nicodemus sought out Jesus to have his questions answered, the woman at the well had never heard of him. Rather, it was Jesus who sought her out to propose a relationship, meeting her (appropriately) at a well, like where many of the patriarchs first encountered their beloveds.

Jesus told Nicodemus that we “must be born of water and Spirit” and told the woman that we “must worship in Spirit and truth.” These are the components of the Christian life: sacraments and discipleship. We can tell that being “born [again] water and Spirit” is sacramental because, after the dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus supervises his apostles baptizing in the Jordan. And we can see that Jesus is calling the woman to discipleship because Jesus spoke to her at the well seated, the posture of ancient teachers. The Christian life consists of sacraments and discipleship. Just going to church is not enough–our daily lives must be his, and if we try to be Christians without the power of the sacraments, we will find ourselves enfeebled and failing.

Amazingly, while Nicodemus left Jesus as discretely as he came, the Samaritan woman left convinced about Jesus and simply had to tell others, even those who disliked her. “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” Nicodemus comes around slowly, first critiquing his Pharisaic peers who revile Jesus, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” Then, after the death of Jesus, Nicodemus comes to full courage, “bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds” to prepare his body for burial. It is as if Nicodemus said, “I don’t care what anyone else says, this is good, and right, and true; Jesus was sent by God.” Nicodemus was at the center of the religious center while she was an outcast among outcasts, yet she responded more readily to Christ.

We can see Nicodemus as a natural audience for Jesus, but she would tend to make us question Jesus, “Why are you talking to her?” She was a sinner, yet so was Nicodemus, and so are we. Notice how Jesus does not ignore her sin but does not allow it to get in the way of her seeing that he loves her. “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” Instead of condemning her for her sins, he compliments her for her honesty! “For,” as Jesus told Nicodemus, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Who is longing for God? Deep down, all people are. As St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until the rest in you.” But who will be receptive to the Gospel when we share it? If we never try, we’ll never know. “I tell you, look up” Jesus says, “and see the fields ripe for the harvest.” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you opportunities to evangelize, to talk about the cause for your joy, and then bravely follow his promptings. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Why is the Dead Sea dead? Nothing lives in it because of all the salt, but there’s another of explaining this. Living water flows from the Sea of Galilee, down the Jordan River, and into the Dead Sea constantly, day and night, yet it is dead because nothing ever flows out. So we must allow living waters to flow through as well. Everyone wants the truth like Nicodemus. Everyone thirsts for life-giving waters like the woman at the well. Everyone is looking for Jesus, and Jesus is asking you to help in the introductions.

Gospel Movies

July 1, 2010

Below are five original shorts drawn from the Scriptures. Click the images to watch them.

Teddy Bear Annunciation

The Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, with teddy bears.

Robot Jesus at the Watering Hole

Jesus meets the woman at the well; the Gosple of John, chapter 4, starring robots.

The Rich Young Rapper

A rich young rapper questions Jesus on the subway; a remix of Matthew, chapter 19 and Mark, chapter 10.  

Doubting Thomas

 The resurrected Christ appears to a skeptical disciple in the Gospel of John, chapter 20.

The Importance of the Resurrection

From St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.