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Third Sunday of Lent

March 12, 2023
Early Christian Fresco depicts the Samaritan Woman at the Well with Jesus. Catacombs of Praetextatus, Rome. (ca 200-250 CE)

Today’s Invitation

Today we invite you to explore Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well through theologian Elizabeth Johnson’s feminist approach; engage the importance of dialogue for both lay people and clergy, as outlined in Catholic social teaching; and embody a feminist approach and dialogue through a community of lay women, known as The Grail.

Commentary by Sónia Monteiro

Third Sunday of Lent

Reading 1

Exodus 17:3-7

Tormented by thirst, the people bitterly complained to Moses,
“Why did you bring us out of Egypt?
Was it just to have us die of thirst with our children and our cattle?”
Moses appealed to YHWH,
“What am I to do with these people?
They are ready to stone me!”
YHWH answered,
“Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel;
as you go, hold in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock of Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”
Moses did so, in the presence of the elders.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there and put YHWH to the test, saying,
“Is YHWH in our midst or not?”

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 95

Response: If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to God; / let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us greet God with thanksgiving; / let us joyfully sing psalms.
R: If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship; / Let us kneel before the God who made us.
For the Most High is Our God, / and we are the people God shepherds, the flock God guides.
R: If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

O, that today you would hear God’s voice: /”Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
As in the days of Massah in the desert, / where your ancestors tempted me;
They tested me though they had seen my works.”
R: If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

Now since we have been made right in God’s sight by our faith,
we are at peace with God through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us to the grace in which we now stand,
and we confidently and joyfully look forward to the day
on which we will become all that God has intended.
And such a hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts
through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
At the appointed time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for us godless people.
It is not easy to die even for a good person —
though of course for someone really worthy,
there might be someone prepared to die —
but the proof of God’s love is that Christ died for us
even while we were still sinners.


John 4:5-42

Jesus stopped at Sychar, a town in Samaria,
near the tract of land Jacob had given to his son Joseph,
and Jacob’s Well was there.
Weary from the journey, Jesus came and sat by the well.
It was around noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water,
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
The disciples had gone off to the town to buy provisions.
The Samaritan woman replied,
“You are a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?”
— since Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans.
Jesus answered,
“If only you recognized God’s gift,
and who it is that is asking you for a drink,
you would have asked him for a drink instead,
and he would have given you living water.”
“If you please,” she challenged Jesus,
“you do not have a bucket and this well is deep.
Where do you expect to get this ‘living water’?
Surely you do not pretend to be greater than our ancestors
Leah and Rachel and Jacob, who gave us this well
and drank from it with their descendants and flocks?”
Jesus replied,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.
But those who drink the water I give them will never be thirsty;
no, the water I give will become fountains within them,
springing up to provide eternal life.”
The woman said to Jesus,
“Give me this water, so that I will not grow thirsty
and have to keep coming all the way here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go, call your husband, and then come back here.”
“I do not have a husband,” replied the woman.
“You are right — you do not have a husband!”
Jesus exclaimed.
“The fact is, you have had five,
and the man you are living with now is not your husband.
So what you have said is quite true.”
“I can see you are a prophet,” answered the woman.
“Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain,
but you people claim that Jerusalem is the place where God ought to be worshiped.”
Jesus told her,
“Believe me, the hour is coming
when you will worship Abba God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we do understand
— after all, salvation is from the Jewish people.
Yet the hour is coming — and is already here —
when real worshipers will worship Abba God in Spirit and truth.
Indeed, it is just such worshipers whom Abba God seeks.
God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to Jesus,
“I know that the Messiah — the Anointed One — is coming,
and will tell us everything.”
Jesus replied,
“I who speak to you am the Messiah.”

The disciples, returning at this point,
were shocked to find Jesus having a private conversation with a woman.
But no one dared to ask,
“What do you want of him?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman then left her water jar and went off into the town.
She said to the people,
“Come and see someone who told me everything I have ever done!
Could this be the Messiah?”
At that, everyone set out from town to meet Jesus.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging Jesus,
“Rabbi, eat something.”
But Jesus told them, “
I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
At this, the disciples said to one another,
“Do you think someone has brought him something to eat?”
Jesus explained to them,
“Doing the will of the One who sent me
and bringing this work to completion is my food.
Do you not have a saying,
‘Four months more and it will be harvest’?
I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields
— They are ripe and ready for harvest!
Reapers are already collecting their wages;
they are gathering fruit for eternal life,
and sower and reaper will rejoice together.
So the saying is true:
‘One person sows; another reaps.’
I have sent you to reap what you have not worked for.
Others have done the work,
and you have come upon the fruits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus
on the strength of the woman’s testimony
— that and “he told me everything I ever did.”
The result was that, when these Samaritans came to Jesus,
they begged him to stay with them awhile.
So Jesus stayed there two days,
and through his own spoken word many more came to faith.
They told the woman,
“No longer does our faith depend on your story.
We have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this really is the savior of the world.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Reconsidering Conversion

Who is this woman from Samaria that encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well? Usually, the Samaritan woman is recalled as the woman who had five husbands, whom Jesus forgave. But is this detail the most important aspect of this character? The Samaritan woman plays an important role in our understanding of Jesus’s mission, considering that the writer of the Gospel of John devotes an entire chapter to this encounter.


