One of the most charming scenes of the New Testament is the engaging encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman that we hear about in the Gospel on the Third Sunday of Lent. It is a warm and touching scene, full of good humor and profound truth. It shows a very human side of Jesus; he is tired and hot and thirsty, yet still friendly and sympathetic to a woman he has never met before. It was unheard of for a rabbi to speak in a friendly way to a woman in public; it was almost a crime for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan and to request a drink of water from her. The Jews considered the Samaritans “unclean.” Jesus pays little attention to the cultural barriers and the religious stereotypes. He encounters the woman at the well not in terms of her nationality or creed but in terms of her humanity, her inner spirit in need of healing and refreshment and her search for true fulfillment. She is not afraid of him and she opens her heart to him.
Jesus assures her that he will give her “living water”: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirst again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Touched deeply by Jesus, the woman spreads the word to her fellow Samaritans. The gospel tells us that many Samaritans came to believe in him.
We are all like the Jews wandering in the desert and like the Samaritan woman in desperate need for God! We are needy human beings wandering in the desert of our often secular and materialistic culture. But we have been invited into a new relationship with God through the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. Lent is the liturgical season that invites us to plumb our emptiness and alienation from God and to return to Jesus.