Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Third Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
“[W]e know that this is truly the savior of the world.” John 4:42
The account of the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well is so well known and has been commented upon so extensively, it is difficult to imagine what more can be said. Please allow me to comment on one aspect that requires our attention and that is the approach of Jesus.
Jesus obviously reaches out lovingly to the Samaritan woman but he does not compromise. He wants to bring her to faith and He does so gently. Nonetheless, He does not mince words. He approaches her directly and truthfully.
The approach reminds me a bit of the kind of attitude that a parent assumes when correcting a child and trying to alter the child’s behavior. The parent is loving, sometimes deflecting attention, as does our Lord when He asks her, “Give me a drink” (John 4:7). This deflection brings up other topics, such as the long-standing animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. But as a parent might do, the unrelated topic really gets to the point immediately. Jesus says, “[W]hoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst” (John 4:14). What a remarkable statement! And it is one that opens the door on real issues.
Jesus then can pursue her moral life, asking her to call her husband (John 4:16). In a sort of disguised way, Jesus is inviting the woman to delve more deeply into her personal life. She has no husband. In fact, she has had five husbands and the one she lives with now is not her husband (John 4:18). This is a moment of such sobering truth and revelation that the woman must admit that Jesus is a prophet (John 4:19), which only leads to more, shall we call them, transcendent topics—such as where true worship takes place and the coming of the Messiah.
All of this, like the pealing of a ripe fruit, finally reveals the true message. Jesus speaks words that are as finally climactic as the denouement of a plot in a story. “I am he, the one who is speaking with you” (John 4:26).
Isn’t this the way our Lord deals with us who take the time to lay aside the jar at the well and listen? He gently leads us to honestly look at ourselves, admit our failings, and who we are before God and men. Then, through our questions, our candid pursuit of the issues that most annoy us or the topics that we find very unsettling, He strips us of our pretentions and artificialities and reveals us to ourselves, all the while revealing Himself as well.
Pay attention to the Samaritan woman’s profession of faith. “He told me everything I have done” (John 4:39). Only God can do that, for only He knows us completely. This perspective belongs only to God and only one who has spent time with Him captures a glimpse of our life’s goal. Going to the well for water is a duty. What we find there is the meaning of our quest.
Bishop Glen John Provost