Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, March 27, 2011

John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, 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 know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."


  1. I comment with just one observation that suggests rich possibilities. Robert Alter points out that wells are key sites of encounter in the Old Testament narrative. Particularly poignant is the ritual of finding a bride at the well. Isaac's bride Rebecca was met at a well. Jacob met Rachel at a well. In the motif, the man arrives alone to find the woman alone at the well. Either the man asks for a drink or the woman offers one. The ritual culminates in a marriage, a marriage that is pivotal in the salvation story. So, is Jesus intentionally acting out this familiar ritual when he asks the Samaritan woman for a drink? What message does this communicate – to his followers, to early readers of the Gospel, to me? What delightful speculation.

  2. So why in the world did I put the image of St. Paul’s conversion next to the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well? Because, when I read this story it got me thinking about what William James called the “Varieties of Religious Experience.”

    When I read this story I noticed an ordinary woman doing an ordinary chore until, seemingly out of nowhere, she met a stranger and her life was transformed. She went from being a marginalized person – a person of no power, no privilege, no voice – to becoming a spokesperson for God when she told the story of her encounter with Jesus and inspired the people of her city of Sychar to come and see and listen to Jesus. This is even more astonishing when we remember that Samaritans and Jews could not abide each other and were actually down right hostile toward each other.

    Which reminded me of the Roman Jew who persecuted the followers of Jesus, participated in the killing of Stephen. St. Paul, an ordinary Roman soldier, had much power and privilege and a voice people listened to “or else.” And then seemingly out of nowhere he encountered the Risen Christ – and initially he was speechless. When Paul’s speech returned it had been transformed and he became one of the most outspoken spokesperson for God in all of history.

    It occurs to me that when human reality and divine reality encounter – actually collide – in what we have come to call “religious experience” there is not telling what radical transformation may take place!

    Come to me Lord Jesus. Open my eyes and transform my heart. Make me like the Samaritan woman and St. Paul a convincing spokesperson for Your mission.