The Richer Story

The previous post “What we know?” was part of my musings initiated by a video on YouTube. I was in the midst of preparing materials for our parish website, a feature called “Bible on the Back Porch.” The page tagline reads: “Reading, pondering and studying God’s Word is sometimes best done “on the back porch.” Each week we will try to offer something for you and your ‘back porch time.’”  People are busy and in my area, have long commutes, families, and sometimes in-person bible studies are just not possible. But they can find 20 minutes at home if something is available online. Hence the back porch project. Continue reading

The arc of this life

There is a document from the US Bishops, “Fulfilled in your Hearing” that is a wonderful reflection on what is the purpose and mission of the Sunday homily. There is a line in the document that says the purpose of the homily is to shine the light of the gospel into the lives of the people of the parish. I hope I come close to fulfilling that purpose. The document makes clear that a homily is not a Bible study, although it can include salient points. It is not a theological discourse nor a course in ethics or philosophy. The document holds up one image that captures the purpose: to shine the light of the Gospel into people’s lives so that they can see the path leading to Jesus so that there is a personal encounter with the Incarnate Son of God, Son of Mary. An encounter that fulfills the divine command from the top of the mountain: This is my beloved Son… listen to him. An encounter that fulfills the Blessed Virgin Mary’ words to us as she points to her Son: Do whatever he tells you. An encounter that changes, or begins to change, the way you see the world, your community, yourself and your Savior. Continue reading


Jesus’ words overflow with metaphor: living water, the hour, food, harvest. Each of these metaphors attempts to open reality in fresh ways for his conversation partners. Jesus wants to open the eyes of the Samaritan woman and his disciples so that they can see what is being offered to them in the present instead of continuing to view everything through the lens of old realities. Jesus wants the Samaritan woman to see who is speaking with her at this moment and the gifts that he offers (4:10). He wants her to see that the present moment is the time of eschatological fulfillment (4:23-24). Jesus wants his disciples to see that the harvest is ready now, contrary to popular understandings (4:35). In both conversations (4:7.26, 31-38), Jesus takes familiar images and fills them with new meaning in order to open up for his listeners the possibilities of a life defined by God’s gifts. The metaphors of these verses keep the terms of the conversations always fresh, always suggestive, always open to new meanings in changing circumstances. Continue reading

Jesus and the Samaritan townspeople.

John brings the Samaria narrative to a close by focusing on the success of the Samaritan mission. Verse 39 notes the faith in Jesus of mane Samaritans and explicitly attributes the people’s faith to the woman’s “testimony” (martyria). She, like John the Baptist, is a witness who brings people to faith in Jesus. Also like John the Baptist (3:30), the woman’s witness diminishes in importance when the Samaritans have their own experience of Jesus (vv.40-42). The Samaritans invite Jesus to stay with them, and he stays for two days (if. 40). The use of the verb for “stay” (menō) recalls 1:38 and Jesus’ meeting with his first disciples. To stay with Jesus is to enter into relationship with him (cf. 15:4, 7). Many more persons come to faith in Jesus as a result of this stay (v.41), and in v.42 those who believe acknowledge that their own encounter with Jesus supplants the woman’s word. This is the model of witness and faith in the Fourth Gospel: The witness that leads to Jesus is replaced by one’s own experience of Jesus. Continue reading

Conversation between Jesus and his disciples

Jesus’ conversation with his disciples follows a similar pattern to his conversation with the woman, albeit abbreviated. It opens with a dialogue that revolves around a misunderstanding about the meaning of “food” (brōsis, vv.31-33; cf. the misunderstanding about “living water” in vv.10-15). This dialogue is followed by a longer speech by Jesus (vv.34-38; cf. vv.21-24) in which he offers a new way of thinking to his conversation partners. Both of these final speeches by Jesus have an eschatological orientation. Continue reading

The return of the disciples

This passage provides a bridge between Jesus’ conversations with the woman and with his disciples (vv.31-38). The disciples’ reaction to Jesus is similar to the woman’s initial response to him (v.9): shock that Jesus would violate social conventions. Unlike the woman, However, the disciples keep their questions to themselves. Continue reading

Conversation: Part 2

the first part of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (thru John 4:15). Now we will continue to dive into the details in order to unpack this amazing narrative. Like yesterday’s post, this is a lengthy one. Go call your husband. Jesus introduces a new topic in v.16 possibly to provide a fresh angle on his identity: Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.”  Prior to this, Jesus’ invitation to the woman was couched in the metaphor of living water. Now Jesus’ invitation will be grounded in the woman’s own life. Continue reading

Conversation: Part 1

This coming weekend is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. In the previous post we delved into all might be implied in the simple opening which tells us where and when. We raised the question of whether it was simple geographical information or was St. John providing theological clues and breadcrumbs. Now we begin to consider the dialogue that ensues. The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman consists of thirteen exchanges, one of the longest dialogues in the Gospel. It is divided into two sections, each section introduced by a request/command by Jesus: (I ) vv.7-15 (“Give me a drink”); (2) vv.16-26 (“Go, call your husband”). Continue reading

Jesus’ arrival at the well

This coming weekend is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. In the previous post we quickly reviewed the religious and political history of the Samaritans in order to place this story in stark contrast to what came before: when Jesus spoke with Nicodemus (3:1-21), he spoke with a named male of the Jewish religious establishment, a “teacher of Israel.” When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman, he speaks with an unnamed female of an enemy people:  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. (vv.5-6)
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Who are the Samaritans?

This coming weekend is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. In the previous post we refreshed our understanding of the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus as a prelude to the encounter with the Samaritan Women. In John 4:4-42, Jesus’ ministry enters a new stage. He leaves the confines of traditional Judaism and turns to those whom his Jewish contemporaries reckoned as outsiders and enemies: the Samaritans. The breach between Jews and Samaritans can be traced to 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel withdrawing from the throne of David in Jerusalem upon the death of King Solomon. They formed a competing confederation building a new capital city and a new temple (Mt. Gerizim), claiming that this was the true place of worship of God. To the people of the south (Judah) they were traitors and heretics. Continue reading