The most startling aspect of this famous conversation is that it happened at all. The woman herself alludes to the break from tradition: “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” What a turmoil of feelings must have muddled her mind! Here she was a Samaritan. And not only a foreigner but a WOMAN at that! Was she embarrassed, ashamed, confused, amazed, or afraid when Jesus spoke to her? Not only did Jesus converse with the woman, he also asked to share her drinking vessel, an action that makes him unclean according to Jewish law. Has he thrown caution to the wind? Is he the only person who hasn’t heard she’s known to mix with the wrong crowd? What does he mean: bring your husband? Surely, he must have heard she’s been married five times and man she’s living with now is not her husband. The thing is it doesn’t matter to Jesus. Nor does it seem to have mattered to the Evangelist John or else he wouldn’t have included this story.
This woman is like so many other female figures in the Scripture. She’s only identified by her gender, her ethnicity, and her place in society. She’s an outcast. Why would she come to the well in the heat of the day? Only one thing could explain that. She has no friends among the women who come to the well in the cool of the day.
Don’t you just love Jesus? He’s out in the hot sun. He’s thirsty. He’s pondering how to get some water out of the well. Then along comes this woman with a jug. Maybe it sparked a memory of this mom going to the well, chatting with friends and, when her bucket is full, how she’d beckoned him to help her lug the water back home.
He strikes up a conversation with the woman. Slowly, slowly he stirs her interest. To her relief he was not fresh with her – she did not feel intimidated. He offers her living water as he gently starts talking about her personal life. The two of them have the longest 1:1 conversation recorded in Scripture.
It was COOL! The woman recognizes his specialness. She thinks: “This man must be a prophet.” The high point of the conversation is when Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah. She abandons her jug and runs through the streets telling her story to every person she meets. She knows she does not have all the answers. She does not demand that they believe her tale. She lets her hearers arrive at their own conclusions about Jesus. And they do: “This is indeed the Savior of the world.”
For centuries after this day, this woman’s encounter story will be told and retold. This one day Jesus shared time, a conversation, and the gift of himself with another. The woman went home that day from the village well with a tale to tell.
The story offers us, I suggest, a model for hospitality and friend cultivation. As Benedict says, guests may arrive at odd hours. Take time with the guests; engage them in conversation. Notice that the woman did not just sit on the edge of the well every day waiting to see who might happen by. She may have been friendless and lonely, but she did not sit with her skirts spread prettily around her hoping some thirsty visitor would drop by. She was doing an ordinary chore, her daily chore of getting water. She may have been wary but she did not run when the stranger approached. She shared her good fortune: “Come and see” who I bumped into at the well.
Each one of us spent the first 9 months of our existence in an environment surrounded by water. Likewise, we were baptized in water and we are nourished daily by the Living Waters. This woman’s story and her encounter with Jesus show us that grace, living water, is within our reach to refresh the parched earth and its peoples.
The setting the of this Scriptural story is casual (a village well); the exchange, intimate and deep. Our lesson: we can’t sit on the front doorstep or the backyard swing and wait for guests to show up. We have to step into “scary places”. We have to venture out to the “village square at high noon”. If we offer the richness from the source of our life together, like ripples on the surface of the water in the well, one by one strangers will become friends.
Jesus tells us: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will become a well-spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We pray: “Sir, give us of this water; that we may not be thirsty again.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
Have an enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day! Our bishop has granted a dispensation for “Fish Friday” with the stipulation that we choose another day this week to abstain from meat. Do you know why we “don’t eat meat on Fridays”?? You may quickly reply: Jesus died on a Friday. But, why refrain from meat???
Looking forward to next week when we will celebrate St. Joseph on Monday and St. Benedict on Tuesday 😊 and the Annunciation of the Lord on Saturday (the 24th)