GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...now all of a sudden he shifts the topic away from the well and starts to talk about her sin, her past, and he says:
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
He has read her heart, he knows her life.
And at this point notice what she does, she totally changes the subject.
So he's brought up the subject of her personal past, the fact that she has had five husbands and that the man that she's apparently living with now is not her husband.
Now it's hard for us to grasp what kind of a scandal that would've meant in a first century setting.
So in a first century Jewish setting, divorce and remarriage, although permissible, was considered something that would be still be frowned upon and not the norm.
And the idea that this one woman would not only have divorced once or twice, but that she had five husbands, and now that she was living with a man who she wasn't even married to, would put her in basically a state of public and perpetual adultery and/or fornication.
So this woman would have been a pariah.
She would've been someone who would have been shunned by her people, by her society.
In fact, some people have actually suggested that that's why she's coming out to get the water at the well at noon.
If you have ever carried heavy buckets of water, you’ll know you don't want to do it at midday, at the hottest part of the day.
Normally in other passages in the Old Testament, the women will go to gather their water at the well either in the morning or in the evening, in the cooler parts of the day.
Here she is at noon, and she is not with a group of women, she's by herself.
So some people think that this reflects the fact that she is isolated from her community because of the public nature of her sin.
She would be one of those people that is referred to elsewhere in the Gospels as a sinner.
In other words, someone who is not only committing sins — everyone
sins — but in this case is known publicly for being in a state of sin.
So Jesus brings up this sinful past that she has and instead of talking about it, she shifts the topic of conversation to the debate between the Jews and the Samaritans over whether you should worship at Jerusalem in the South like the Jews believed, or whether you should worship at Mount Gerizim in the North as the Samaritans believed.
And I just think that this is an interesting shift because if you have ever had theological conversations, sometimes what will happen is people will want to debate certain issues or topics, whether it is celibacy in the Church, the infallibility of the Pope, Mary or whatever doctrine you might get into a heated debate about, if you probe a little deeper, a lot of times the real issue will often be some issue of sin or some personal issue or pain or suffering that's under the surface.
A lot of times, instead of talking about that deeper issue, we will talk about this doctrine or that doctrine or this debate or that debate, when really where the person is hurting, where they're dealing with the struggle, is at a deeper level of the question of sin or suffering.
So we see that in the woman here.
Jesus starts to probe into her sinfulness and she shifts topics to this doctrinal debate between the Jews and Samaritans.
So she says these words:
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
What just happened?
Well in the midst of this discussion over whether to worship in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim, Jesus takes the woman to a higher level and says “the time is coming when these different places, Jerusalem and Gerizim, aren’t going to matter anymore, because there's going to be a new worship, when people are going to worship the Father in spirit and truth.”
So that makes her realize that he is talking about the time of the Messiah, which the Samaritans believed in.
The Samaritans had an expectation that the Messiah would come one day and that he would reveal everything to them.
So the second the woman brings up the Messiah, Jesus says to her “I, the one who is speaking to you, am he” — although literally in the Greek it says “he who is speaking to you, I am,” which is the divine name from the Old Testament.
So Jesus is in a sense revealing to her not just that he's the Messiah, but that he's the I AM, that he's the Lord, that he's God come in person.
And once he makes that revelation now look at what happens in verse 27:
Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”
This is a weird passage.
Why would the disciples be so alarmed that Jesus is talking to a woman when we see him talking to women all the time in the Gospels?
Jesus has women followers in various places.
He talks to women on multiple occasions in the Gospels, whether it be Mary and Martha in one context, whether it be the female followers of his, or other occasions in the Gospels, the New Testament.
So why does this one provoke the questioning of the disciples?
Well John doesn't tell us here, but I would actually suggest to you that part if it might be not just that he's talking a woman, but it's that he is talking to a woman alone by a well.
Because in ancient Judaism that would be the place of a betrothal.
Like I said, in the Old Testament a man plus a woman and a well equals a wedding.
So if you wanted to meet a young woman who was of marriageable age, a potential spouse, you didn't go down to the bar and offer to buy her a drink, you could go to the well and meet the women.
This is what Moses does in the book of Exodus, he meets his future wife at a well.
So when the disciples see Jesus alone with a woman at the well, in other words, they get it, that it looks like a man courting a future spouse.
But of course Jesus is celibate, and so the question is why is he doing this, why is he talking to a woman?
I will come back to that before we end, but just notice their response.
Let’s keep going in verse 28:
So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people,
“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
They went out of the city and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?”
Notice this, the disciples can't ever catch any fish and they never have any food.
And whenever he talks about food they always misunderstand what he is getting at here.
So they think that he is saying that someone slipped him a sandwich when they weren’t paying attention.
But look at how he responds to them:
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.
He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Now this might seem like it's kind of an aside, but it's actually not.
In context, think about what has just happened.
Jesus offered the woman living water, she thought he was talking about natural water, spring water.
Now he talks to the disciples about food and they think he's talking about natural food.
But what is he actually talking about?
Food that endures for eternal life.
In other words, he is talking about the food, the grain, of the harvest of souls.
