3rd Sunday of Lent (A)
March 23, 2014


The woman who came to Jesus at the well was not named. But hey, she had a title – and a reputation to boot!  Samaritan woman! What more could she ask? She was not named, but that didn’t mean she was not known! In fact, she was well known. Her reputation preceded her everywhere she went, and I have no reason to think Jesus did not know a thing or two about her.

Well, in point of fact, Jesus did know. He knew enough to put her off-guard and lead her to ask questions that were evasive, even non-sensical, with absolutely nothing to do with what the Lord was trying to gently explain to her.

Times, there are in anyone’s life when we’d rather ask academic or theoretical questions. These are moments when the painful truth sits so close to us and makes us uncomfortable. I hear and see such very often in social media. I post on help that should go the way of typhoon victims who suffered – four months ago, and after four months, are still suffering the neglect and incompetence of a callous government and people. I tell friends about what is needed, about what people would appreciate receiving, since they have literally almost nothing. But lo and behold, I see from nowhere – from among the lurkers who read and see my posts and see the pictures of help coming from people all over the world, and out from the blues, I see that question that is as theoretical as it is useless: “What can I do to help?”

A totally useless question, if ever there was one! Everyone is raring to give money or goods or help in the repacking, and here comes someone who see them all and asks me: “Can I donate? Of course, my 30 years as a priest tell me that those who want to help just help. Those who ask too many theoretical questions about which bank to park the money in, and where to buy the goods simply end up simply quarelling with others. They never give.

The Samaritan woman had some very interesting questions. She asked about right worship, when the discussion was about something more mundane and more apropos her life right then, that precisely merited the term, the “Samaritan woman!” But right worship was far easier to talk about than living with five different men, not necessarily at the same time, of course.

Moses, too, became rather impertinent. When he began to see and feel and touch the suffering out there in the desert, he asked: “Why did you take us out here in the wild?” “Is it so that I would die of thirst and everyone else with me?”

Today, the Lord corners us all in our impertinence, and in our seemingly infinite capacity for deflection. Where he speaks about water that would spring for ever, Moses and us, too, answer with a complaint phrased like a question. Where the Lord speaks about water to drink that will no longer lead to thirst, but would lead to spiritual timeless truths, the woman and us, go right back to earth and we ask him for water so we won’t ever need to fetch water again.

How dense we can be! How mundane and earthly! How insensitive! The Lord comes looking for us as sinners to be given compassion and mercy, and we ask him theological questions about who is doing the right worship and all!

There is reason for God, this time, to complain about us: “O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts!”

Harden not our hearts. When was the last time we softened down and ask him for his mercy and forgiveness? We don’t because we have all sorts of alibis and excuses, exactly like the honorable senathieves, not a single one of whom has accepted wrongdoing … exactly like each and everyone in power whose best defense is a best offense … like Eve and Adam did, by pointing fingers to the serpent, not themselves!

But today, our thirst for God is being quenched, by God Himself. He offered Moses water in the desert. He offered the woman water to drink, even if the woman saw nothing more than material earthly water. But not everyone had dead ears to God’s invitation. Paul, once known as rabid Saul heard and listened. Now he tells us: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory.”

We should also sit down by the well and listen … with the heart, not with the mind. And the Lord has got great news for us: The hour is coming! The hour has come!

And let me end with the best message of all: The hour is NOW. Now is the day. Now is the time. Now is the hour of our salvation. “Harden not your hearts!” Remember: Coming. Come. Now!