The Samaritan woman represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks. She’s had “five husbands” and now she lives with another man.” Pope Benedict XVI
John 4: 51-42. The Woman at the Well.
Once again Jesus uses something very ordinary – water – to teach us about God and God’s desired relationship with us.
Now the woman could be any woman here (or man). She’s busy with her life doing something that’s life-essential – drawing water from the well.
But watch what happens as she meets Jesus – in the end she’ll put down the water jar and go and tell her friends about the man she’s met. She becomes a missionary. If it happened here in Enniscorthy some might say she’s turned into some kind of religious nut!
First she doesn’t get it: “You have no bucket, sir, and the well is deep; how could you get this living water?” She’s thinking in terms of water (her earthly life) but he’s talking about himself as “living water” (human fulfillment, which she’s so close to – she can actually reach out and touch God physically yet she might never meet him and know only the joys of this world). Notice too that she calls him “sir” rather than Lord – her journey will be from “sir” to Lord.
She gets there gradually, in stages, slowly discovering the full identity of Jesus on a one to one basis. It’s personal, one to one, the heart of God meets the heart of a woman and revelation occurs gradually.
Lesson – We must meet him personally. We must converse with him, if we do, he’ll change our lives.
Suddenly, as soon as the woman asks for “that water” Jesus asks her to call her husband – watch where this is going – and she replies “I have no husband” to which Jesus responds; “although you’ve had five (husbands) the one you have now is not your husband.” Classic!
Remarkably, she doesn’t protest, clearly she’s got some awareness of a religious understanding of marriage which Jesus affirms as God’s understanding of marriage (as opposed to the cultural understanding). She also acknowledges the expectation of Messiah.
Of course, nowadays we’d probably tell Jesus off and shout discrimination!
But she humbles herself, submits to a higher power and order, accepts the reality of sin, and he brings her forward. She meets the tender embrace of Jesus’ heart – mercy – always available to us in Confession. What if she’d gone the other way?
There’s one final detail I’d like you to notice. She brings the town to see Jesus – the town asks him to stay – and when they too have encountered him they say something that we all need to be able to say:
“Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.”