Introduction: in John 4:1-42, Jesus meets a woman of Samaria. The verses 1-4, John not only introduces the story of Jesus’ relationship with the woman of Samaria but he gives the reason why he left Judea and decided to go to Galilee. Those verses indicate that, on the one hand, Jesus wanted to avoid conflict with the Pharisees, not for fear, but because it was not the right time to engage in conflict. On the other hand he knew that by going to Galilee there was a mission to be carried out there, the mission that the Father intrusted to him, to find the lost sheep. As you go through the reading of this text, please, do it with an open mind and heart allowing the word of God touch the innermost part of your being, even if you already know the text, be opened to God’s surprises for there is always something new.
Give me the grace to grow in my relationship
with your Son Jesus;
free me from any resistance
or obstacle that can impede
his acceptance in my life,
so that he may bring
purpose and meaning to my existence.
- Read the text John 4:1-42; read the text slowly and listen attentively with the ‘ear of your heart’. What word, sentence or phrase stands out for you?
- Reflect: read the text again and pay attention of what touches you; why is it meaningful for you. What thought or reflection comes to you.
- Respond: read the text again but this time respond spontaneously to the word of God. In other words, make a dialogue with God what comes from within you. What gift does this text lead you to ask for from the Lord?
- Stay with the Word: read the text a final time and rest in the word. Allow God to speak to you in deep silence. Don’t say anything just listen to God’s words. What is He saying?
- Take now the word, sentence or phase, into your daily life/activity; allow it to become part of you. Always listen to it, reflect on it, pray over it and rest on it as time allows during the day. Then allow the Word lead you action.
Reflection: The Gospel of John is considered for some scholars as the Gospel of relationships specially when Jesus speaks of his personal relationship with the Father (ch 17), with his disciples and with some individuals like Nicodemus (ch3) the blind man (ch9) and the Samaritan woman. The purpose of Jesus’ relationship is mainly, to reveal himself to others so that they can discover who he is in order to believe. Here we shall concentrate our attention in Jesus’ relationship with the Samaritan woman which goes from superficial to deep levels, from situations of life to spiritual levels. In Chapter 4, it’s is a long text which comprises 42 verses. I would suggest here to divide the chapter into two parts, the first “the encounter and dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman” (vrs 5-20) which we will deal with in this Lectio Divina; the second part “the conversion and mission of the Samaritan woman” (vrs 21-30; 39-42), this second part we will be dealt with in the next “Lectio Divina”.
Central Message: …’Give me a drink’…’What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ If you only knew what God is offering you and who it is that is saying too you “Give a drink”, you would have been the one to ask and he would have given you living water’. Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again. The water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life. Sir…give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water. Go and call your husband…I have no husband…You are right to say “I have no husband”…although you had five, the one now is not your husband…You spoke the truth there…’I see you are a prophet’.
a)…’Give a drink’…’What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ Jesus after hearing that the Pharisees were after him decided to go to Galilee via a Samaritan village, the text says ‘this meant that he has to cross Samaria’ (v 4). This phrase implies that he had a reason to go Samaria, to carry out a divine mission to look for the lost sheep of God’s house. He stopped at Jacob’s well about half mile from the village of Samaria where he met a woman with no name given by the author of the Gospel. It makes us think that it could have been done on purpose to make the reader identify with her and replacing her identity (woman) with one’s name instead. Jesus opens the conversation by expressing his basic human needs and revealing his vulnerability as a human being: he feels tired and needs to rest, he feels thirsty and hungry and needs to drink and eat. Jesus tries to use the pedagogy of the basic human needs as a means to dialogue and to gradually unfold the divine revelation: The true God, his Messiah and his mission. Jesus uses simple language and symbols to reveal God’s mysteries. But it seems that his attempt didn’t go so well for the type of answer he got from the woman ‘you a Jew ask a Samaritan for a drink? She shows here the historical hostility there is between Jews and Samaritans, which go centuries back. They couldn’t see or talk to each other let alone living together in the same village. So the conversation was going nowhere and Jesus had to change strategy. His dialogue will change from being superficial to a more spiritual; from physical or biological needs, to spiritual or moral needs.
b) …“ If you only knew what God is offering you and who it is that is saying to you “Give me a drink”…you would have been the one to ask and he would have given you living water’. What God offers here is himself through his Son Jesus, the greatest gift given to the world “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). God’s gift is not earn by our efforts, but it is given to us out of love freely and unconditionally so that he can live in us. It is a matter of taking it or to leave it. Jesus tries gently to stir in the heart of the woman the desire to search for the meaning of the offer and the curiosity to search and find who he really is. Though suspiciously still, she engages in the conversation with Jesus but with caution. Jesus then changes his approach and makes a shift from asking the woman for a drink of water to offering her a drink (v10); he finds still some resistance as she responds to him “how can you get this living water the well is deep and you do not have a bucket”. Figuratively it is true that no one can reach the deepest levels of our thoughts and feelings, our desires and wants, our present and past life, etc. But we know that for Jesus nothing is impossible he can reach the deepest levels of our beings as it is mention in earlier in this Gospel: “he could tell what a man had in him” (John 2:24), it is there where the springs of water are found. He just asks to accept the gift and allow him to come to one’s own life.
c) …‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again. The word thirst is central in this text and Jesus uses it symbolically to makes us understand its meaning. He asked for ‘a drink’ to quench his thirst, but he did not drink because his thirst was not biological but theological, his thirst was to carry out the will of the Father (Jn 4:34) throughout his life until death (cfr. Jn 19:28). The will of the Father in this story is the thirst for the salvation of that woman and her people and the only thing he needs is their cooperation so that the gift of knowing him and have eternal life could be possible. “Grace presupposes nature” (Thomas Aquines). Nothing in this world can’t quench our thirst, only God’s gift: life-living water.
d) …‘Sir…give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water…
Jesus already stirred in the woman the thirst of the water he offers, a life-living water given by God. He awakes in her the desire for that water and the desire to know who really Jesus is “are you greater than Jacob”. Her words written above may indicate the dryness and emptiness of her life and the tiredness of her long journeys of adulterous life. As a consequence her interior well is dry and it needs to dig deeply to find a spring of pure water. The only one who can reach there is Jesus; he is also the only one who can bring meaning and purpose to her life. At this point the woman seems open and ready to receive Jesus’ gift, she wants to make changes in some patterns of her behaviour which brought stagnation to her life.
d)…’Go and call your husband…I have no husband…You are right to say “I have no husband”…although you had five, the one now is not your husband…’ You spoke the truth there…’I see you are a prophet’. Jesus enters into a deeper level when he asks the woman for her husband. He reveals to her the truth about herself: ‘though you had five, the one now is not your husband’. The husbands are symbolic, it reflects the situation of the Samaritans who had five husbands, five idols, whom they worship (cfr. 2 Kings 17:30-31), a symbol of adultery and unfaithfulness to God the Bridegroom. The sixth was not truly her husband either, so being unaware she uses a metaphor to describe the religious situation of her people. Implicitly Jesus appears here as the seventh husband (Mk 2:19) who brings new life to the woman who has been searching for a long time and never found him until now. Once the people accept Jesus as the bridegroom they will have access to God anywhere.
Some questions for our reflexion:
- What struck you most in Jesus’s dialogue with the Samaritan woman?
- What areas of your life can you relate to the Samaritan woman?
- What is the Gift God offers you? Are you ready to receive? What are its implications?