Abbot Richard’s Gospel Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent – 19 March 2017

Gospel: John 4:5-42

Reading between the lines

Did you ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation with someone and suddenly realise that the two of you were talking about different things, that you weren’t on the same wavelength? That’s what happened to the woman at the well in this Sunday’s gospel passage.  Jesus is sitting at the well when the Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  He strikes up a conversation with her, which she thinks is about getting a drink of water from the well, but a few sentences into the conversation she suddenly realises that he is not talking about the water in the well, but water that brings eternal life.

The Samaritan woman must have got a big shock. Firstly Jesus, who as a Jew would not normally speak with a Samaritan, strikes up a conversation with her, then he starts talking about water that brings eternal life, and then he goes on to reveal details of her private life, and he finishes up by telling her that he is the Messiah.

We know that we will not meet Jesus in person when we go about our ordinary day to day business, but perhaps we sometimes miss his message to us in the ordinary conversations we have with those we meet. God can speak to us on several levels – sometimes we have to read between the lines.

After their initial conversation about water, the Samaritan woman goes on to question Jesus about the place where God should be worshipped – the Samaritans traditionally worshipped God on Mount Gerizim, but for the Jews God was to be worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus however makes it clear that where we worship God is not so important as how we worship him – we should worship him in spirit and truth.

Worshipping God is not so much about going to a place – wherever that might be – but rather about being faithful to the spirit of God within is. Of course it’s important to go to the church or chapel or at least to give time to pray, but it’s equally important to worship God through the ordinary, everyday events of our lives.

In the final section of this Gospel passage it is the disciples who are on the different wavelength to Jesus when he tells them that his food ‘is to do the will of the one who sent me’. This is what sustains Jesus in his ministry – knowing that he is being faithful to what God wants.  Ultimately that is what will sustain us too, doing our best to live out the will of God in our lives.

This passage contains three important lessons for us, especially useful during this time of Lent – we must drink the water that Jesus offers, by which he means doing our best to follow in his way; we must constantly worship God with our lives, our pray must overflow into our everyday actions; and we must nourish ourselves on his will, sustained in the knowledge that God in his providence provides for us.

Perhaps it’s easier said than done, but if we don’t listen carefully we can sometimes miss what Jesus is saying to us.

Fr Richard Purcell ocso