Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Lessons from the "Woman at the Well"

Dear Parishioners,

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we have the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4: 5-42).  Certainly, there are multiple lessons to be learned from this passage.  I focus here on three.

Living Water.  Jesus is thirsty and asks the woman for a drink.  Their conversation then progresses to Jesus inviting the woman to ask Him for living water instead.  As is typical in St. John’s gospel, there are varying levels of understanding present in the dialogue (see also the conversation with Nicodemus, Jn. 3: 1-21).  The woman is thinking about water to quench thirst while Jesus is offering something more.  Ultimately, I suggest Jesus is inviting us (through her) to BAPTISM.  Jesus is the source or fountain of living water (grace, the Holy Spirit) which we initially receive through the sacrament of baptism.

It is no secret that I am very frustrated when people do not see an urgency to get baptized themselves or to have their children baptized.  According to the Code of Canon Law:  Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks (canon 867).  Instead they wait years or decide to let the children “choose for themselves” when they get older.  When baptism is delayed, sanctifying grace (God’s life) is not present in a person’s life.  Remember, we are not born in a relationship with God, but rather separated because of original sin.  Baptism washes away original sin (and actual sin, if one has reached the age of reason), makes one an adopted child of God and allows sanctifying grace to enter a person’s life.  Do I not want this for myself and/or my children?  Is there no sense of urgency?

I Do Not Have a Husband.  While the woman denies that she has a husband, Jesus reminds her she has had five.  As one of my seminary professors once put it:  “She was the Elizabeth Taylor of her time.”  This part of the dialogue reminded me about the importance of Catholics rectifying any marriage situation that is not seen as valid in the eyes of the Church.  People in our congregation are sometimes married, divorced and then remarried outside the Catholic Church.  Or they were never married in the Catholic Church in the first place.  Unless the proper permissions were sought out and granted, these marriages may be invalid according to Church law.  The longstanding Catholic teaching is that one should not receive Holy Communion, (or be a godparent or sponsor, or be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, etc.), until such a situation is rectified. An annulment (declaration of nullity) may be needed. Or a convalidation of the marriage may be necessary. Or the couple may be required to live in a brother/sister relationship, if nothing else can be done.  It is best to set up an appointment with a priest to help discern what may be possible or necessary.

I am He, the One Speaking with You.  As their dialogue continues, Jesus reveals his identity as the long-expected messiah.  It is of utmost importance that we all realize the implications of this reality.  Jesus is the messiah.  He is also God’s only-begotten Son.  Salvation comes through Him and on His terms, not ours.  I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (Jn. 14: 6).  The Samaritan woman believed in Him.  She also witnessed to others about Jesus.  She led others to believe in Jesus.  Similarly, if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior, then we must also bring others to Him.  Go and make disciples (Mt. 28: 19).  Start in your family.  Witness to your friends.  Tell the whole world what God has done for you!

Jesus continually uses unlikely people to be His disciples and his missionaries:  fishermen, tax collectors, Samaritan women, you and me.
Let’s not waste any more time getting started or continuing to make excuses!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

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