The Woman at the Well

Water is one of the most common elements in our lives. It is everywhere, whether it be in rivers and lakes, flowing from our sinks, or falling from the sky. We need this water for life. Even our bodies are comprised mostly of water. Yet when Jesus meets the woman at the well in this week’s Gospel, he speaks of “the living water”, which is even more vital for our lives.  In concrete terms, what is the water that Christ offers? The answer is that there are no concrete terms. The image of water is a metaphor that describes, from a particular angle, the entire gift of eternal life or salvation brought about by Christ. It stands for the sum total of God’s gift of salvation to all humanity, a gift now available through Christ not only to the Samaritan woman but also to all who believe in Him.  Jesus tells the woman,   “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 beauty in this image of “a spring of water” is that water flows out of a spring, continuously.  If we have drank this “living water”, should we not then have Christ’s love flowing out of us as well, like water flows from a spring?

In Our Lord’s dialogue with the woman at the well, we can see the gracious mercy of God at work. Using the image of water, Jesus leads the woman step by step to the realization that salvation and eternal life are right there before her eyes. Christ’s gift of “living water” enables her to understand that the offer of friendship with God entails 1) a conversion of life (the woman must turn away from her sinful state), 2) an authentic worship, and 3) a desire to make Christ known to others. In this season of Lent, we too are called to do as the Samaritan woman did: to recognize God’s gift, to put our faith in Jesus our Messiah, and to spread His truth and life. As we spend this time preparing ourselves, it is good for us to evaluate how well we achieve those goals.

How conscious are we, not just of our sins, but of rectifying that which causes us to sin? If you are like me, there are some sins that you tend to repeat.  Not with intent necessarily, but out of habit or human weakness.  Are we addressing what causes us to commit that sin, whether it be an attitude, or a situation that we might be able to remove ourselves from? Do we pray for assistance and wisdom to deal with that particular recurring sin?  Or do we shrug and accept it?  One of the beautiful aspects of this Gospel story is how the woman discovers her worth and dignity as a person through her conversation with Jesus. Acknowledging our weakness is not something that should necessarily cause us to feel worthless or guilty.  It is in fact an opportunity for us to grow and feel better about ourselves as we grow closer to being the person that God wants us to be.

The woman is also called by Christ to an authentic worship of God.  The Samaritans had broken away from the Hebrews, and one of the main points of contention between the two was how the Samaritans had twisted the faith and their worship.  They had discarded the Hebrews guidelines for worship, and had begun to worship pagan gods. Jesus says to the woman, “You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand . . . God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” Lent is a perfect time to ask ourselves how authentic our worship is. Do we reflect on the Gospel we hear at Mass, not just during the liturgy but throughout our day and week? During the celebration of the Eucharist, are we focused on who we are receiving and what is happening, or are our minds wandering? Are we truly engaging in meaningful prayer, fasting and alms giving during Lent, or are we just paying lip service to what we are called to do?

Lastly, the woman is called to make Christ known to others. She testifies to other Samaritans, and the Gospel tells us that “many more began to believe in him because of his word”.  During Lent we can examine whether our actions are bringing others to Christ. Are we displaying patience, love, kindness, understanding and generosity to others? Are we displaying these traits even when it is hard, or especially when it is hard? In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says there is no reward for displaying this characteristics to those who love us, because that is easy.  We are called especially to bring Christ’s love to others when it is hard. Jews typically would not even look Samaritans in the eye if they came across them.  In fact, they would walk far, far out of their way to avoid walking through the Samaritan lands. Jesus intentionally sought out the Samaritans, to bring them his love.  Who, in our lives, can we seek out to share his love?

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