John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a,
From whom living water flows by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" - For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. - Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink, ' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'" The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
Jesus said to her, "Go call your husband and come back." The woman answered and said to him, "I do not have a husband." Jesus answered and said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I do not have a husband.' For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true." The woman said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one speaking with you."
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world."
The narrative of the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter four of St. John's Gospel serves as a metaphor for personal conversion. While the events in the narrative are historically accurate, they also provide an image of our blessed Lord's call to each of us to honesty about ourselves, repentance and change. Hence, the Samaritan woman represents each of us. Our Lord's interaction with her reveals the manner in which He moves us to conversion.
When Jesus arrives at the well alone, it is midday. Jesus is weary, hungry and thirsty. And yet, He cannot help but reach out to the Samaritan woman drawing water from Jacob's well, considered by the Samaritans to be one of the holiest sites in the Promised Land. The simple fact that Jesus goes into Samaritan territory and interacts with a foreign woman reveals to us that the Lord will stop at nothing to seek us out.
Jews never intermingled with Samaritans out of respect for Jewish ceremonial law. Intermingling with the ritually impure Samaritans would define a Jew, who would have to participate in ritual purifications before entering the Temple to pray. Moreover, Jewish men would never interact with a woman alone - contact of this kind was a violation of social morays. Jesus transcends these social and ritual constructs in order to save a soul.
On a human level, Jesus is thirsty but His thirst extends far beyond a mere desire for water. Our Lord thirsts for the Samaritan woman's faith, just as He thirsts for our faith, hope and love. Interestingly, it is Jesus who claims that He will provide living water for the woman, in spite of the fact that it is Jesus who asks for a drink. This reminds us that before we can reap the benefits of a life in Christ, it is Jesus Himself who nourishes us with the living waters of baptism and the Eucharist.
All of the good that we accomplish is merely a response to the goodness of God. He asks for our faith, hope and love and yet it is He who gives us the capacity to believe in Him, trust Him and love Him - a capacity given to us at baptism. Jesus promises the Samaritan woman that whoever partakes of His living water will never thirst again. In doing so, he sets Himself above Jacob, whom the Samaritans venerated. Christ's revelation to the Samaritan woman begins to unfold.
Our blessed Lord than asks the woman to call her husband. This exchange reveals that the woman is mired in adultery. This infidelity is an image of our infidelity toward God when we sin. The theme of the unfaithful wife was often cited by the prophets as a powerful image to remind the Jews of their relationship with God whenever they made pacts with foreign gods or colluded with enemies. Similarly, Jesus calls us to return to our original fidelity and innocence when we were baptized and washed clean of original sin. He desires to restore us to sonship with the Father. Jesus' knowledge of the Samaritan woman's marital status convicts her. It allows her to perceive that the Lord is no ordinary man - she calls Him a prophet. And yet, Jesus is much more than that. His knowledge of the Samaritan woman's sinfulness does not leave her despondent. Instead, she returns to her village to call others to meet Our Lord. Convicted by His knowledge of her sins, moved to conversion and healed by the living waters only Jesus can give, the Samaritan woman calls us to experience the spiritual healing we all desire during this season of Lent.
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