Did you notice? There was blip in the rhythm of Lent today. We celebrated the feast of the Annunciation – the moment when Mary’s ‘yes’ changed things forever for humankind.
This year, the feast happens to come during the third week of Lent – just a couple of days after we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, to consider the divine greetings these two women received.
Mary’s encounter is a familiar one: Gabriel says, ‘Hail, Favored One! The Lord is with you!’ It’s good news, of a sort. Still, the young women doesn’t seem to know exactly what to make of it all. Luke reports that ‘she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.’
If you think about it, that’s not a lot different than the reaction the other woman has when she meets Jesus at the well: ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’
Nor do the similarities stop there…
After Gabriel reveals God’s offer to Mary – that Jesus is about to take up residence in her – she responds, initially, with a certain amount of confusion: ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’
Meanwhile, back at the well, when Jesus invites the woman to partake of the Living Water he offers, she too responds incredulously: ‘Sir, you don’t even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?’
Now it’s probably fair to observe that the two women didn’t have much in common on the righteousness scale: After all, Mary was conceived immaculately and lived without sin; while the Samaritan woman seems to have led a bit more colorful lifestyle.
And yet, as we see, Jesus desires to make a life-giving connection to both.
He asks neither woman to earn his divine presence – only that they be open to the possibilities that grace can pour out in their lives.
Mary offers us the model of the perfect ‘yes.’ But I think we can learn a great deal from the Samaritan woman’s response, as well. No matter how checkered our pasts, we need only listen for the greeting that comes from Christ…and then come to know for ourselves ‘that this is truly the savior of the world.’