Woman at well hears summons
Like her, we each face our own challenges in responding to the call
By Mary Stubler
I thought I knew the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent (Jn 4:5-42) because "we hear the same readings every third year." But when I looked up the citation in my Bible, the title of this story surprised me. It said, "Jesus and the Woman of Samaria."
It seemed a bit bland compared to the other titles and my reaction was, to be honest, less than enthusiastic. But once I started to read to refresh my memory, I found myself identifying with this Woman of Samaria.
I found her practical and candid. "Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep." Also, she was conscious of the customs and norms of her time in history. "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me a woman of Samaria." Jews did not share things in common with Samaritans ... especially a woman.
Yet pushing aside artificial boundaries, Jesus was conversing with her. He caught her attention by speaking about water. Living Water? Everyone knows water is essential for life. What was he saying about anyone who drinks from Jacob's well would thirst again? But this Living Water, once given, became a "Spring of Water gushing up to Eternal Life" and those who received it would never by thirsty?
I can imagine this practical woman thinking, "I'm not sure what he's talking about but I am surely intrigued by it. I want this Living Water."
See how Jesus caught her attention, her imagination, and her interest?
I think Jacob's well and its water symbolized faith in God. Jesus was saying water from Jacob's well is limited (you will thirst again), but faith in God, mediated by Jesus, became alive (Living Water) -- a faith that would grow.
Another point that puzzled me was why the Samaritan woman came to the well at noon, the hottest part of the day. Women regularly gathered at the well. It was a source of life literally and figuratively for the community. It became clearer, as Jesus commented on her five husbands and the man she now lived with, that she was on the margins of the society of women of Sychar.
Yet, typical of Jesus, he chose her to be his messenger to the community. He often invited tax collectors, sinners, and even women to tell the Good News. Jesus didn't have much use for judgmentalism or self-righteousness.
The Samaritan woman was perceptive, recognized him as a prophet and speculated he was the Messiah. She was an ideal messenger. Yet, she knew her status in Sychar and didn't presume to announce him to the community based on her own understanding. Instead, she spoke from her reality: "He knew every thing I have done."
When her neighbors came to Jesus, they believed because they heard his words for themselves.
Today, we have a greater challenge. We grow in Faith by hearing the Word of God through Scripture that at times puzzles us. We see the face of God in the lives and actions of people around us, often as angels, but sometimes puzzling. We learn about God from those responsible for teaching us (parents, priests, teachers, religious). Again puzzled?
Each of these methods has its own challenges. Where's the clear message? In my journey of faith, it's often not clear and that's part of the greater challenge.
I think the other part is because Jesus is not physically with us today. I can't bump into him at the gas station. His message can be less apparent. Each of us must look for it within ourselves and in those around us. We need to work at our relationship with God.
Like the Samaritan woman, I can say "I know the Messiah, the Christ, is coming ... his second coming." Unlike her, I believe, I worship, because I see God in the people around me and in all of his creation. His Spirit lives today in them. They are his messengers to me today just like the Samaritan woman at the well.
(Stubler is marriage preparation coordinator for the Green Bay Diocese.)