The Third Sunday of Lent (A)
Dear brothers and sisters,
The more I consider the Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well the more I wonder how such an encounter with Jesus might take place in the context of our present culture. It seems as if many Americans – if not most – are actively searching for something by which to be offended presuming the worst of intentions in each other and reading more into the words and actions of others than may be warranted.
As but one simple illustration of what I mean, consider what would happen today if the Lord Jesus correctly said to an American woman, “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” (John 4:18). Would she recognize the truth of his words and answer, “
She knew the Lord called her to something greater, to something that would satisfy the deepest desires of her heart. She knew she could not satisfy these desires on her own; she had tried, and failed, five times over. She did not push away this necessary conversion, nor did she grumble against it (cf. Exodus 17:3); rather, she recognized the love of God that had been poured into her heart at that moment and she accepted his love (cf. Romans 5:5). This is why she could say of Jesus, “He told me everything I have done,” and could say so without taking offense at him (John 4:39; cf. Matthew 13:57). Can we say the same? Would we take offense at Jesus if he spoke so honestly about the sinful situations in our lives?
Building on an insight of Saint Augustine, Saint Bonaventure saw in the woman’s five husbands “the five heavy cravings of the senses,” “the five carnal senses, who ruled over her like a husband.” The first husband, he said, represented taste or gluttony; the second, touch or lust; the third, smell, by which he meant a life of ease and comfort which leads to sloth; the fourth, sight or greed because of envy; and the fifth, lying and gossiping.
But what of that sixth man, the man with whom she lived who was not her husband? In this man Saint Bonaventure saw “error, which seduces and leads the soul astray.” We might not all live in adulterous relationships, but we surely have all been seduced by error and our senses by giving way to the sins of gluttony, lust, sloth, greed, lying, and gossiping.
When the Lord Jesus approaches us in the silence of our hearts, in the Sacred Scriptures, or even in the words of another to reveal the secret of our sin, what is our response to him? Do we reject him? Do close our ears and our hearts to him? Do we honestly confess our sinfulness and reject the error of our ways so that his love might well up within our hearts through his forgiveness?
 Cf. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, I.1.
 Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 4.33. Robert J. Karris, trans. (Saint Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2007), 237.
 Ibid., 4.14.
 Ibid., 4.15.
 Ibid., 4.17.
 Cf. Pope Saint Leo the Great, Sermon, 74.2.
 Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 15.33.