That's why he says to them “look up, the fields are white like the fields of wheat, ready to be reaped.”
What do you make with wheat?
You make bread with it right.
So this food that endures for eternal life, it is like a Eucharistic image.
He will get to that in the next chapters in the bread of life discourse.
So it's like water for eternal life, food for eternal life; and the food here is gathering the harvest of souls that God has made ready to be reaped.
He is referring here to the Samaritans, because see when the Apostles saw the Samaritans, what do they see?
A bunch of unclean half-Israelite half-pagans who they don't like and who don't like them.
Who they just have to pass through their territories to get back to Galilee.
But when Jesus looks at the town of the Samaritans what does he see?
He sees a field of souls, ripe and white and ready for the harvest, because the seeds were planted by Moses, the seeds were planted by the former Israelites.
They have the Scriptures, they have the hope for the Messiah, but they just don’t have the fullness of the truth yet.
They are waiting for the Messiah to come and show it to them.
So that's what Jesus wants to give them, the living water and the food of eternal life.
And so what happens now is, in verse 39 and following, the Samaritans convert, the harvest begins to get reaped.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
In the third Sunday of Lent for Year A, the Church gives us a beautiful passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans about Christ’s love for us. And this Sunday, the Gospel is focused on the famous story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman—a beautiful story I’ve actually written about in my book Jesus the Bridegroom
, which if you look at it carefully, is all about the love of God for His people and the love of Christ for the Church, His bride. So thematically, it’s linked with the reading from Romans today, which is all about the gift of salvation, the gift of grace, and how God’s love is operative on the cross and in Calvary.
So as we move closer and closer to Holy Week as we journey through Lent, let’s listen to what St. Paul has to say about why Christ died for us and what the implications are for our lives in Him. So Romans 5:1-8 is the text here. This is one of those cases where the lectionary will give you a text but it cuts out certain verses. So it’ll be a kind of truncated passage from Paul. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to just read the whole text and then when we go through it, I’ll let you know which verses are missing from the lectionary reading. I want to give you the full context though. So in Romans 5:1-8, we hear these words:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
And then these are the verses that are skipped, but I’ll read them anyway:
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope...
And here the lectionary picks up:
...and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Okay, as usual, there’s a lot going on here in this passage from Paul in Romans. Let me just walk through a few key points here. Notice, number one, Paul begins with the assertion that we are justified by faith. And this is taking place in Romans 5. He’s just spent the last couple of chapters, 3 and 4, talking about the whole mystery of justification by faith and apart from works of the law, where he’s laying out the fact that in Christ, salvation does not come through circumcision but through the gift of grace that comes to us in faith and not by the works of the law. So his whole doctrine of justification by faith, which is really at the heart of this letter, he’s presupposing it in this first verse given to us from the lectionary today. So he says:
...since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand…
So pause there for a second. The Greek word for grace, as I’ve mentioned in other videos, is charis
. It literally means “a gift.” However, in this case, Paul is describing this gift, this grace, almost as a kind of state or a sphere—a realm, so to speak. He says “the grace in which we stand.” So we are standing in grace. We’re rooted in grace, which we’ve received through the gift of justification by faith. And it is precisely this grace that gives us the ability to rejoice in the hope of sharing in the glory of God. So the gift of salvation for Paul is something that ultimately is going to result in us participating in the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
So whenever Paul talks about glory, he’s almost inevitably talking about not just the glory of God, but also the glory of the resurrection, the glory of Christ that we’ll become partakers of when we finally reach the last day, when we reach the day of the resurrection of the dead.
And I’m not quite sure why the lectionary skips over the next couple of verses, because I really love them; I think they’re beautiful. So I’m going to cheat and just give them to you anyway, because he roots that hope that we have as being members of the Body of Christ. He says:
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings…
So we don’t just rejoice and have hope for the glory that is to come in the future, but even in the present, Paul says:
...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
So, we can do a whole series just on that verse, but since it’s not in the lectionary for today, I don’t want to spend too much time on it. I just want to highlight, though, that for Paul, the virtue of hope—the gift of hope—is something that is just as important as the gift of faith. These are traditionally the three theological virtues—faith, hope, and love—that Paul will mention in the famous chapter from 1 Corinthians 13. And here, we see him mentioning two of those three theological virtues. He talks about our justification by faith, so faith is both trust in Christ. It’s also fidelity to Christ (faithfulness) and believing in who He is and what He’s done on the cross and in the resurrection.
The virtue of hope is something more though. It points beyond the sufferings of this world to the glory of the resurrection. It’s our placing our trust in the promises of God. So you think about it this way. Faith is believing—it’s believing in things we don’t see. We can’t see them but we believe them to be true because of the person who reveals them. Hope is trust in the good things that we haven’t yet obtained. So faith is belief in things unseen. Hope is trust in the things that we haven’t yet obtained.
