Sunday Reflection | The Woman at the Well: A Lenten Guide to Transformation - Saint John's Seminary
Celebrating 140 Years of Mission!  

Sunday Reflection | The Woman at the Well: A Lenten Guide to Transformation

March 2, 2024

Sometimes I think it wouldn’t be Lent without the woman at the well. As much as ashes and palms, Fish Frys and fasting, the woman at the well belongs to Lent. While only liturgically stipulated for use every three years, this Gospel of the woman at the well remains an option every year on the third Sunday of Lent. This quintessential Lenten Gospel describes moral conversion, preparation to receive the sacraments, and the joy of sharing the faith. It is like an RCIA program in miniature.

Something about this passage—about our Lord’s intimate conversation with the woman as she goes about her daily life—captures our imagination.

Put simply, the Christian faith is not principally a series of teachings or ethical rules. The Christian religion is not firstly a code of behavior. The heart of Catholic faith lies in an encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. It is what we hear about in this Gospel passage—meeting God, or better, God coming to meet us.

The account of the woman at the well offers the model for Christian discipleship. In this encounter with the Lord, we discover the path—and as far as we know, the only path—to happiness now and to eternal life.

This path of Christian perfection unfolds in three steps. First, we hear of a moral conversion. Our Lord asks the woman about her several husbands. With this revelation, we learn that to follow Jesus we need to abandon sin. There can be no hiding from God. As much as we may like to cling to a former way of life, to draw near to the Lord means we will need to change.

Second, in this passage we hear of the water that quenches thirst. This theme of water found throughout St. John’s Gospel points us to Baptism, and, by extension to each of the sacraments of the Church. The woman at the well—and the living water which only Jesus brings—point us to the fact that by the divine constitution of the Church, Baptism and the other sacraments offer the indispensable means to encounter Christ.

And third, we learn today about the joy of a newfound friendship with God. Those surprised by this joy must share it—like the woman who goes to tell others whom she has found. Every effort to privatize Christian faith should be resisted. After all, the Good News of the Gospel is too good to keep to ourselves.

With this Gospel we encounter three fundamental elements of Christian discipleship: moral conversion and a life of holiness, the sacramental economy and the graces that only the sacraments confer, and the joy of sharing the Gospel with those we meet.

The Lord tells us today—Do not be afraid of moral conversion. Do not fear the change that is necessary to follow Christ in His Church. To do so, first off, we need to enter more deeply into the sacramental life, rediscovering the healing gift of each of the sacraments of the Church. This is the heart of the New Evangelization.

The woman at the well points the way—moral conversion, the sacramental life, and the joy of sharing the Gospel.

The woman at the well offers a model for Lent. Small wonder, it just wouldn’t be Lent without her.

Rev. Ryan W. Connors

Boston College, B.A.

Pontifical Gregorian University, S.T.B.

Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, S.T.L.; S.T.D.

Profile See all posts