Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman has always attracted me. The seeming simplicity in which Jesus brings this woman to conversion. Yet, the depth of symbolism hidden in His words. The seeming bluntness by which He calls her out in her sinful domestic situation. Yet, the mercy He shows her and which is evident in her bringing other people to the Lord. “He told me everything I have ever done!” she says as if saying: He knows everything and still showed me love.
Amongst all the striking elements of this Gospel passage, let me focus on two. First, that Jesus comes to our encounter seeking to elicit faith in us. Jesus meets the woman at a well, while she is carrying out her daily task of drawing water. Noon was not the regular time at which this was done, and this may already indicate to Jesus that something with the woman is amiss. Nonetheless, it reveals a critical aspect of our relationship with God. The fact that He does not seek us only when we are praying or at Church. Jesus comes to our encounter in our daily tasks, in our regular events, in the ordinary circumstances of life.
Moreover, He comes to us in order to elicit greater faith in Him, that we may welcome Him more and more into our lives and daily affairs. That we may grow in our relationship with Him. To see this better, consider Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman: “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” (Jn 4:10). We know that Jesus is God, and so this verse makes sense to us. But isn’t the woman right in challenging Jesus?: “Why should I have asked you for a drink? It was you who first asked me for a drink. And you don’t even have a bucket! Where are you gonna get this water from?” Indeed, Jesus’ words make little sense: where is He going to get water from without a bucket? But, of course, Jesus knows what He is doing. His words may not make much sense at the level of ordinary conversation, but He is speaking at a spiritual level. He is drawing out faith from the woman. He is revealing Himself to her. It is as if she was the real well, and as the conversation progresses, Jesus is drawing faith from that well. Second is the distinction that Jesus makes between water and living water. Once again, Jesus is speaking in metaphors to reveal a spiritual reality. The water that the woman has come to draw out of the well does not quench thirst. She keeps on having to go back over and over. The living water Jesus wants to give her will satisfy her need: it will become a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13). What Jesus is trying to reveal to her is that her faith is misplaced. Her ancestors were only a preparation for Him. In this regard, they were ‘water’, but now that Him, ‘the living water’ has come, her faith has to be in Jesus.
The call is no different for us. Today, Jesus calls us to re-order our lives towards Him. Once again, to place Him at the center. For a practical note, this reminds me of Pope Francis’ words in Evangelii Gaudium: “our technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy.” In our days, multiple things call on our attention. However, the pleasure and happiness that they give wanes. It fades. It only quenches our thirst for a moment, and then we have to return to the well. Jesus wants us to have real joy and peace, the kind that becomes a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life. “The joy and peace that only He can give. Let us recognize His coming to our encounter and let us ask Him for His living water.
Santiago Torres – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta