March 12, 2023
Ex 17:3-7; 95:1-2, 6-9; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42
“Give me a drink”, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman. Not really a request, but more like the demand from one who is parched and in dire need of a drink. The big takeaway from today’s gospel is that God is thirsting for us.
Consider how the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to today’s Gospel episode in the section on Prayer.
2560 “If you knew the gift of God!”7 The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.8
2561 “You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”9 Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!”10 (Jer. 2:13) Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.11 (Cf. Jn 7:37-39; 19:28; Isa 12:3; 51:1; Zech 12:10; 13:1}
This is one of the most endearing stories in the whole Bible and clearly illustrates the nature of our God. This is the first person to whom Jesus admits very directly that He is the one who has been expected, the Messiah. This is the longest conversation that Jesus has with anyone in the gospels. This despite all the social taboos that are involved in this episode: A Jewish man would not be talking to a Samaritan, let alone a woman in public. This woman is a public sinner which was probably why she was fetching water in the middle of the day rather than with the other women earlier in the cool of the morning. A Jewish man would not drink from the vessel of a Samaritan. Jesus shirks these social and religious conventions because despite how well intentioned they may have been in their inception, they do not translate into the real heart of our God.
Instead He demonstrates perfectly the spiritual works of mercy: He admonishes the sinner, He counsels the doubtful, He teaches the ignorant, comforts the sorrowful, forgives a sinner. He is very, very patient.
When hearing the truth about herself from a stranger in just the right tone and in a nonjudgmental way, she concedes her sins and rather immediately feels the refreshment that comes with the living water; that is, the Holy Spirit.
The Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer today states, “For when He asked the Samaritan woman for water to drink, He had already created the gift of faith within her and so ardently did He thirst for her faith, that He kindled in her the fire of divine love.
This certainly tracts well with the general nature of God’s relationship with us throughout the Bible: In the Old Testament God is pursuing His bride, Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus is pursuing His bride the Church. Jesus is the perfect bridegroom as is implied by our story today. The Samaritan woman has had five husbands, living with a sixth to whom she is not married, but Jesus would be the SEVENTH groom as it were, the perfect groom as is indicated by the biblical numerology, seven.
In this sense the Samaritan woman represent the emerging Church, the majority of which would be made up of outsiders.
This woman is rather impressive in her own account even as she comes to the well in the first place. It appears that she hasn’t given up on love, despite all that she has been through in her disappointing relationships. We are reminded in the second reading today from Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Likewise with us, the Church. Jesus continues to pursue us, initiate all prayers that we say, and continues to pour out the living water, that is grace, into our hearts each day. That’s the reason we even showed up today for Mass when most people do not. Something here is feeding us and refreshing us.
Perhaps the pertinent point is the change that has occurred in us. Please consider these reflection questions for the week:
When have you been ‘cornered’ by the love of God and then felt refreshed?
How have you shared your experience of God thirsting for you? Especially with those closest to you? How did they react or respond?