In this story, Jesus brings up the Samaritan woman’s marital status, saying to her: “For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband,” (Jn. 4:18). Bible commentaries  frequently associate this line with a condition of sin. However, the text is silent with regards to the cause of her situation. In fact, if we think about her social-historical context, on the one hand, it was very difficult for a woman to get, on her own, a divorce; and, on the other hand, we should not exclude the possibility of widowhood. Instead, what the text suggests is that the woman was somehow marginalized, or living on the fringes of her community. At the time, women usually gathered early in the morning to get water, but the Samaritan woman chose the hottest hour to go alone to the well, as the text reads,“It was about noon,” (Jn. 4:6).

According to Christian feminist theology, it is urgent that we recover, remember, and re-imagine what has been overlooked or neglected in scripture due to patriarchal patterns of interpretation, especially with regards to women’s stories and experiences of God. For feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, the point is not to exclude or erase traditional male symbols. If they have the power to communicate divine presence in their circumstances, they should not be rejected. Yet, as Johnson reminds us, in her book, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse: “In the concrete context of patriarchy, such symbols in fact have not functioned to emancipate women. And even if they have that potential, they need to prove it, considering the long tradition of suffering and oppression toward women,” (40). In this particular story, it is important to free not only the woman, but also this text from the prejudice and excessive moralization that have made up the reception and interpretation of this biblical passage. 

If we look at Jesus’s actions in this story, he is and sees beyond all this prejudice. Jesus is more concerned with the person than with social conventions. The dialogue that springs from this encounter is initiated by Jesus: “Give me a drink,” he says to the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:7). Jesus crosses all boundaries that would prevent that encounter from taking place. Jesus disrupts the cultural, social, historical, and even religious barriers (e.g., purity laws), which separated him from this woman. Theirs is one of the longest dialogues in the New Testament, and is the longest that Jesus has with a woman. The Samaritan woman is, according to several scholars, the first person to develop a theological conversation with Jesus. As soon as she realizes that Jesus is the Messiah, she runs to her community to share with them this overflowing experience. The fact that she left the water jar behind shows us the rush, and the abundant joy that could not be self-contained. 

This encounter invites us to reconsider the category of conversion. For Johnson, the traditional take on conversion (decentering to overcome one’s ego and to be filled with God’s grace) cannot be easily applied to someone who is already excluded or marginalized. That process of disowning oneself would only reinforce the situation of oppression. Conversion, here with Jesus, becomes an event of liberation from all circumstances that prevent the self, in their own condition and truth, from experiencing that abundance of life. 

Perhaps, the story of the Samaritan woman is revealing, not so much for the particular circumstances of her marital status, but because of the intimacy of the encounter she has experienced. Perhaps we can remember the Samaritan woman, not as the wife of five husbands, but as the one who recognized the Messiah, and allowed her heart to become, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14).

Commentary by Sónia Monteiro

Sónia Monteiro is a doctoral candidate in systematic theology and a Senior Teaching Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year at Fordham University. Her research interests include Christology, Political Theology, and Ignatian Spirituality. Before coming to New York, Sónia worked as a lawyer in Portugal. She also spent a few years working with local communities in Angola. Sónia is an active member of The Grail, an international and ecumenical movement of lay women from diverse backgrounds.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Gender Justice

Dialogue is, or should be, a central praxis, or theory put into action, in the life of the church. It springs from a fundamental ecclesial principle that affirms the interdependence and co-responsibility of all members as equally sharing the priestly, prophetical, and kingly ministries of Jesus. As stated by Pope Paul VI in the conciliar document Dignitatis humanae, dialogue is key to seek the truth in a way proper to, “the dignity of the human person and [their] social nature.” The same idea was further developed by the International Theological Commission, whose mission is to advise the Holy See, especially with regards to the doctrine of faith. The commission claimed, in their document Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church,” that, in matters of faith, the baptized should not be ‘passive’ interlocutors, and that for the development and growth of the Church, “the magisterium has to be attentive to the sensus fidelium, the living voice of the people of God. Not only do they have the right to be heard, but their reaction to what is proposed as belonging to the faith of the Apostles must be taken very seriously, because it is by the Church as a whole that the apostolic faith is borne in the power of the Spirit.”

Dialogue is important, not only for communal discernment, but also as an attitude toward the world and society. The attentiveness to the signs of times, underlined by the Second Vatican Council, is only possible through a dialogical attitude. This would require a basic decentralism in the Church, and a renewed self-understanding, in which the Church would understand itself no longer as ‘the keeper of the truth’ but, primarily, as a community of disciples discerning together, and in dialogue with the world and the presence and manifestations of the Spirit of God. This common and shared journey does not imply uniformity, but a call for true listening and respect for otherness. That does not necessarily mean the endorsement of every opinion. It represents, instead, a commitment to learn to live the communal dimension of our faith and to not simply abandon those who think differently from us.


A Contemplative Exercise

Today, you are invited to find a relaxing place where you can hear the sound of water (e.g., a river, waterfall, fountain, etc.).
Let yourself be enveloped by the music that springs from the water.
Repeat the following passage from the book of Ezequiel:

…Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live (…) It will become fresh, and everything will live where the river goes (…) because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. (Ezeq. 47).

A Community

The Grail

The Grail is an international and ecumenical community of women, grounded in Christian faith, that seeks to give visibility to the role of women in all dimensions of life, including the life of the church. It was founded in Holland in 1921 as Women of Nazareth, by a group of five young women and Dutch Jesuit priest, Fr. Jacques van Ginneken. Today, The Grail has local communities in 17 different countries around the world; together they share a common vision and mission. 

This spiritual movement, organized under the leadership of lay women, relies on the diversity of talents and callings of its members. This plurality encouraged a model of organization less hierarchically oriented, and more in harmony with a shared responsibility and interdependency of these women. 


Jesus Met the Woman at the Well by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Jesus Met the Woman at the Well, by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1986)