This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Lent. The readings are from Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; and John 4:5-42.
Never before had I ever heard of St. Photina. I “met” her last weekend at the Kairos retreat. Fr. Sawicki came down Saturday morning and led the students in a brief Scripture study of the story of the woman at the well – the Gospel reading for this weekend. According to Church tradition, the woman’s name was Photina. I knew this story and love it, but I was totally unaware that the tradition is that she went on to become a martyr after this encounter with Jesus.
When we look at the story of Photina’s encounter with Jesus, we see that He sees her and interacts with her, affirming her dignity (remarkable because she is both a woman and a Samaritan), but He also calls out her sin. He doesn’t define her by her sin, as clearly so many others had. Why else would she be drawing water alone during the hottest part of the day, other than to avoid the rest of the people in the community out of shame? In this encounter with Jesus, her shame is clearly erased. She abandons her water jar and returns to the town, and John’s Gospel says that many of the Samaritans in the town began to believe in Him because of her word (Jn 4:39). Like Photina, we cannot allow encounters with Jesus to leave us unchanged. He sees us and loves us but loves us too much to allow us to remain in our sin. There was clearly a change in her life, and her heart was open to receiving this change.
It has been a blessing to me this week to see, likewise, a change in some of our students after the retreat. There was an increase in participation in Mass on Thursday morning and attendance at Adoration. I’ve heard them talking about their increased excitement for the faith. And some of them just seem brighter and lighter in their person. Let us pray for our students who have encountered Jesus, that they may remain open to His voice and bring others to know Him!