Rev. Michael Cambi
1 Homily 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A
Today’s gospel is a great story of conversion. As my professor for the Gospel of
John pointed out so many moons ago, the conversion of the Samaritan woman can
be traced by how she addresses Jesus, under the heat of the noonday sun.
First, she calls Jesus a Jew, and not without some disdain in her voice, due to the
culture clash between Jews and Samaritans at that time. Then, she calls him
‘Sir’, but still doesn’t take him all that seriously, and almost mocks him at the
suggestion that he can give her this living water.
But to her credit, she doesn’t dismiss this strange Jewish man; instead she listens to
Jesus, and is open to the positive possibilities he offers. She still calls him ‘Sir,’
but asks him for his special water, showing she begins to believe that he can
Next, when Jesus reveals he knows all about the woman’s sordid past, she calls
him a prophet, becomes even more convinced in his authenticity, and drinks in
his words more deeply. She wonders if he could be the long-awaited Christ, and
rushes away to evangelize her fellow villagers.
They, in turn, come out to see what this Jewish prophet is all about, invite him to
stay with them, that they too might drink in his words. Ultimately, the whole town
comes to believe that Jesus is not just some strange passerby, or some counter
cultural do-gooder, or some wise prophet, but truly is, the Savior of the world.
None of this would have happened if Jesus was not committed to what Pope
Francis wants all Catholics to be committed to in their lives of faith: an
evangelization of mercy and encounter.
Jesus willfully bore the discomfort of the hottest part of the day, rather than
seeking cool shade in the nearby village, just to have the opportunity to encounter
someone in need of conversion. Do you know why the woman came out during
the hottest part of the day to do heavy labor? Well, I’m going to tell you.
Because she knew no one else would be around, and she wanted to avoid them,
and their critical, condescending stares and insulting remarks. Like Jesus, they
knew all about her sordid past, and she didn’t want the humiliation they were
sure to afford her. She essentially had a scarlet letter painted on her back.