Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.

Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Sunday, March 15, 2020

This Sunday’s Readings

Year A RCIA Scrutinies

First Reading
Exodus 17:3-7
God tells Moses to bring forth water from the rock.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 95:1-2,6-9
Sing joyfully in the presence of the Lord.

Second Reading
Romans 5:1-2,5-8
Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Gospel Reading
John 4:5-42
Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman at the well. (shorter form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

Background on the Gospel Reading

On this Sunday and the next two Sundays, we break from reading the Gospel of Matthew to read from John’s Gospel. The Gospel of John is the only Gospel not assigned to a particular liturgical year. Instead, readings from John’s Gospel are interspersed throughout our three-year liturgical cycle.

In today’s Gospel, the dialogue between Jesus and a woman from Samaria is among the most lengthy and most theological found in Scripture. The most startling aspect of the conversation is that it happens at all. Jesus, an observant Jew of that time, was expected to avoid conversation with women in public. The animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans should have prevented the conversation as well. The woman herself alludes to the break from tradition: “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Yet Jesus not only converses with the woman, he also asks to share her drinking vessel, an action that makes him unclean according to Jewish law.

The initial conversation between Jesus and the woman is better understood if we consider the importance of water, especially in the climate of Israel. At first, the woman understands Jesus’ promise of “living water” in a literal sense: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” With no running water, the daily trip to the well by the women of the community was of paramount importance. The women of the town would have traveled to the well in the early morning, but this woman came to the well at noon, the hottest time of the day. The timing of her visit is a clear sign that she is an outcast within the Samaritan community. We learn in her conversation with Jesus that she is an outcast because of her “many husbands.”

Behind the conversation lies the animosity and rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaritans shared Jewish ancestry, but Samaritans had intermarried with foreigners when they lived under the rule of the Assyrians. Samaritan religion included worship of Yahweh, but was also influenced by the worship of other gods. When the Jews refused Samaritan help in the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, the Samaritans eventually built a temple for themselves at Mt. Gerizim (the same mountain mentioned by the woman at the well). Like the Jews, the Samaritans believed that a Messiah would come.

The high point of the conversation is when Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah. His answer to the Samaritan woman’s questions about worship is meant to predict a time when worshiping in truth and spirit will become the way to worship.

After the conversation, the Samaritan woman becomes a disciple. Even though she is an outcast and not a Jew, she returns to her town to lead others to Jesus and to wonder whether she has found the Messiah. The Samaritan townspeople return with her to meet Jesus for themselves, and many are said to come to believe in him.

The significance of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman has many levels. The first is personal: The woman is herself converted to belief in Jesus as Messiah because he knows her sin but speaks with her just the same. The second is social: Having come to know Jesus as the Messiah, the Samaritan woman becomes an evangelist to her own people.

The third level of the story is educational: Jesus uses his encounter with the Samaritan woman to teach his disciples that God’s mercy is without limit. The disciples return from their shopping quite confused to find Jesus talking with a Samaritan, and a woman at that! But the conversion of the Samaritan townspeople is a foretaste of the kind of open community that will be created among those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

Gospel Reading
John 4:5-42
Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman at the well. (shorter form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)
Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Teach children that just as water gives us life, Jesus, the Living Water, gives us eternal life in heaven with God.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

Read this riddle to children.
    Heat me up and I am steam. 
    I turn icy in the cold.
    You can find me in a well.
    In a glass, and in a stream.

    In a tub, I can overflow.
    I can run and I can spill.
    I can quench your thirst.
    My other name is H2O.
  1. Ask: What am I? (water) Why is water a precious gift from God? (It is needed for life. Our bodies need water to stay alive.) Where do we get water? (from a tap, bottled) Say: In Jesus’ time, people didn’t have taps in their homes. They had to walk far every day to get water. They put buckets into a well and then carried the buckets of water home. Today we’ll learn what Jesus said to a Samaritan woman he met at a well.
  2. Read aloud the short form of today’s Gospel, John 4:5–15,19b–26,39a,40–42.
  3. Say: Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that he is Living Water. Water gives us life. Jesus saves us and gives us eternal life, which means that the life Jesus gives us never ends. Like the Samaritan woman, we can tell people the good news that Jesus is our Savior, through whom we have eternal life with God.
  4. Close by praying together, Jesus, Living Water, thank you for giving us eternal life. Amen.