So we don’t yet have the glory of the resurrection. We don’t yet experience the glory of the resurrected body, Paul is saying. Right now, what do we have? We have suffering. We’re still in this mortal frame; we’re still in this body. Paul himself is still traveling around, preaching the Gospel, facing hardships, facing persecutions, being put into prison, being beaten with rods, being shipwrecked and set at drift at sea for a day and a night. All of these sufferings—that’s what he’s experiencing now.
But hope is the confidence that the things that we don’t yet have—we don’t yet possess, like the resurrection of the body—we will one day possess if we endure. If we have the endurance that builds character and out of which flows the gift of hope.
Those verses are just wonderful. I’m not sure why they’re not there, but again, I’m in sales. I’m not in management, so I don’t get to make these decisions. But it’s that hope that Paul’s saying in the next verse (verse 5), which is where the lectionary picks up:
...hope does not disappoint us…
That’s a powerful statement. This life is full of disappointments. If you’ve lived even a short while, you’re going to be disappointed. What Paul is saying is the hope of Christ doesn’t disappoint. Hope does not disappoint us, why?
...because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
So by the way, there’s your third theological virtue—faith, hope, and love. And according to the tradition of the Church, all three of those supernatural gifts:
- The gift of faith, by which we believe things that we cannot see and which are above our intellect even to comprehend—the mystery of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ
- Hope, by which we trust that we have confidence in our ability to obtain, to receive the good things that we don’t yet taste—the resurrection of the body, life from the dead, immortality, the end of suffering, the end of death. That is the gift of hope
- And finally, love, the ability to will the good for others, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself—the ability to love our enemies evenAgape
—that’s the love Paul is talking about here. That love of God was poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Now it’s interesting that Paul uses the image there of the love of God being poured into our hearts. So the image there...it’s a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for liquid. It’s a metaphor for water. What do you pour? You either pour water or you pour wine. But here Paul is saying that the love of God, the agape
of God, has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Now when was the love of God poured into my heart? Well, if you look at 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul uses a similar metaphor of water. I’m going the wrong way here—1 Corinthians, you need to take a right, not a left. 1 Corinthians 12:13…listen to this parallel from Paul. Paul says this:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
So notice here. Paul uses the image of water and even of drinking as a metaphor for the gift of the Holy Spirit that is received at Baptism. So I bring this up here because one of the key teachings of the Catholic Church that it really gets from Paul is the idea that—it’s not just an idea, but the doctrine, the teaching—that when we are baptized, we’re not simply forgiven of original sin or any actual sins that we’ve committed. So, Baptism isn’t just an act of forgiveness. It isn’t just an act of cleansing. It’s also an act of infusion. At our Baptism, God infuses His divine life into us. He gives us the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit, and he pours into our hearts the gift of His love, as well as the gift of faith and the gift of hope. These are called the infused virtues—the idea that if we believe and we hope and if we love in a supernatural way, it’s not because of our own efforts. It’s because of God’s grace. It’s because of the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
And you’ll see this elsewhere in Paul’s letters when he’ll talk to the Corinthians and he’ll say, “Don’t you know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit?” What does that mean? Well, any first century Jew would have known that the temple was a building, and in that building, God’s Spirit was believed to dwell. Think of the Old Testament image of the glory cloud coming down upon the tabernacle in the book of Exodus40, for example. The glory cloud is a kind of visible sign of God’s presence, of his spiritual presence. And when the glory cloud descends into the tabernacle, it makes the tabernacle a dwelling place for God.
So the same thing happens for Paul here in the soul of a baptized person, in the soul of the faithful, when the Holy Spirit is poured into the heart through the gift of faith and Baptism, where we’re all made to drink of one Spirit. So I just bring this up because it’s important to emphasize that for Paul, Baptism isn’t just a kind of external profession of belief in Jesus. Or it isn’t just becoming a member of the local parish or the local church. It is those things—Baptism is tied to faith inextricably. It also means we become a member of the Church; we become a member of the mystical Body of Christ. Paul is very clear about that in 1 Corinthians 12. We’ve all been baptized into one Body.
But there’s something even more happening. There’s something interior happening according to Paul. Since we’ve been justified by faith, we stand in grace in a state of grace—by the way, that’s where we get the image of a state of grace, the grace in which we stand—because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts, been infused into us.
In other words—this is so crucial—for Paul, justification brings about a real change in the human heart. It’s not just a declaration that you’re innocent or a declaration that God will forgive you, even though He knows you’re still a sinner. No. He forgives you and He pours into the soul the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of His divine agape
, His divine love.
In a book that I co-wrote with Michael Barber and John Kincaid, there’s a wonderful chapter on justification where we talk about—and this is John Kincaid, this is his, in particular, his brain child—we talk about cardiac righteousness in Paul. In other words, God is like the divine heart surgeon, and He’s going to take out our hearts of stone...and through Baptism, He gives us a heart transplant, a new heart. This is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. He talks about God will give us a new heart, a heart of flesh. And that heart, according to Paul, is filled with the agape
of God, which is the Holy Spirit. There’s an infusion of the gift of the Spirit that takes place in justification.
So, justification is not merely a legal declaration—although it is that. There’s a declaration that takes place of righteousness. But it’s also a transformation for Paul through the power of the Holy Spirit.
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