Lent III / A / 2020 / The Woman at the Well / Scrutiny I
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
On the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent, we read from the Gospel of John. Since the earliest days of the Church, these Lenten readings have served as a "sacramental catechesis," directed to the Catechumens (now called "the Elect") and the Candidates as they prepare for the Easter sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
Naturally, these readings are also directed to us, who will renew our baptismal promises at Easter. The readings are spiritual classics; and like classics, they reveal something to us each time we read them or listen to them.
All of the readings are about the dynamic of evangelization and conversion—the Word preached and the Word received. All of the readings 1) involve the priority of grace in our lives (God’s grace first), 2) how we receive that grace, 3) the conversion that results, and 4) continuing a "right relationship" with God through worship. (Worship is the capstone—without it, everything falls apart.)
Because our Gospel reading today is long with many details—a challenge for preachers—I want to highlight just a few points that will give us the heart of the message on this third Sunday of Lent (and our First Scrutiny).
1) The Gospel starts at a well—a symbol of our desires. We come to the well to satisfy our desires—but our desires are never satisfied. Why? Because we try to satisfy them with something less than God. "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst."
2) Jesus comes to the well because he is thirsty; the woman comes to the well because she is thirsty. A mutual thirst: Jesus thirsts for us, and we thirst for the Lord—we thirst for the living water that will "spring up to eternal life."
3) To receive this water—to welcome God’s life into us—we must remove any obstacles that get in the way. For the woman, the obstacle is her former life: "you have had five husbands."
4) Conversion comes slowly. In conversation with Jesus, the woman at the well gradually opens herself to faith, to conversion, to right worship (look at the progression of titles given to Jesus: sir, prophet, Messiah, Christ, Savior).
5) In her new state, she returns to town—she re-engages in the community and preaches the Good News to others—bringing others to faith.
Whether we are a "woman at the well," a catechumen, or a life-long Catholic, all of us are called to conversion during this Lenten season. "Let those who are thirsty, come to the water."
1) to uncover, then heal, all that is weak and sinful in our hearts; and
2) to bring out, then strengthen, all that is upright and good.