In today’s gospel, Jesus promises to give us living water. For one Samaritan woman this gift changed her life.
On that memorable day, dawn broke holding no expectations, promising only another yesterday. Rejected by the village, she busied herself, enduring the morning heat until, at last, overcome by a deep thirst, she had no choice but to wend her way down the dusty road to Jacob’s well.
It was a safe time when she could avoid the cold sneers of her neighbors. She would fill her jug to the brim and drink deeply of the fresh water as she had done yesterday and all the yesterdays of the past. She knew that tomorrow she would make the trek again.
The noon sun was blazing but through the haze she spied a stranger, a newcomer, a man resting by their ancient well. He was a Jew. For just a moment, she hesitated, but there was no turning back. Her thirst was too great. Quickly, she must fill her jug to its brim and then hurry home.
Startled, she heard him speak, a Jew, addressing her, a Samaritan, a woman. He wanted a favor. “Give me a drink,” he said. She was puzzled. Did he know she was a Samaritan? Did he understand he needed a bucket, for the cistern was deep?
Who was he? He wasn’t making much sense, but he wanted to converse with her. He seemed to like her. He was offering her a gift. He was saying something about living water, something better than the water from Jacob’s well.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” he said. But whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst; the water I give will become in him a spring of water swelling up to eternal life.” (John 5:14)
What kind of words were these? “A spring of water!” “Eternal life!” “Sir, give me this water,” she implored.
In the heat of the afternoon, she was feeling her burdens melt away. She was bursting with hope! She was alive, again! Unable to contain her joy, she abandoned her jug. Her thirst was quenched forever. She hurried into town, compelled to tell the good news. Had Jesus really chosen her, the scandal of her village, to be his disciple.
“Come,” Jesus says to us. “Come to the well.”
On occasion many of us have awakened anticipating a day of stress, feeling burdened by life’s pressures. It might be concern about a loved one or worry about health that gnaws at our heart. Troubled over deadlines or mounting bills may be causing us anxiety.
In the dawn of that new day we see only darkness, but that darkness is probably telling us, “Pick up your jug and head out to Jacob’s well.” Maybe it’s an invitation to walk by the seashore or listen to soft music or visit the parish church to rest in the quiet of God’s presence. There Jesus is waiting, longing to hear our story, possibly to challenge us, to highlight our goodness and strengthen us with the gift of living water. Let us not be surprised if we find new energy, and awaken to a brighter day, trusting that God never abandons us but holds us in the palm of his hand.
The story of the Samaritan woman lives on in each of us.
–Sr. Margaret Donegan, SC
Sister Margaret, a lifelong educator now retired, volunteers at the Archives of the Sisters of Charity.