Readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42
Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world. The story of the Samaritan woman in the Gospel is a concrete example of how God transforms people one at a time. Lent is a season when we encounter God who not only thirsts to transform us, but also God who satisfies our spiritual thirst. This is evident in the Gospel from John which very effectively uses the symbolism of water and thirst, leading us to scrutinize our own spiritual thirst. Let me first tell you a true story. One morning in 1888, a man was shocked to read about his own death in the obituary. It was an error. However, he was even more shocked to read in the newspaper about himself as someone who had found new ways to kill people and became rich from doing so. It was true; he had invented dynamite. That morning he decided to change and devote his energies in a new direction, to work for world peace. He left most of his estate after his death to fund the Nobel Peace Prize. That man was the Swedish Alfred Nobel.
I tell this story because Nobel, on reading a shocking story about himself, decided to change. Similarly, the Samaritan woman in the Gospel was shocked to discover that Jesus knew about her private life and her brokenness. That led to her own self-scrutiny. When she confessed that she knew the Messiah, Jesus then reveals his true identity to her. “I who am speaking to you... I am he”. On hearing this, she accepts the water of life that Jesus is offering to quench her spiritual thirst.
The Samaritan woman in the Gospel becomes aware of her own brokenness; her spiritual thirst and accepts the water of life that Jesus offers to quench her spiritual thirst. This woman who first came for a jar of water, now leaves the jar at the well and becomes a disciple and a messenger sent to her village where she tells her people: “Come and see”, come and see the person who has changed my life! This story was so convincing that the entire village came and saw and invited Jesus who stayed with them for two days!
You and I like the Samaritan woman have come to the well and encountered Jesus, who has told us everything about us. He has offered us life-giving water; he now challenges us to accept his offer and change our lives. As we celebrate the first of three Scrutinies with the candidates for Baptism, the readings invite us along with the candidates to reflect on our lives and so discover our need for conversion.
The message we take home is threefold. 1) Like the Samaritan woman, this too is our day to encounter Jesus at the well, leading us through our self-scrutiny, conversion and transformation. 2) We too have discovered our thirst and need for the Water of Life. 3) At the end of the Mass today, like the Samaritan woman let’s go out and announce the good news that Jesus whom we have encountered at the well today has transformed our lives.
©2017 John S. Mbinda