The Story of Samaritan Woman
Third Sunday of Lent [A]
March 12, 2023
For the third Sunday of Lent, the Church has selected for us the story of Samaritan woman from the Gospel of John. This story does not only appear in the current liturgical year (Year A), but also other years (Year B and C). Why does the Church select this reading for the season of Lent? What makes it very special that every year we are invited to listen and reflect on the story?
The story of the Samaritan woman is a story of repentance. Thus, it is fitting for the season of Lent. Let us go deeper into the story. John the evangelist does not give us the name of this woman as well as her other details, but there is a particular information that stands out. The woman had five husbands, and presently, is living with another man. Again, we don’t have details on this issue. It seems that the woman has lived through cycle of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. For unknown reason, her former husbands kept dismissing her (see Deu 24). Perhaps, there were serious marital issues. Perhaps, there were problems with her personalities as well as her husbands’ characters, that rendered them unable to live in a permanent and healthy relationship. Again, we are not sure, but we may say that she has been through hell, and the experience was deeply painful and traumatic, to the point that she decided to live with a man without a proper marriage. At the same time, she had to avoid her people because of shame, and run away from her God.
At first, to hear that this woman had five marriages sounds unbelievable. Yet, this is not totally impossible. However, what more important is that the Samaritan woman has become a reflection of some of us, or some people close to us. Before I began my study in Rome, I served as an assistant parish priest in Surabaya, Indonesia. Being in the parish of a big city, my ministry was inevitably tied to Catholic marriages and families. I am fortunate that I was given the opportunity to solemnize more than fifty marriages. Yet, unfortunately, I also encountered many couples as they sought help facing their marital problems. As I was listening to their stories, I could not but feel the pain, frustration and sometimes anger. The consequences are deeply painful and traumatic: relationships are fractured, families are broken, and children are suffering.
Fortunately, the story of Samaritan woman does not end in a tragedy. Jesus unexpectedly waited for her and mercifully offered her the forgiveness and a new life. Though she was initially hesitated, she confessed her sins and found the true Messiah. We are not told what happened exactly to her life, but we can assume that she changed her life because she had the new-born courage to face her own people and proclaim Jesus.
As I accompany men and women who are struggling with their marriages, things are tough and painful, but not hopeless. Some couples eventually reconciled, but there are some who face more difficult situations. Yet, despite their challenging situations, many refuse to fall into sinful life, but choose to grow in holiness. I honored to encounter some of them. Despite being abandoned by their spouses, they refuse to retaliate with violence. They also resiste the temptation to live with another man or woman outside of marriage but committed to rise their children alone. They have all the right to become angry and disappointed with God because of their conditions, but they did not allow negative emotions to control them. More remarkably, they decided to serve also in the Church.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP