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3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
Mercy Ridge Hermitage
March 15, 2020
The Long Way Around
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato
Imagine that someone is in Towson and wants to drive out here to Parkton.
I think the easy way would be to take I-83 or York Road and go through Hunt Valley to get here. But, this person so dislikes Hunt Valley and the people who live there that they won’t even drive through the area.
So, they head east, far out of the way, and take Dulaney Valley Road and the Jarrettsville Pike up into Harford County. And only then do they turn west to get to Parkton.
Now, that’s all make-believe and it is ridiculous, but it helps us to appreciate the impact of Jesus going through Samaria in today’s gospel. He is traveling, maybe walking from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north.
The area between Judea and Galilee was called Samaria. Most Jews of Jesus’ day would have gone out of their way to avoid passing through this area.
Why? Because they had negative feelings and prejudice against the Samaritans and refused to have anything to do with them.
A Samaritan Woman
So, here is Jesus traveling through Samaria.
Even more dramatic, he stops at a well to get some water and a Samaritan woman also comes up to the well. Jesus starts talking with her.
I mean, this is like three strikes and you’re out in baseball. This person is 1) a different ethnic background, 2) a different religion, and to top it all off, 3) a woman.
Jews in Jesus’ day would have nothing to do with these Samaritans because of their ethnic background and religious differences. And, in that culture, women were treated in such a diminished way that a man was not to even talk with a woman in public.
So, Jesus crashes through these three barriers or prejudices. He is showing that God’s love reaches out to all persons – regardless of who they are.
And here is the first lesson on faith that we are given in this story. If we are going to live a life of faith, and if we are going to draw others to a genuine faith, we need to get beyond differences and barriers and prejudices.
We need to see and treat others as human beings like ourselves, no matter who they are. In our day and age, I suggest that this relates especially to our attitudes – and that’s where it starts, with our attitudes.
We need to examine our attitudes toward minorities in our own country, and toward refugees and migrants from wherever. Living faith in Jesus Christ and attracting others to this faith demands that we do this.
The Samaritan Woman’s Background
And then, notice this.
In their conversation, Jesus says that he knows this Samaritan woman’s personal background – and it’s a doozie! She has had five husbands and the man she is now living with is not her husband.
From the wording, it is clear that Jesus is not scolding or shaming or condemning her. He just states what he knows and leaves it for the woman to think about.
Jesus must sense that within herself, this woman, like all human beings, is really thirsty for a water that satisfies us completely – a spiritual water. She’s looked for this in the wrong ways and just hasn’t found it yet.
Jesus’ approach is how I see our Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession. It is not to be a time for heavy guilt trips or judging.
Instead, it is more of an experience for us to look at ourselves and come to healing. It’s a time to quench our thirst for living water, as Jesus says today, water that gives us divine, eternal life.
And here is the second faith lesson in this passage. Because of Jesus’ respectful approach to this woman, she comes to see him as more than ordinary – maybe as the Messiah.
And she even goes and tells others about Jesus. So, living a life of faith and attracting others to that faith demands respect for others as persons – no matter what they have done.
So, 1) the importance of our attitude toward others no matter who they are, and 2) the importance of respecting others as persons no matter what they have done – two important lessons today for living faith and attracting others to faith.