At the well: go call your husband

SamaritanWomanAtTheWell16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Go call your husband. Jesus introduces a new topic in v.16 possibly to provide a fresh angle on his identity. In vv.7-15, his invitation to the woman was couched in the metaphor of living water; in vv.16-18, Jesus’ invitation will be grounded in the woman’s own life. Continue reading

At the well: give me a drink

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellConversations between Jesus and the Sa­maritan woman (Jn 4:7-26). The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman consists of thirteen exchanges, one of the longest dialogues in the Gospel. It divides into two sections, each section introduced by a request/command by Jesus: (I ) vv.7-15 (“Give me a drink”); (2) vv.16-26 (“Go, call your husband”).

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Continue reading

At the well: some background

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellWho are the Samaritans? In John 4:4-42, Jesus’ ministry enters a new stage. He leaves the confines of traditional Ju­daism and turns to those whom his Jewish contemporaries reckoned as outsiders and ene­mies: the Samaritans. The breach between Jews and Samaritans can be traced to the Assyrian occupation of northern Palestine (721 BCE; see 2 Kings 17), but the most intense rivalry began about 200 BCE. The source of the enmity between Jews and Samaritans was a dispute about the correct location of the cultic center (cf. John 4:20). The Samaritans built a shrine on Mt. Gerizim during the Persian period and claimed that this shrine, not the Jerusalem Temple, was the proper place of worship. The shrine at Mt. Gerizim was destroyed by Jewish troops in 128 BCE, but the schism between Jews and Samaritans continued (cf. John 4:9).

When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, he meets someone who stands in marked contrast to all that has come before in this gospel. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus (3:1-21), he spoke with a named male of the Jewish religious establishment, a “teacher of Israel.” When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman, he speaks with an unnamed female of an enemy people. Continue reading

At the well: context

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellJohn 4:5-42 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Continue reading

Connecting dots

And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Mt 17:2) Transfigured, metamorphoo – to change the visible appearance; I used to think that maybe Epiphany would have been a better title for what happened on the mountain top. Epiphany meaning the revealing or the unveiling. Then again, I don’t think the full glory of God was revealed; just a single layer was pealed back. Perhaps transfigured is the better word. How much more could the apostles have seen and heard – and, more importantly, to begin to comprehend? The Book of Exodus 33:20 says that if we saw God face-to-face we would not survive the encounter. It would be too much for our mortal being. So, maybe it is better that only a single layer was peeled back. Continue reading

Habits of a Loving Heart

Back in the day when I was working in the world and spending way too much time on airplanes accumulating way too many frequent-flyer miles, it seemed to me business travelers did three things on longer flights: sleep, work, or read Stephen’ Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The book argues that one should align universal and timeless principles with one’s values. Covey sees principles as external natural laws, while values remain internal and subjective. Covey asserts that values govern people’s behavior, but principles ultimately determine the consequences. If sales volume is measure of the usefulness of this self-help book, then 25 million copies sold says something. Maybe there are some possibilities for a parallel book about the best practices and habits for Catholics. Might be a Lenten best seller! Continue reading

Transfigured: a reflection

TransfigAnnemarie Reiner (of Adelaide, Australia) posted this reflection on the Transfiguration on her blog “Who Do You Say That I Am.” (August 2006)  It is a very nice reflection for this Lenten Season.

When we look at our Gospel today we can understand why daily reflection is so important. These three disciples (and the rest of them) didn’t get who Jesus was until well after his death. They didn’t understand what had happened at the transfiguration. They didn’t understand what was happening as they witnessed Jesus’ life. They didn’t understand what was happening at the crucifixion. But they kept pondering their experiences over and over – if they didn’t we simply wouldn’t have the New Testament.

So what do we learn from this? Continue reading

Transfigured: Elijah’s coming

TransfigPeter’s Response. As in 16:13-20, Peter again responds, again without a full understanding.  Consider Peter’s proposal to make three tents (skēnḗ; also “booth” or “tabernacle”). What did he intend? It has been variously understood as traveler’s hut, the “tent of meeting” where God spoke with Moses outside the camp (Exod 33:7), a more formal tent used in the Festival of Booths (cf. Lev 23:42–43; Zech 14:16ff), and even as the Jerusalem Temple tabernacle.  It is this last image that Matthew may have in mind as background – notwithstanding Peter’s intention.  It is the Temple tabernacle where the Shekinah, the fiery cloud that symbolized the continuing presence of God among the people, dwelt over the ark of the covenant.  The response to Peter’s proposal is three-fold (Boring, 364) Continue reading

Jonah: a story in art

From today’s readings: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. (Mt 12:38-41) Continue reading

Transfigured: destiny

TransfigCommentary. Matthew 17:1-13 is an instructional session for all the disciples – note that in v.10, Peter, James and John have been joined the remainder of the group. Just as the preceding scene (16:13-28) juxtapositions the divine transcendence of Peter’s confession of Jesus as Son of God based on a revelation from heaven (16:17) with Jesus’ own teaching about the suffering Son of Man, so also in this scene the confession of the heavenly voice is juxtaposed with Jesus’ self-confession as suffering Son of Man.

The description of the Transfiguration is brief—just the first three verses of Matthew 17. But the incident becomes the context for two significant incidents for the disciples. Continue reading