Jn 4: 5-42
So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that 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 have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never 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 him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no 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 see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these 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 Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.
And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
A love beyond human comprehension
What did you give up for Lent? Chocolate? Ice Cream? I will confess that, frequently, observance of my chosen Lenten penance has devolved into a matter of MY will over MY appetites. It’s also MY fault, but at times, I have not sought out God’s help in what becomes MY contest versus the tempting “flavor of the day,” the thing standing between me and perverse “Lenten glory.”
Our Gospel jars me, and others like me. Enter Jesus who encounters a Samaritan woman beside the fabled Jacob’s well. Note two things for historical context: First, this woman is a Samaritan and so cannot be trusted because she descends from Jews who betrayed their own and intermarried with the Assyrians who conquered Israel seven centuries earlier. Second, she is a woman. As a woman in the first-century, Mediterranean world, her most precious commodity, her honor, is in peril, merely by conversing with an adult male who is not her kin. She knows all this, and so does Jesus. So, naturally, she asks Jesus: “Why are YOU asking ME for a drink?”
Hearing the Samaritan woman’s confusion, we are, perhaps, reminded of our own confusion about Lent. The Samaritan woman believes that Jesus is seeking a drink from the well of Jacob, water that can satiate his physical thirst. Jesus responds that HIS is life-giving water, the kind satisfying ALL thirst, body and soul. Despite the Samaritan woman’s struggle to comprehend what Jesus is telling her, however, unlike the Jews, even Jesus’ disciples, and perhaps us, she comes to recognize Jesus, the Messiah. Our Gospel reminds us this Lent of the importance of prayerful conversation with the Lord and our Lenten call not only to penance, but to give thanks for God’s sacrificial love that betrays human comprehension.
—Fr. William T. Sheahan, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province serving as rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community in Kansas City, MO.
I thirst, Lord. Grant me your life-giving, soul-quenching water, and the wisdom to recognize that you are the source of all satisfaction. May I place my trust in you. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer team