The story of the woman at the well is a story of reconciliation and healing. The woman is obviously not popular in her village. She probably was a great sinner—and she knew it. To avoid encountering gossipy women, she chose to get water during the heat of the day rather than early in the morning when it was cooler. She thought it was safe to go to the well and then she encountered Jesus. He engages her in conversation which was considered taboo in first century Palestine. He tells her things that she thought no one else knew. Jesus draws her out of her fear and urges her toward conversion and healing. As a result of her conversation with Jesus, she is able to bring the town to conversion as well.
When we encounter Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are drawn out of our fear and complacency and called to proclamation and service. Sin is insidious. We sin because it’s fun to do. If it weren’t, we would not do it. Let’s face it would you rather eat a Sander’s hot fudge cream puff or an oat cake? The oat cake is certainly healthier, but the cream puff is so decadent and delicious. Sin (and the resulting guilt) makes us withdraw from society and even from ourselves. It makes us avoid people. It prevents us from being open and engaging. In short, sin isolates us. But Jesus breaks through the barriers that sin presents. In the sacramental encounter in the confessional, we lay bare our souls and Jesus (speaking through the priest) reminds us to worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus releases us from our sinful thoughts and actions and calls us to change our ways. In freeing us from our sins, Jesus invites us to go forth and be witnesses to the Gospel.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is our well of forgiveness. Each of us is like the woman. Each of us needs healing and conversion. But it is God’s action that moves us toward reconciliation. Notice that Jesus speaks first to the woman. He interrupts her isolation. He forces her to come to terms with herself. So too in our sinfulness: Jesus invites us to utilize the sacraments of healing to draw us out of the isolation of sin and renew ourselves as a son or daughter of God. Once we have been restored and reconciled to God, we then become instruments of reconciliation and healing for others.
May our encounters with the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent be opportunities for renewing our Baptismal commitment and learning to live in the freedom of God’s sons and daughters. May this freedom give us the courage to go out and truly be witnesses for the Gospel.