The Woman at the Well

For Sunday, March 12th, 2023

Reading

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. 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 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. 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.” Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. 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.”

John 4:5–15, 19b–26, 39a, 40–42

Reflection

Over the next three Sundays, we will celebrate the three scrutinies in preparation for the Baptism of the catechumens who are to be admitted to the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The Gospel readings on these Sundays will be the same Gospel readings that have been associated with the scrutinies since at least the seventh century: The Woman at the Well, The Man Born Blind, and The Raising of Lazarus.

In today’s Gospel, we see that Christ waits for us when we are in our deepest need. He is there, ready to respond when we announce our most urgent thirst. This need—this thirst—is not for realities that are temporal. No, our deepest thirst is for God himself.

The setting of this Gospel reading is at a well, which has many allusions to marriage in the Old Testament (see Genesis 29). The woman at the well in John’s Gospel is a Samaritan, a non-Jew. She represents the hunger of humanity to find rest in loving and being loved by God. Here, at the well, God reveals himself as the one who wants to marry the world. All thirsts will end in heaven, but they begin to be quenched  even here on earth as we enter more deeply into a vulnerable and realistic relationship with God.

We enter into conversation with God just like this woman at the well. We tell him everything, and he tells us everything about us and himself. Thus, he reveals the meaning and purpose of each our lives. Such a purpose is certainly not one of wandering in thirst from well to well. This would be a purposeless life—a futile life. We were not created to simply seek temporary relief from meaninglessness or pain and suffering. God is always offering us eternal rest as we establish communion with him in prayer and worship.

“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.” Jesus has revealed himself to be “the truth” (John 14:6), and he is present to us through the sacraments and in the scriptures as the living Spirit. In the above passage from today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is saying that the Father is seeking people to worship Christ. Yes, the Father is actively seeking out all men to worship him in spirit and truth—literally, in Christ. This is how we fulfill the Father’s desire: we share the good news, we give testimony that Christ is the Savior, we are witnesses to the fact that Christ is the one in whom all our thirsts are satisfied.

In your prayer today, bring your pains to Jesus. Tell him everything. He is waiting for you. Allow his love and grace to gush into your souls and fill you with right worship in spirit and truth.

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