Gospel Commentary Jn 4:5-42
The encounter between Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman offers
a glimpse of the powerful transformation that is possible when we greet the
Lord with faith. There was a turning point when the conversation changed from
confusing banter between the Son of God and a person who did not recognize Him
to a truly salvific experience. It was not at a point when Jesus spoke a
beautiful truth about God, such as when He said only He could give her
life-giving water. Instead, the woman recognized that Jesus is a man of God
when He revealed her sins to her. Only after Our Lord told her of her
immorality was she able to say, “I can see that you are a prophet.”
Immediately, the conversation turned to worship. The Samaritan woman spoke of
the difference between the temple of the Jews and Samaritan temple. In her
contrition, she wanted to know where she could offer sacrifice for her sins.
In her humility, this woman offers the perfect example of how we are called to
face our own sinfulness. When Jesus named her sins, she did not react with
pride and become defensive. Instead, she recognized her faults with honesty.
She saw how she had offended God and damaged her community. She acknowledged
how she herself was damaged by her sins and thus sought the forgiveness and
healing of God.
In her search for atonement, she was able to identify the man in front of her as
the Messiah who offers the living water that washes us clean and brings us
Each of us knows how hard it is to confront our sins. As Catholics familiar
with confession, we also know how hard it is to admit our sinfulness in front
of others. For these reasons, we may find ourselves avoiding the sacrament that
washes us clean by thinking that our sins are not that bad and that God loves
us despite them all.
The truth is that God does love us despite our sin. We see this in Christ’s
conversation with the Samaritan woman. Even as Jesus confronted her with her immorality, He does not intimidate her or
judge her. Instead, He draws her closer with charity, courtesy and patience.
Through His gentleness, her heart burns for forgiveness. In His mercy, He invites her to receive
Confession is never a time for fear. It is a time for healing, for peace, for
joy. We priests are called to invite others to enter into God's grace.
We are called to be Christ, for it is in His power that we forgive. We strive, sometimes in vain because of
our weaknesses, to make each confession an experience of that love.
Please pray for all priests that we may better reflect the Sacred Heart of
Jesus who welcomes sinners. At the same time we pray for ourselves, that we may
share the honesty and humility of the woman of Samaria, who is not defensive or
dismissive, but welcomes the opportunity to atone for her faults.
Jesus Christ stands before us today as He stood before the Samaritan woman,
longing to heal and forgive us. Let us pray that we may respond to Him with
faith, humility and contrition. Let us also pray for those of us who have been
away from confession for an extended period, no matter what the reason.
May the grace of God turn our hearts toward Him that we may know
His love and mercy this sacred season and always.
Fr. Wagner is Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge’s secretary.