Sunday, February 27, 2005

Third Sunday of Lent

NOW when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, "Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John" -although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized-he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

THE Samaritan woman said to Jesus, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ), 'When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." John 4:1-26

THE Samaritan woman simply didn't fit any of their social standards. Mary of Bethany simply didn't accept any of their role definitions. Mary Magdalen was indeed a bold and brazen woman. And they made no bones-any of them-about their comm itment to Jesus. No bones at all about either his call or their intention-in fact, their compulsion-to carry on his will and his wonderful presence in their lives.

The Samaritan woman faced them head on. Mary of Bethany persisted in her vocation. The women of Jerusalem went on ministering to him while all the others hid. Mary Magdalen, remember, went right into their midst-it was a forty-hours gathering, or perhaps a synod, I think-to minister to him and to proclaim his resurrection.
"What is that woman doing in here," the men said. "Send her away." And they went to the tomb to see for themselves "because they did not believe her," the Scripture reads. "We have no more need of you," the men of Samaria said. "Our place is in the kitchen," Martha, the well-conditioned woman, said.

But Jesus said back to all of them: "She is doing what you are not doing; she's preparing me for my buriaL" And Jesus said, "But she has chosen the better part, and it shall not be denied her." And Jesus said to the woman, and to the woman only, "I am the Messiah." And Jesus said, "Mary, don't stay here. You go and tell Peter and the others. . . ."--John Chittister

JESUS' disciples were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" They left the city and were on their way to him.

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because ofthe woman's testimony.--John 427-30, 39

By banishing women from leadership roles and by controlling women's access to religious knowledge, the clerically defined church concealed women, making women invisible even to themselves. Through the strategy of concealment the clerically -dominated church has blinded itself to images of spiritually gifted women. In doing so, it has successfully avoided unwelcome insights. We assume the insights are unwelcome because they would lead to meaningful questions and to an inner mandate for change. I, for one, do not doubt that changes in self-understanding could be painful, even overwhelming, for most clerics. Fifteen years ago I had a newly ordained priest cry out in anguish in a university classroom, "If I am not superior to the rest of the church, I'm wasting my life!" Ten years ago I was amazed to read a popular article by an eminent priest theologian in which he fell back to unfathomable divine design as his final reason for maintaining the celibate male priesthood after he had conceded intellectually that there was no sound traditional, theological, or anthropological reason for refusing to admit women to orders. Perhaps he was responding finally and intuitively to the logical inconsistency of admitting women to a state which defines itself by its refusal of women.--Mary Collins

OUR elder brother, Jesus, was a scandal to patriarchy. Women and all who would be sisters and brothers of Jesus will be a scandal. I believe that is our true home now. That is the wilderness in which we find ourselves.--Madonna Koldenschlag

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