The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent are available HERE
We can learn something very important from today’s Gospel. In fact, we can learn many things from the remarkable meeting between Jesus and the woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, which is the town of Nablus, in the Palestinian district known as the West Bank. This is probably the most important conversation in the Bible.
Jesus goes to the well at the sixth hour, in other words at midday, the hottest part of the day. John tells us that He is tired, and we learn from the woman He meets that He has no bucket, so He was glad when she came to draw water out of the well. Jesus is thirsty; He asks the woman to give him something to drink. But then He explains that He has water which can be like a spring inside a person. He is offering the woman the water of life. He asks her to call her husband; in fact He knows that the man she lives with is not her husband, and that she has had five husbands. The woman is so astonished that she leaves her water jar at the well and runs to tell the people in the town about Jesus: ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did’. She is convinced Jesus is the Messiah.
The important lesson is that God knows everything about us. It is good to hear that in Lent, because in this season we are encouraged to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. We are encouraged to make use of the Sacrament of Confession. But remember that the woman at the well did not tell Jesus about herself and her sins: He knew them all. When we confess our sins to a priest, he is not really interested in the details. He rejoices that we have decided to turn away from our sins and try to live according to what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel. Just as Jesus did not need the woman to tell Him about herself, God does not need to hear about our sins. He already knows. We try to tell the priest about all our faults and failings, but that is not for him or for God. It is for us. It is an act of humility. It also convinces us that we trust God and God’s promise to forgive our sins. It is important to recognise that Jesus does not send the woman away. He wants her to know that He can make her spiritual life complete. The water of life will be like a spring inside her, welling up to eternal life. And He offers to change us in the same way.
Tomorrow is an important day in the Catholic Church. It is ten years since the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected Pope and took the name of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the first Pope from outside Europe for a long time, so his view of the Church is different. He has often said it is healthy to view things from the margins of a situation; things look very different from the way they do at the centre. He will explain this tonight, in an interview on Italian-speaking Swiss Radio: “Something the Argentinian philosopher Amelia Podetti wrote comes to mind: you see reality better from the edge than from the middle. You can understand universality from a distance. It is a social, philosophical and political principle”. So Pope Francis likes to hear what Catholics far away from Rome experience, which may be why he has appointed so many new Cardinals from tiny states which many people have never heard of.
The biggest thing Pope Francis has done has been to try to change how people in the Catholic Church relate to each other. He wants people at every level in the Church to feel that the Church belongs to them as much as it does to Popes, bishops and priests. The Synod process he has started does not involve just bishops, but lets all Catholics say what really matters to them about their faith and their Church. The first task for people taking part was to listen to anyone who wished to speak. All around the world, people who had never spoken about their faith could now do exactly that. We joined in the process here at the beginning of the year, and it is still happening. The Pope hopes it will build new relationships in a Church where everyone’s voice is respected and valued.
The Pope started this synodal process after making a big mistake. During his visit to Chile in 2018, people asked him to do something about a bishop who had covered up sexual abuse by a priest. He said he would act when there was evidence. This offended many people, but when he received evidence, he apologised publicly for not listening, accepted the bishop’s resignation, and summoned all the bishops from Chile to see him in Rome. When their meetings ended, they all offered to resign. He knows he is far from being a perfect Pope or a perfect person, but in that way he is just like you and me. Every Sunday he tells the people of Rome to have a good lunch and says “don’t forget to pray for me”. Every Mass includes a prayer for him, so my suggestion is to make sure that our prayer for him comes from our hearts.
Fr. Peter Fleetwood