“We are called to serve. In fact, we were created to serve. It’s radically counter-cultural.”
In many parishes this weekend, we will hear the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. On the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent, parishes have the option to read from the readings for Year A, particularly if they have people preparing for baptism and are therefore celebrating the scrutinies during the liturgy. The stories from John’s Gospel that we find in the Year A readings approaching Lent (the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus) have been used in the Church’s liturgy for centuries to prepare us for Easter.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) is one of my favorite scenes from the Gospel, and I could probably write ten posts on various aspects of the event. But today I want to look at a single verse: John 4:7.
First, let’s step back and look at something that we might have missed. Jesus was waiting for her. It may not look like it – it looks like Jesus was just tired and decided to sit by this well. But Jesus knew. He knew this woman was coming. He knew she needed to meet him. He was waiting for her.
And he is waiting for each one of us. He is sitting there, wanting us to come to him. No matter where you have been before this, no matter what you are doing now – Jesus is waiting for you. Like the Father of the prodigal son who is waiting for his son to return home, he is waiting for her in love.
She was a Samaritan, she was a woman, and she was not a person of high moral standing. And yet Jesus speaks to her. Perhaps you have felt yourself in that spot. For some reason or another, you feel alone – you have a heavy burden to carry, whether emotional or spiritual, perhaps a worry or a sin or a situation that seems hopeless. Perhaps you feel like no one is there, and you have no one who wants to help you carry it. It’s not true. Jesus is waiting.
In verse 7, we see that Jesus asks her for a drink. This line has often struck me. Doesn’t it seem funny if you really stop and think about it? Here is a woman, heavily burdened, and Jesus asks her to do something for him! He knows her pain, he knows her loneliness, and he knows her constant search for love. She has been married five times. This is clearly a woman searching for love. To love and be loved.
And I thought, “Gosh, Lord, wouldn’t it be more loving to give her the drink?”
And he wants to do just that. He says he wants to give her something even better than this well water. But his first initial question or request is that she serve him. I wonder if he didn’t ask her to serve him because that’s what women do best. He was asking her – allowing her—to serve him. Now, before you write me off as some crazy oppressed female, let me explain.
All throughout his public ministry, what does Christ say he came to do? He came to serve. He came to show his love by offering his life, by becoming the least of all, the servant. And He calls us to do the same. Why? Because love is service. Love is sacrifice. The world will tell you otherwise – they will tell you that service and submission is slavery and weakness. But Christ tells us that it is power. It is the only thing that saves the world.
Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden was when they chose not to serve. Lucifer’s sin at the beginning of time was when He chose not to serve. How does Christ reverse the Fall? How does he save us from death? He serves and lays down his life.
We are called to serve. In fact, we were created to serve. It’s radically counter-cultural. Our culture tells us that money and power rule the world. It tells us that we need to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the little guy.
Christ’s message is counter-cultural. It is not in serving our own interests that we have power, but in serving others. Christ asks this woman to serve because that’s what will make her truly happy. She is looking for love and she is looking to be loved. She was trying to make men happy. She thought her happiness rested in this husband or that husband. But it didn’t – it rested in God.
Christ wants to come to her and wants to serve her – but what must happen first? She must allow him to do so. She must open herself up to a happiness of which she has never dared to dream.
He does not force himself on us. He will not save us without our consent. Rather, he invites. He asks. He proposes. At a well, a place where so many Old Testament figures met their wives, the new Bridegroom has a proposal for this woman.
He comes and asks her for a drink. He is thirsty.
He is thirsty for water – because he is fully human, and it’s a hot day. But most importantly, he is thirsty for her love. For our love. How will we show him that love today?