John 4:5-42
 by Rev. Robert Wagner
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.

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 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 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 who is speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?”  The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.  Could he possibly be the Christ?”  They went out of the town and came to him.  Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”  So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.  Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here?’  I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.  The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.  For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”  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.”

Two strangers meet at an ancient well outside of a Samaritan town. One is a Samaritan woman, coming to draw water. The other is Jesus Christ, in His humanity weary from traveling. He is waiting at the well while His disciples are getting food in town. It is noon and the sun is at its peak. Most townspeople are looking for shade, so Jesus and the woman likely are alone at the well.

And in the heat of the day, they share a common desire: They thirst.

esus asks the woman for a drink, and she is taken aback. It is not customary for Jews to speak to Samaritans, or for men to speak so freely with women who are alone. The conversation takes another awkward turn when Jesus speaks spiritually about the “living water” He will offer those who seek it, and the woman takes His words in a worldly sense. Yes, she would like to receive the “spring of water welling up to eternal life” because she thinks it would save her from the drudgery of going to the well every day. She does not yet comprehend that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit.

Despite her initial apprehension and current misunderstanding, the Samaritan woman continues to interact with Jesus. He next speaks of her past as if He has always known her. For all who know that Jesus is the One through Whom all things were made (Col 1:16), His intimate knowledge of her — and all of us — is expected. However, she must be shocked to hear this stranger reveal that He knows she has been married five times and now lives with a man who is not her husband. The sins of her past may be the reason she comes to the well in the heat of the day. She knows she will be alone and not the object of gossip. She has made herself an outcast, and yet Jesus treats her with the dignity she deserves as one created in His image.

Seeing Jesus as a prophet, the woman asks Him about the differences between her beliefs as a Samaritan and those of the Jews. Our Lord leads her to recognize both groups await a promised Messiah.

“I am He,” Jesus tells her.

Immediately, she runs into town to tell everyone that she has met the Messiah.

Before Jesus, the Samaritan woman searched fruitlessly for satisfaction. She could not find it in her first five husbands or the man with whom she is living. She cannot find it in her work, for she wishes she did not have to come to the well alone over and over again. Nothing of this world — not even the water from the well — can satisfy her. Her thirst comes from deep within, and it is the thirst our Creator has placed in each one of us: the longing for an intimate relationship with our God, who is love (1 Jn 4:16). She finally finds fulfillment in knowing and believing in Jesus Christ, and when she hurries off to share her joy, she leaves her water jug — and her unquenchable thirst — behind.

Jesus thirsts, too. “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me and to finish His work,” He tells His disciples. The will of the Father is our salvation, and Jesus shares this desire. Commenting on this Gospel, Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “God thirsts for our faith and our love. As a good and merciful father, He wants our total, possible good, and this good is He Himself” (Angelus, Feb. 24, 2008).

In our sinful humanity, each of us seeks satisfaction where it cannot be found. This Lent, using the instruments of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we are called to purify our desires and to focus our thirst on the One who can satisfy us perfectly. By freely accepting God's grace, love and salvation, we can quench both His thirst and ours. Day after day, Our Lord waits to give us what we truly desire. May we always seek Him in faith, knowing that He alone can fill our emptiness with peace, joy and unending life.

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