On a long journey home, Jesus passes through the region of Samaria inhabited by people considered to be the ethnic and religious rivals of the Jews. He stops at a well for some water and encounters a Samaritan woman. A story of faith ensues, as Jesus leads her on a journey to new life in the Spirit. The stages of her faith development mirror the spiritual growth each of us experiences when we are willing to listen to God’s Word and seek to encounter Christ in his Church.
Since drawing water normally was done with other villagers in the morning or evening, the presence of the Samaritan woman at the well, alone in the heat of the day, suggests that she had something to hide. Indeed, we later learn that her lifestyle was irregular. Most of us come to church with something to hide from God, others, or ourselves. But when we choose to connect within the community, open up and share our pain, we begin a journey to a better life.
Jesus first asks the woman for a drink, but he actually is thirsting for more than regular water. He wants to give her something far greater than the physical water for which she had come to the well. He longs to give her spiritual water that will satisfy her completely. As we learn to connect with other believers, we begin to experience healing in the living waters of Christ that move us away from a superficial desire, like consumers, merely to quench our thirst for a moment to a deeper commitment of faith as a disciple.
Over the course of their discussion, Jesus foretells a future when the whole world will come to worship the Father in a new way. True worship, he says, is “in Spirit and truth.” The Mass today is the greatest form of worship ever known. We pray to the Father through the truth of Christ in the Holy Spirit. And when we break out of our spiritual isolation and pray together, we cannot help but come to know the Lord more fully.
Soon the woman comes to see Jesus as more than a man, a prophet, or even the Messiah. He eventually reveals his divinity by using the divine name given to Moses in Exodus 3:14 (“I am”). Similarly, we come to church and participate in small groups to grow in faith and begin to see Jesus for who he really is.
At the end of the story, the woman leaves her water jar and goes into town to tell her neighbors about Jesus and “many more came to believe in him.” After connecting with others at church, praying together at Mass, finding healing in the community, and growing in faith, then we too are ready to love others by inviting them to encounter and know Jesus.
This week in our message series, Mass Communication, we are learning how important it is to listen to God’s Word each week. Just as Jesus led the woman on her spiritual journey, the Church helps us to connect, pray, heal, grow, and love. But only if we are really listening.
Father Roger Gustafson