She was a woman of no distinction, of little importance, a woman of no reputation save that which was bad. Everyone gossiped about her. When people passed by, they cast that glance which is more painful than if they had cast stones. All she wanted was to be seen. To be known. To be loved. But her reputation, her sins, her lifestyle forced her to go out to draw water at noon. The hottest part of the day. The time of shame – when no one would be out.
Then suddenly, as Scripture tells us, an encounter happened that would change her life. A chance encounter? By no means! The Scripture immediately preceding our Gospel tells us that Jesus,
Had to pass through Samaria. (John 4:4)
Not because that was the route. The Jews and the Samaritans went out of their way to NOT encounter each other. But this day, He had a divine appointment. The Holy Spirit had compelled Him to go through Samaria.
Where does this divine encounter take place, this meeting that had been planned from the beginning of time and eternity? At a well. Well…at this point, we MIGHT think we know what is going on in the Gospel because Scripture says, “Jesus was weary” and obviously thirsty because He would soon say, “Give me a drink” (4:7). Clearly, He was traveling through desert terrain so, of course, He should look and ask for a drink!
Maybe we find the scene familiar because we so often talk around the water cooler at work. Perhaps, because it has become common place to converse over a cup of coffee. But this well, this is no ordinary well. It is Jacob’s well. It is the marriage well.
See, it was at this well that Jacob’s marriage arrangements were made. In fact, the brides of Isaac and Moses were found and arranged at a well. And suddenly Scripture says, the Bridegroom is there looking for His bride. Jesus was looking for love. Some might say with Waylon Jennings, He was,
looking for love in all the wrong places, Looking for love in too many faces
…but even with all our imperfections and lack of graces, He was still “lookin’ for love.”
Despite her past, her hurts, her trampled pride – this Samaritan woman desperately wanted to experience love. To be loved is to be known and to be known is to be loved. If not, what is the point of doing the other in the first place? To be known is to accept me just for who I am with all my loves, hurts, joys and trials. And what did she discover?
He knows me, my thought inside, and all the hairs on top of my head, every hurt stored up and every dread. He knows me…He sees me for who and what I am. But most of all, He sees me and hasn’t run away. He hasn’t condemned me. He instead, speaks with me.
Jesus’ question about her husband wasn’t to embarrass her or to expose her to further ridicule. It was to heal the wounds of her heart. The wound, the sickness, the cancer… the sin MUST be revealed in order for the divine physician to heal it.
By not only the Jews’ standard but even of her own people’s laws, she was a harlot. Not one husband… but five. To make it worse, the word for husband and God in Aramaic is a homonym. The Samaritan had not one God but five….just like her husbands.
We are no better than this Samaritan woman. Whatever we freely choose that impedes us from daily prayer, coming to weekly Mass, regularly participating in all the sacraments, being faithful to our spouses, living out our vocation and/or serving those in need; those objects, people are our husbands. They are our Gods. Our Lord zealously loves us so much He says,
I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other. I am God and there is none like me! (Isaiah 45:5)
Yet, hope remains. Jesus, by asking for a simple cup of water, transforms what little we have, and invites us to drink of His Living Water. This time, not the water of Baptism, which birthed us into life, but we are invited to drink deeply from the water that flows from the side of Christ.
The water of forgiveness found in Confession; the living water that St. Paul tells us is:
the love of God that has been poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5)
through Confirmation (Acts 7:51) and realized by a life of prayer (Ephesians 3:16). We need to drink that Life-giving water that satisfies through reception of the Eucharist which we call the Communion of love.
Jesus invited the Samaritan woman, He invites us today, to a new love and faith in Him, the Messiah, the Lover to His Beloved, the Only Wise God. May every day of this Lent be for you, a divine encounter. We can count on the fact that He will meet us at the well of our heart and invite us to be loved and to be known.
To Him be the glory forever and forever. Amen!