Gospel Reading
John 4:5-42
Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman at the well. (shorter form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, we learn about the fullness of God’s mercy. The woman is a Samaritan, and Samaritans were people with whom observant Jews had no contact. She is also an outcast in Samaritan society. Yet Jesus reaches out to this woman and brings her to knowledge of salvation.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: What kind of people are shunned or avoided in society today? If Jesus were alive today, what kind of people would we least expect him to talk with? Accept all reasonable answers.

  2. Say: Today’s Gospel tells us about a conversation that Jesus had with a woman from Samaria. Their conversation surprised people of Jesus’ time because Jewish men weren’t supposed to talk to women who were strangers. We are also told that the woman is a sinner. She is a Samaritan as well, and Jews avoided Samaritans. Let’s listen carefully as we read today’s Gospel about Jesus’ meeting with this Samaritan woman at the well.

  3. Invite volunteers to read different parts of today’s Gospel, John 4:5-42.

  4. Ask: How did the disciples respond when they found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman? (They were amazed and confused.)

  5. Say: Jesus tells his disciples that they will reap the fruits of the labor of others. Reaping fruits means “collecting or receiving something good.” When Jesus says that, he is telling the disciples that they may find faith in unexpected places. The disciples see an example of this when the entire Samaritan town comes to believe that Jesus is the savior.

  6. Conclude by praying together that the members of your group will be open and attentive to God’s work, even in unexpected places. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reading
John 4:5-42
Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman at the well. (shorter form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people in our society, like most people, can easily take water for granted. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of water, a resource necessary for survival, to describe himself.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Arrange the young people in groups of three or four. Have them brainstorm a list of all the ways that we use water in an average day as well as all the places water is available in their everyday lives.

  2. Allow sufficient time for the young people to complete their work and then have them report to the entire group as you record their ideas on the board.

  3. Point out how dependent we are on water and how abundant water is in our society.

  4. Remind the young people that in many places around the world, people do not have access to affordable, clean water.

  5. Say: In the climate of Israel, water is a very valuable resource, not readily available to everyone. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we find Jesus using the image of water, a resource necessary for survival, to describe himself.

  6. Invite volunteers to read different parts of this Sunday’s Gospel, John 4:5-42.

  7. Say: Jesus and the Samaritan woman had a lengthy discussion about water. When do we use water in the Church? (We bless ourselves with water when we enter a church. We are baptized with water.)

  8. Say: Lent is a time when we remember what Baptism means. We also try harder to live as followers of Jesus. When we were baptized, we were like the woman at the well: we came to know Jesus, the Living Water, and we were sent to invite others to drink from this well that never runs dry.

  9. Conclude by praying together today’s psalm, Psalm 95, or the Lord’s Prayer.

Gospel Reading
John 4:5-42
Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman at the well. (shorter form: John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a,40-42)

Family Connection

Lent is a season for repentance. It is a season during which we are called to reflect upon and to live deeply the promises of Baptism. The well and the conversation about water immediately recall for us the Sacrament of Baptism. As the Samaritan woman was converted and sent on a mission because of the conversation about water, we too are converted and sent by our Baptism to preach the good news of Jesus to others.

Take this opportunity to reflect upon the importance of Baptism with your family. If you have photos or other mementos of your family’s Baptisms, bring them out and take some time to recall the day of Baptism and its importance to you and your family. Create a prayer table that includes these mementos and a bowl of holy water. After you have spent some time talking about Baptism, invite everyone to listen carefully and prayerfully to today’s Gospel. Read John 4:5-42 together. Ask how Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well is like Baptism. (Jesus knows the woman’s sin and forgives her. The woman comes to know Jesus as the Messiah. The woman invites others to meet Jesus.) Pray a prayer of blessing for each member of the family that God will help each one live the promises of his or her Baptism. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.