The First Scrutiny (3rd Sunday of Lent) is John 4:5-42 and is commonly referred to as “The [Samaritan] Woman at the Well.”
Travelling to Galilee from Judea with his disciples, Jesus had to pass through Samaria. At mid day, tired from his journey, he sat down at a well in the town of Sichar in Samaria. A Samarian woman came at that time to draw water from the well. There may have been reasons why she came in the heat of the day to draw water, perhaps to avoid other women from town. Jesus broke down all the racist, sexist custom of not speaking to a woman and a Samaritan and asked the woman for a drink.
To truly appreciate what Jesus has done in speaking to the Samaritan woman you must appreciate first that private conversations between unwed men and women were not considered proper at that time and in that place, and the additional fact that Samaritans and Jews despised each other. (It would be as if an Armenian asked a Turk for a drink, or an Arab an Israeli.)
The Samaritan woman at the well is far from innocent. She has been married 5 times and is living in sin with a man who isn’t her husband. This may be why she draws her water at the hottest time of the day: to avoid the other women who may dislike her for her lifestyle. She is shocked that He would ask her for a drink…he is a Jew and why would a Jew speak to her, a Samarian, and drink from her well?
“Then Jesus says something puzzling, telling the woman that, if she knew who He was, she would ask Him for living water, and He would give it to her. When she noted that He had nothing for taking water from the very deep well, He simply affirmed the excellence of His water and how those who drink it never thirst again. She expressed an interest, for such a thing would save her the drudgery of coming to the well daily to draw. Thus sold on the endless water supply, she asked Him for it, not yet realizing that the “living water” was a metaphor for something supernatural: divine grace.” Brother André Marie – Catholicism.org
Through her story it is revealed that the “well” of grace is ready to refresh the soul damaged by sin and suffering and that Jesus came to save the sick and to serve those who still need both physical and spiritual healing – not only the converted.
The conversion of the Samaritan woman can be observed in the degrees to which she gains understanding of Who and What Jesus is. The Samaritan woman first observes Jesus to be a Jewish man. Jesus, a Jew, is speaking to a Samaritan woman and asking for a drink and she was shocked. Then, Jesus tells her the truth about herself and she is amazed and now she believes him to be a prophet! Then she tells Jesus that the Messiah is coming and “he will tell us everything” to which Jesus replies, “I am He, the one speaking with you.” She brings many to come and see Jesus (“Could he possibly be the Christ?” she says to them) and they come first because of her word but they end up believing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ because of His word. The Samaritan woman converts her town to Christianity.
We reflect on the Scrutinies on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent for the benefit of the Elect in our parish. They, like the Samaritan woman, are on the verge of a conversion of faith. The Scrutinies help the Elect in their rite of self-searching and repentance and they have a spiritual purpose. All of the subjects in the three Scrutinies have something in common with those converted to Christian faith: they begin without knowledge of Christ Jesus, who He is and what He is; as they gain knowledge of Jesus they begin to see what a good man, a good leader, a good teacher, a humanitarian, compassionate human being He is; finally they obtain an understanding of His divine nature and His divine grace and they have fully arrived at their faith. To be able to see Jesus for who He is, to be able to accept the divine grace He is giving, you must be firm in your conviction to turn away from sin.
“The Scrutinies are meant to uncover, and then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the Scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.” from Creighton University Online Ministries
We join with the Elect, we strengthen the Elect, we pray with the Elect and for the Elect through the spiritual experiences of the Scrutinies. We will join with them and relive our Baptismal promise as we die again to sin in the Baptismal font with the Elect on Easter Sunday and are reborn again with Jesus into new life, eternal life.