March 12, 2023
The Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Readings for Today
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” John 4:5–7
Today, throughout the world, Catholic liturgies will celebrate the first of three Scrutinies of those adults who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The word “scrutiny” comes from the Latin word scrutari which means an inquiry, close examination or search of something. It originally referred to rummaging through rubbish so as to find something of value. In a sense, this is what God does with all of us. When we first turn to Him, He sorts through the disorder of our fallen human nature and our sins so as to point to the goodness and beauty of the child He created. As for the liturgical rite that will be celebrated in churches throughout the world today, the Right of Christian Initiation of Adults describes it as follows: “The scrutinies are meant to uncover, and then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good” (#141). The Gospel story we read today depicts this action beautifully. It is the long and inspiring story of the woman at the well. This story is filled with symbolism, much of which the casual reader could easily miss.
To begin, it is important to prayerfully imagine the scene. Jesus was all alone sitting next to Jacob’s Well around noon. Few women would come to the well at that time of day due to the heat. But this woman came at this time because she knew others would not be around. She was a sinner, and many of the other women of the town knew it. Therefore, in an attempt to avoid them and avoid feeling shame, she came at a time when she could avoid the other women. So the first thing to consider is the suffering this woman was enduring because of her shame and embarrassment over her sinful life.
As she approached the well, she was surprised to hear Jesus ask her for a drink. She was a Samaritan. Jews generally considered Samaritans as ritually unclean. For that reason, Jews would not drink from their vessels. But Jesus broke this unholy custom and looked at her as a daughter of God with innate dignity and value as He engaged her in conversation.
Within the heat of the day, Jesus spoke lovingly to this woman and said, “Give me a drink.” Saint Augustine states that, symbolically speaking, Jesus thirsted for her soul, for her salvation. He longed to give her the grace soon to be won through His Cross. Her willing reception of this gift would also bring satiation to the Heart of our Lord. Jesus didn’t dwell upon her past; He knew all about it. He could read her soul. All He wanted to do was to rummage through the sin and rubbish that was cluttering her soul so as to discover her dignity within. If she were to allow Jesus to offer her this mercy, not only would she receive true Living Water to quench her spiritual thirst, she would also satiate the spiritual thirst in the soul of our Lord that could only be satiated by the dispensing of His mercy.
As we celebrate the Scrutinies this Sunday, reflect upon this woman at the well. First, she is a symbol of every person coming to faith in Christ and preparing for the Living Water of Baptism this Easter. But she is also a symbol of your own soul, to the extent that it has become cluttered with the rubbish of sin and disorder. Do not let shame, fear or a sense of unworthiness deter you from engaging in this same conversation with our Lord. Hear Him say to you that He thirsts for you and longs to be satiated by the sacred act of the ongoing bestowal of His Divine Mercy, poured forth through the Living Water superabundantly given to you at your baptism.
My thirsting Lord, You see me, peer deeply into my soul, see all the filth of sin and disorder and love me anyway. As You spoke to this woman at the well, so You also speak to me, asking me to satiate Your thirst by being open to Your mercy. I do open myself to You, dear Lord, and pray that Your Living Water will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Jesus, I trust in You.
40 Days at the Foot of the Cross:
A Gaze of Love From the Heart of Our Blessed Mother
Reflection Sixteen – The Greatest of Miracles
(Third Sunday of Lent)