In this week’s gospel, Jesus is slumming. But he’s not slumming just to take in the local color. He’s slumming with a purpose… the same purpose he preaches to high and low alike… turn from sin and follow him to the love of the Father.
He meets and talks with a woman at a well. And what appears as a chance encounter is in fact a profound revelation. He is telling us that the love of God is not the narrow privilege of the elect. It is not rationed out exclusively to the pious. Whatever our station, pedigree or profession, God loves us all. Whatever our sins, weaknesses or addictions, he wants us all. Despite our betrayals and despair, God gives his all. And while John’s gospel is rich in obscure theological nuance, Christ’s main message is clearer than the water from the well:Those who drink from the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.
Jesus is the fount of God’s grace, in him we are saved. That’s what he tells the woman at the well. He is the Messiah. Salvation is at hand. But to make this cosmic announcement, he doesn’t convene the Sanhedrin. He doesn’t proclaim the good news to the chief priest. He simply tells a Samaritan… and a Samaritan woman at that… a serial adulterer… an outcast among outcasts. How’s that for slumming… but how better to prove that the gates of heaven are open to all? The Messiah who was born in a stable and raised by a carpenter, the Messiah who turned a bunch of working stiffs into apostles… Jesus Christ didn’t just stumble into Samaria and didn’t just happen to bump into the most married lady in town. He deliberately picked the place and the person. He is talking with the Samaritan woman, but through her he is teaching us.
He is telling us it can all be ours… saving grace, harmony, serenity, an earthly life of purpose and dignity, culminating in the eternal life of the faithful. Beyond that, this message does not just happen to land right here on our Lenten liturgical calendar by chance. It is precisely what we need to hear now and what we must embrace now as we journey with Jesus towards Calvary. It is what we must know awaits us in the glory of the Resurrection.
Wherever we hear this gospel… whether freshly free from sin or racing towards it… whoever we are… a pillar of society, the dregs of humanity or just a garden-variety sinner… we are God’s beloved. He sends his love, manifest in Jesus, to surround us, to comfort us, to gather us home. Even among the most exalted of the earth, the Son of God is slumming. But he’s slumming with a purpose: Jesus Christ has come to a sin-cursed world to lead us home to glory. His purpose is so clear that even the despised Samaritans get it, as they proclaim: We know that this is truly the Savior of the world. Jesus has come to take us where there are no slums and there are no gated communities. He’s come to take us home.