9. DIALOGUE BESIDE THE WELL. From thirst to water

Created: Monday, 24 June 2013 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 June 2013

From thirst to water

1. Conversion to the Gospel means a radical change: a step from thirst to the water of life. Catechumenal and liturgical tradition of the Church has seen in the passage of  the Samaritan woman (Jn 4,1-45) a test that serves to review faith experience, which bursts forth here in a concrete situation: a woman, in dialogue with Jesus, recovers the sense of his life, suffers a radical turn, she goes from the thirst  to the water of life.
2. The Pharisees learnt that Jesus was making more disciples than John. As a measure of precaution he leaves Judea and returns to Galilee. To do that he has to pass through Samaria, the neighbouring, separated, hostile region, colonized five times (2 K 17,24). According the prophet Hosea, Samaria is the Lord’s wife, prostitute and adulteress (Os 1,2;3,1), with an old religious past that combines with pagan customs. As in our country, with an old religious tradition, but in the end a missionary country.
3. Jesus arrives at a town of Samaria called Sychar. About one thousand meters away was Jacob’s well (Jn 4,6), one of the Palestine’s deepest. Archaeological excavations confirm that it was in use until the year 500 A.D. Jacob’s well refers to the origins, to the time when the division between Jews and Samaritans had not yet occurred, when the Lord’s wife had not yet gone after her lovers (Os 2,7) . The Gospel of Jesus also refers us to the origins, to the times in which large Christian divisions had not yet taken place, in which the Church was still faithful to the Lord
4.  The disciples had gone to town to buy some food. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was around the sixth hour, about noon. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. The woman (her name is not mentioned) is a sign of her land. Jesus tells her: “Give me a drink”. The situation by the well recalls the encounter of Abraham’s servant with Rebecca, when he was looking for a wife for Isaac (Gn 24,17); it also reminds us  of the encounter of Jacob with Rachel (Gn 29,1-4). Jesus asks her a drink, something unusual between Jews and Samaritans. He places himself above prejudices, divisions, discriminations. He addresses the person: “I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart (Os 2, 16).
5. Before the perplexity of the woman, Jesus continues with the initiative of the dialogue. He asked the woman a question about knowledge of God, that is to say,  the experience of faith, in a land where they said: “there is no fidelity, no mercy, no knowledge of God…but false swearing and lying, murder and stealing, adultery and violence (Os 4, 1-2). Jesus announces the experience of God as a gift. As a present. He is inside and outside, up and down, to the right and the left (Ps 139). Besides, Jesus also asks the question of her own identity: “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you the water of life.
6. The woman takes literally the words of Jesus and thinks about just water: “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this water of life? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his folks?” Jesus talks about another water, which is renewed endlessly by a profound current of  water, bursts forth from the heart of the earth and leaps toward heaven: “Everyone who drinks from this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never be thirsty; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.
7. Jesus talks about another water and another thirst. He will cry it out on the Feast of The Tabernacle, the most solemn one, where they pray for rain and they celebrate commemorative rites of the miracle of the water which springs from the rock in the middle of the desert (Ex 17,1-7): “Whoever is thirsty, come to me and drink whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures say: Rivers of the water of life will flow from within him” (Jn 7,38). Jesus offers another water that could satisfy the most profound thirst of the human heart, the thirst of God. They said in psalm 63: “O God, my God, I look for you, for you my soul thirsts”.
8. The woman starts to understand and starts to change: “Sir, give me that water”. He said to her: “Go call your husband and come back”. The woman answered and said to him: “I do not have a husband” . Jesus answered her: “You are right in saying, I do not have a husband. For you have had five husbands, and the one who have now is not your husband. What you have said is the truth”. The woman is a living symbol of her land, submitted, deported, colonized five times, and in an identity crisis. In the encounter with Jesus she accepts the word of God about marriage which brings her to her husband.
9. The realizes that she is before a prophet (Jn 4,19) and she leads the conversation towards a religious subject: “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people said that the place of worship is Jerusalem”. The Samaritans had built  a temple on Mount Garizim. Nevertheless, the Jerusalem temple as well as that of   Samaria offer forms of worship that belongs to the past. Jesus says: “Believe me, woman, that the hour is coming when you will worship the Father, neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not know, we worship what we know, because salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour is coming, (we already are in it), when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth”. The hour had come in which the place is not important. So, neither Samaria nor Jerusalem. Neither Rome nor London, nor Moscow.
10.. The woman is waiting the coming of the Messiah, the Christ: “When he comes, he will tell us everything. She considers the Messiah as the one who will tell the whole truth about religious matters. Jesus says to her: “I am, the one who is speaking with you”. This word continues being present, it is valid for today. Jesus inaugurates a time in which we also can listen his word: he continues speaking.
 11. At that moment the disciples returned, and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one tells him what do you want or what are you speaking with her. The woman left her water jar and runs to the town and she says to the people, “come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (to see Gn 24,28-32). The disciples are in other step, very elemental: “Rabbi, eat”. But Jesus says: “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work”.
12. It is necessary to raise the eyes. “Look up and see these fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering  crops for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper can rejoice together… I have sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are taking advantage of the fruits of their work”. The harvest is time of collection, it is also symbol of judgement, a judgement that is already taking place in the middle of history. The Samaritans invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And they said to the woman: “We no longer believe because of your words; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know by ourselves that this is truly the Saviour of the world”.
* For personal or community meditation: How do I stand before Jesus?
-  like the Samaritan, in dialogue with Jesus, beside the well
-  recognizing that the Lord knows my history
-  embracing the word of God about marriage
-  recovering the sense of life
-  taking a radical turn
-  going from the thirst to the water of life
-  announcing the good news of the gospel
-  as the disciple who sowed
-  as a disciple sent to mow
-  as a Samaritan who shares the good news
-  confessing that Jesus is the Saviour of the world