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Lent 3 and Third Week of Lent

with Allison McDougall

Postulant in the Diocese of Huron

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Click the red circle above to hear Allison read the Gospel or read below. (Audio will be available March 15.)

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.”

Click the red circle above to listen to Allison’s reflection or read below. (Audio will be available March 15.)

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is a passage of scripture that has played an important role in shaping my identity as a Christian woman. It is an unusual but beautiful story, filled with both tension between the characters and hopeful teaching from Jesus about salvation and eternity. If we look a little bit deeper, it’s also a highly countercultural text that expresses, from my perspective, the love and care that Jesus has for women and the role they play in His kingdom.

It’s obvious in the story that the Samaritan woman is not liked in her community and may even be ostracized for the multiple intimate relationships identified by Jesus in their conversation. Almost everything about her makes her the last person one might expect Jesus to hold the longest recorded conversation in the Gospels with. The cultural taboo of a man speaking directly to a woman he is unrelated to, is enough to shock the disciples, let alone her status as a Samaritan and her mysterious, questionable relationship history. This is what captures my attention about this story; that Jesus chooses to reveal His plan for salvation and who He is as the Messiah to a woman whom society dictates should be ignored.

While gains have certainly been made for women and I personally enjoy a tremendous amount of privilege as a white settler in Canada, it is easy to become demoralized as a woman. This is especially true of experiences that I and many other women have had in the church, where misogyny and bias, no matter how benevolent or unintentional, still creep in and do damage. When I experience the pain of rejection, exclusion, or toxicity on account of my femaleness, I find myself turning to the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman because in it, I find the heart of Jesus for women. I see that God values and includes women in the work of the Gospel. The Samaritan woman is not constrained by her sex, religious status, ethnicity, or personal history. She is a loved child of God and through her testimony, the Gospel is spread to the rest of her community. Just as the Samaritan woman is refreshed by the living water, I find myself refreshed when I turn to this story in moments of frustration and anger at the barriers I face as a woman. I know that Jesus values me, loves me, and has boundless grace for me, despite my wrongdoing and imperfection. He has a vocation for me as a labourer in the work of his kingdom.

In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we find a model for the empowerment of women that is Christ-centred and liberating. This is why the work of PWRDF in the realm of women’s empowerment is so essential to their mandate and, in a broader sense, our mandate as disciples of Christ. Globally, the battle for women’s empowerment and liberation is far from complete. This is a reality we are often insulated from in our relative comfort and safety as Canadians. But for millions of women and girls, patriarchal violence and misogyny are centre stage in all aspects of life. These are women who are as far-removed from our context as the Samaritan woman was from the context of Jesus. They worship, live, and look differently than we do. They are ostracized and ignored for no reason other than the material reality they were born into. But they remain precious in the sight of God and bear limitless potential for the good of the world.

Among its many mandates, PWRDF’s commitment to the empowerment of women brings me both hope and excitement for what this organization can achieve. Women, image-bearers of God, deserve full and equal rights, representation, and freedom from the bonds of violence and discrimination. Whether running education sessions to eradicate intimate partner violence in Haiti, investing in maternal healthcare in Mozambique, or engaging with the United Nations Council for the Status of Women, centring the important work of women’s empowerment is crucial not only for relief and development, but also for God’s redemptive work in humanity. May we never lose sight of this truth and always seek to allow streams of both justice and living water to flow through our actions as Christ’s representatives on earth.

March 16, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What words, ideas or phrases stand out for you?

March 17, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What is Jesus/the Gospel saying to you?

March 18, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What is Jesus/the Gospel calling you to do?

March 19, 2020

PWRDF Connects
Every year PWRDF volunteers participate in the Ride for Refuge. In 2019, PWRDF raised funds for Maison Dorcas, operated by the renowned Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here, women who have experienced sexual violence during the country’s civil war are restored — physically and mentally. The Rev. Naomi Kabugi, a priest in the Diocese of Niagara, walked 22 km and raised almost $1,700. Read her story in the Anglican Journal, or watch our video above. 

March 20, 2020

PWRDF Connects

In the Paramo de Pisba highlands in Colombia, most people work in either agriculture, animal husbandry or traditional mining. But as mining activities continue to expand into agricultural land, more and more people are being forced to move higher in the mountains to cultivate the protected land in the paramos. When mining is the main industry, the environment is destroyed and traditional farming – usually the domain of women – disappears, leaving women without employment opportunities. PWRDF’s partner ILSA (Institutio Latinoamericano para una Sociedad y un derecho Alternativos) works with local women to address these needs. Read the whole story. 

March 21, 2020

Your Saturday Sabbath

A woman outstretches her arm to hand someone a piece of paper. Consider the women who have outstretched their hand to you. Listen to the Gospel or Allison’s reflection again if you like. Illustration by Rini Templeton.

Next week: We welcome James Kornelsen, Public Engagement Coordinator of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.