THE SPRING OF LIVING WATER AT JACOBS WELL
HANDMAID LENTEN '17 REFLECTION SERIES
BY CHARLENE OGU
It’s going to be a long one gals! As we move deeper into Lent and we reflect upon the journey thus far, I cannot help but consider the aspects of my fast and prayer life that have not worked out as I had hoped. Those shortcomings, and harsh internal realities that humble us can be overwhelming. Sunday’s Gospel is a beautiful reminder of the heart of the God and his pursuit of us in our brokenness. So here’s is Sunday’s Gospel.
On the way he came to the Samaritan town called Sychar near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Give me something to drink.' His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew. How is it that you ask me, a Samaritan, for something to drink?' -- Jews, of course, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied to her: ‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me something to drink,' you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water. 'You have no bucket, sir,' she answered, 'and the well is deep: how do you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?' Jesus replied: Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again; but no one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life. 'Sir,' said the woman, 'give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty or come here again to draw water.' 'Go and call your husband,' said Jesus to her, 'and come back here.' The woman answered, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You are right to say, "I have no husband"; for although you have had five, the one you now have is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.' 'I see you are a prophet, sir,' said the woman. 'Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, though you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.' Jesus said: Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour is coming -- indeed is already here -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth. The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah -- that is, Christ -- is coming; and when he comes he will explain everything.' Jesus said, 'That is who I am, I who speak to you.' At this point his disciples returned and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, 'What do you want from her?' or, 'What are you talking to her about?' The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, 'Come and see a man who has told me everything I have done; could this be the Christ?' This brought people out of the town and they made their way towards him. Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, 'Rabbi, do have something to eat'; but he said, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' So the disciples said to one another, 'Has someone brought him food?' But Jesus said: My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work. Do you not have a saying: Four months and then the harvest? Well, I tell you, look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest! Already the reaper is being paid his wages, already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, so that sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the proverb holds true: one sows, another reaps; I sent you to reap a harvest you have not laboured for. Others have laboured for it; and you have come into the rewards of their labour. Many Samaritans of that town believed in him on the strength of the woman's words of testimony, 'He told me everything I have done.' So, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and many more came to believe on the strength of the words he spoke to them; and they said to the woman, 'Now we believe no longer because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he is indeed the Saviour of the world.' John 4:5-42
It amazes me how easily I forget what Jesus is offering... What is Jesus offering? Well let’s take a closer look at the Gospel. We have a Samaritan woman at the well, drawing water.
Pause ❚❚ Quick history lesson. Samaritans are an ethno-religious group of people that emerged from the Assyrian invasion of the Capital of Israel, Samaria. The Samaritans began to worship idols brought over by the Assyrians as well as the one true God. Eventually the Samaritans would revert back to worshipping God alone. The Samaritans practised all the Jewish traditions, however they sacrificed and worshipped outside of the temple in Jerusalem contrary to Jewish belief and custom. For this reason and from there intermarriages and worship of idols, the Jewish people frowned upon the Samaritans and avoided all contact with them.
Now that the context has been set, we can begin to understand the boldness of Jesus interacting with a Samaritan, a Samaritan woman, an outcast Samaritan woman! Why does he think it necessary to ask this particular woman for a drink of water?
'Give me something to drink.'
Jesus is tired by the journey. The journey is to the Samaritan woman. Jesus is thirsty. He is thirsty for her love, for union with her. And here St Teresa of Calcutta’s words seem so fitting.
I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. Excerpt from ‘I Thirst’ meditation by St Teresa of Calcutta
On the cross we see a thirsty Jesus full of flowing water that streamed from his pierced side. Thirsty for our love and eager to pour out the waters of baptism. Water that cleanses, renews and brings life. When she questions him, he says
‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me something to drink,' you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’
Many of us respond like the Samaritan woman to revelations that satisfy our deepest longing, to revelations that come close to an ache we didn’t know was there. We ask all these questions that require answering or confronting before we can open up to new possibilities. ‘But how?’ we want to have a look at God’s blueprint before we give it the go ahead not realising our wounds have left us cautious.
We all know what it feels like to keep going to the well of affirmation, control, passion etc. to fulfil a yearning we all have. In Jesus’ simultaneous thirst and possession of living water we see his humanity and divinity. He gets it! He knows what it feels like to be thirsty, to be tempted to consider the temporal gratifications but he also knows what it is to be in union with God the Father.
This Samaritan woman seems learned, and in her fieriness she challenges Jesus. She comes to the well by herself and by now is resilient amidst the chattering and judgment of others. Her five previous husbands and the current man she is with highlights the depths of her well, her great capacity to love and her great need for love. And as we journey through this Lent and many more to come we begin to realise more and more that our greatest offerings are so very closely associated with our greatest wounds.
Maybe for you, your need for approval is correlated to how much God the Father wants to affirm you as his daughter. Your need for control is matched by how much God wants to humble you and in your poverty fill you with his strength. Your need for passion is matched by how much God wants to reveal how much his heart burns with love for you.
So why her? Why the outcast woman at the well? Perhaps her capacity for love had to be met with the gaze of her Saviour. She was looking for someone that could handle the love she was ready to pour out and found no match, until Jesus.
Jesus was offering Love, the colour of life. ‘A spring’ that overflows. He wanted her to be united with the Spirit, with love itself which keeps on giving.
In his intimate life, God "is love," the essential love shared by the three divine Persons: personal love is the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Therefore he " searches even the depths of God ", as uncreated Love-Gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love. He is Person-Love.
Excerpted from John Paul II's encyclical letter "Lord and Giver of Life," DOMINUM ET VIVIFICANTEM , 18 May 1986.
And in the same way he desires this woman in all her brokenness, is the same way he desires you. He desires your adoration which is made pure through holiness, a holiness that comes from purification.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth Psalm 96:9
The Spirit is truth and through the Holy Spirit we find the foundation of everything good, it holds in place all things and moves to glorify Christ in which all things were made. This is what Jesus is offering!
‘Come and see a man that told me everything I ever did. I wonder if he is the Christ?’
She finds no shame with Christ, there is only freedom and liberation. She puts down her water jar and leaves behind her confines and limit, surrendering to one that cannot be contained. She lingers the possibility of Jesus being who he says he is and delights in it, calling others to consider this to.
As we continue on in lent, let us remember 1) what God is offering. The Holy Spirit. Eternal life! (Sit with that for a moment if you need to.) 2) That he will provide you with living water in the desert.
And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11
3)God is setting out to find you, pursuing you, thirsty for a unique love only you are able to provide. 4) He wants to be united with you. Much like the woman and her five husbands we often unite ourselves with idols that can never meet our needs, much like the Samaritans who worshipped the Assyrian gods in fear. But what God is looking for is unity, to be one with us. 5) God is thirsty for your adoration and calling you to worship, to see him and prioritise who he is and what he has done for you in thanksgiving. 6) Read his words that are alive in the scripture. Maybe pick a line in the Gospel and pray with it throughout the week. Listen to him and know for yourself that he is the Saviour of the world. 7) Always remember with great light comes a great shadow, so persevere and keep on going.
This week let us pray that we may drink living water and be nourished by participating in the will of God. Find freedom in his goodness and desire for us. Share him with someone, anyone this week, even if it is one person! Let us ask for the intercessions of (God willing) the now Saint, this Samaritan woman and our Mother Mary who enquired but trusted, and said Yes to the most profound union with God.