Text for the Third Sunday of Lent 2017: John 4:1-45 – Jesus and a Woman at Jacob’s Well
It appears that everyone has something to hide.
Jesus was a Jew who had strayed into Samaritan territory where Jews were never welcome. (No Jew would ever be unclear that he or she did not belong there.) But Jesus’ thirst was not unsubtle. He would have to find someone, a Samaritan, to help him draw water up from the depths of their 100-feet deep well. And so he would need a disguise that cloaked not his need, but his identity only.
Because Jesus had come near the two locations most revered by the Samaritans (Mount Gerizim and Jacob’s Well), he would have had to be especially careful about concealing his Jewish identity – “the Jews use nothing in common with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). Jesus, we assume, thought himself skilled enough to pull this off. Let us enjoy for a moment the thought of Jesus planning his disguise.
Attested in ancient Christian texts we find it taken for granted that God loves to hide, expressing something of the playfulness of the divine Nature, of God’s skillfulness as a Teacher, and of God’s practicality expressing itself as prudence. For example, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:
In like manner, it is not the vastness of the heavens, and the bright shining of its constellations, and the order of the universe, and the unbroken administration over all existence that so manifestly displays the transcendent power of the Deity, as does this condescension to the weakness of our [human] nature; the way, in fact, in which sublimity, existing in lowliness, is actually seen in lowliness, and yet descends not from its height. And in which Deity, entwined as it is with the nature of man [the incarnation], God becomes this [human], and yet still is that [divine]. For since, as has been said before, it was not in the nature of the opposing power [Satan] to come in contact with the undiluted presence of God, and to undergo His unclouded manifestation. Therefore, in order to secure that the ransom on our behalf might be easily accepted by him [Satan] who required it, the Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature….
But, humans also love to hide, having done so from the earliest moments of our species’ existence. Or, if not loving to hide, we judge that we must hide, whether we love it or not.
9 The Lord God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”
Now, the woman. She came walking out from town to Jacob’s well, compelled by thirst. Out there she was alone, but free. And so, without concealment, far from the gossip of the town, she confidently walked in the landscape where she belonged – “our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself” (John 4:12). Out there she was not afraid of the light, the fierce brightness of a desert Sun at noon. “Why hide,” she might have thought to herself, “when no one is seeking me?”
Why is it that humans hide? Because we know that we are being sought. If we knew that we were not being sought, then we would not hide. And why do people give so much of their inner resources to hiding? Because they know that they are being sought, and they judge themselves able to be found. How surprising this is about the human habit of hiding, and subtle!
Consider the childhood game of hide-and-seek. It is the most revealingly human of games. It is a “game” because we hide knowing that someone – we call that person “It,” and curiously – will seek us until we are found. In short, we hide because we expect to be found. And when found, we leap away from the person who is It, flying on quicker feet to a safe spot, lest we have to become It. (The Seeker’s goal is to make us like Himself – a seeker of people like Jesus, who said, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” as I do! [Luke 4:10]). But here is the main point: there is no game, and no fun, if our hiding does not know that someone will come seeking us in our hideout … and successfully will find us. “There you are!”
So, Jesus had hidden himself – that he was a Jew asking for help. The woman found him – “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”. With ease she sees right through Jesus’ disguise and recognizes him as a Jew – a really good place to start if a person wants to know Jesus.
Her ease at finding him startled him, and though he was discomfited, she did impress him. “Maybe,” he thought, “I can return the favor.” And so Jesus begins to search for her, playfully and teasingly, seeking her who had more in her than her thirst, and who carried around with her more than an empty water skin.
This way that Jesus had of finding people was something especially, and characteristically, fine about Him. I think that the proper setting for those famous lines in Matthew is Jesus in his practice of seeking and finding people.
7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
These lines do not promise that we will get God to meet our every need. Our own experience quickly scoffs at such a thought. Rather, they mean that Jesus is inviting us into a practice of the divine capacity to seek and to find people – one of God’s exceptional skills. Whether it was this woman at Jacob’s Well or Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), Jesus showed such skill, practiced with courtesy and love and patience, at finding those who were hidden, inviting them out into the open … as He himself came out of hiding into the light – “26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” 
28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?”
Let us live mindfully, and with confidence and energy, this third week of Lent that is before us to live.
Ganz #3 – Meditation – Found (Week 3)
 The verb “to hide” is found in the earliest forms of the English language, discovered by the scholars of the Oxford English Dictionary in a text published around the year 897 CE. It means “to put or to keep out of sight; to conceal intentionally from view or from the notice of others; to conceal from discovery.” No motive is given as to why a person would hide something … until about four hundred years later when “to hide” was also used to express the motivation of the Hider – “to conceal so as to shield or protect.” The Hider is shielding or protecting what, or who, is Hidden.
 The Oxford English Dictionary concerning the noun “prudence” defines it – “The ability to recognize and follow the most suitable or sensible course of action; good sense in practical or financial affairs; discretion, circumspection, caution.”
 Gregory of Nyssa, “The Great Catechism,” in Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. William Moore, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 494. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy remarks concerning St. Gregory: “St. Gregory of Nyssa spent his life in Cappadocia, a region in central Asia Minor. He was the most philosophically adept of the three so-called Cappadocians, who included brother St. Basil the Great and friend St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Together, the Cappadocians are credited with defining Christian orthodoxy in the Eastern Roman Empire, as Augustine (354-430 CE) was to do in the West.”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ge 3:9–10.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 4:9.
 The Oxford English Dictionary defines this noun “discomfiture” – “Defeat in battle, overthrow, rout,” but also “Frustration of plans or hopes; perplexity; confusion.”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 7:7–8.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 4:26.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 4:28–29.