Updated: May 23, 2022
Year A Sunday Readings can be found: [HERE]
The woman left her water jar… When listening to the narrative, that’s an easy detail to overlook, but it conveys the radical conversion of the woman at the well through her encounter with Jesus Christ.
That water jar symbolized the woman’s “enslavement,” we might call it, to the logic of the world. Day after day, by the woman’s own admission, she had to keep coming to the well to draw water.
You may have heard of some accounts that remark on her presence at the well at noon; signifying that perhaps the woman was somehow an outcast from society. Otherwise, she, like many others, would have drawn water at dawn or dusk, when the day was cool.
We don’t know how the woman came to this low point in her life. She seems like a faithful Samaritan woman in many ways: she knows the history of her people, and cherishes her ties to Jacob; she hopes in the Messiah, and she wants to hear Jesus’ teachings.
But we do receive a hint of her past when Jesus reveals certain details about her: “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband…”
Whatever her circumstances, here she is, sneaking to the well in the heat of the day, perhaps a dried up shell of her former dreams, hoping for a little water to make it through another day. It was a pattern from which she couldn’t escape; a cycle of shame; a daily reminder that she passed her days apart from the common crowd.
Enter Jesus Christ. Jesus breaks through the horizons of her isolation, enters into her solitude, to reach out to her. Without knowing it, she found herself face to face with the One who loves her, purely and perfectly. She found herself in dialogue with God; exchanging words with the Word of God himself and is led to hope in him:
“I know that Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything;” to which, the Lord answers: “I AM, the one speaking with you.”
It’s not as apparent at a glance, but those words, “I AM,” hearken back to God’s self-revelation at the time of Moses. God had said to Moses: “I Am Who Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
That same I AM now speaks with the woman of Samaria. That encounter with the living God changes her. She left her water jar… because it could only hold her back from the mission that was surging forth from within her.
At that moment, Jesus was fulfilling his promise to her: “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 living water… the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
At that moment, she was a spring of living water. She left her water jar to go to that community, from which she had formerly been ostracized, to proclaim to them the good news: “Come see a man who told me everything I have done! Could he possibly be the Christ?”
She brought the community to gather around Jesus, so that they too could be transformed into springs of living water: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
This beautiful dynamic is something we’ve seen before. It’s a leit motif, or recurring theme, in the gospels. Jesus enters into the isolation of someone who has been marginalized by society in some way. And that encounter leads to worship and conversion.
And then that person goes out to proclaim the good news, strengthening the community, as one re-integrated into the community. We’ve seen this with the blind man, the deaf and mute person, the lame, the leper; and today, the woman of Samaria. The scattered gather as a community around Christ and then go out again to be his messengers.
As it was then, that same dynamic continues today. We gather together each Sunday from our isolated lives. In this place, Jesus renews us with his Holy Spirit, and we worship the Father through him, with him, and in him. Transformed by this experience, we then go back out into the world to be heralds of his gospel.
Today, we are blessed to have among us those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil, and then share in the dynamic mission of the Church. Our Lord has led them from their isolated lives into the community of this gathering. And he continues to lead them towards full communion with his Catholic Church.
Shortly, to assist them in this conversion, I will pray a prayer of exorcism over them, to help prepare them to also become in Christ, springs of living water.