Weekly Gospel Reflection—23 March 2014
He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”
Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.”
The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.”
“You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered. “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. But the time is coming — and is here! — when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”
The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
Jesus said to her, “I Am — the one who speaks with you.”
Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus.
In the meantime the disciples spoke to Jesus, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”
The disciples asked each other, “Has someone brought him food?”
Jesus said to them, “I am fed by doing the will of the one who sent me and by completing his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then it’s time for harvest’? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest. Those who harvest are receiving their pay and gathering fruit for eternal life so that those who sow and those who harvest can celebrate together. This is a true saying, that one sows and another harvests. I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work hard for; others worked hard, and you will share in their hard work.”
Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. Many more believed because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of the world.”
There’s something to be said about tradition! According to Orthodox Christianity, the “unnamed” woman at the well in this story was baptised by the Apostles with the name “Photine.” Because of Photine, her sisters and sons started following The Way of Jesus. And, like most of the apostles, they, too, died during the Neronian persecutions.
The difference between Photine and the disciples is astounding. As she points out, Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. So, when the disciples show up, they were “shocked” that he was talking with her. Luke makes it a point that they were shocked because she was a woman. I don’t think that quite right. Jesus had talked to women before. Heck, some of his own followers were women. I think the real issue was that he was talking to a Samaritan woman.
Now, there’s been some speculation as to her lifestyle and I find them all rubbish! There’s nothing in the text to suggest that she’s an outcast or a prostitute or whatever. If that were the case, when she went back to the village, no one would have listened to her. No, she just happened to be “in the right place at the right time,” as the saying goes.
This is one of the few times where we have a lengthy conversation recorded. Most of the time it’s just a couple of lines of dialogue and it’s usually with men. But this one is special. Their conversation takes up most of the chapter. And the difference between Jesus’ conversation with Photine and the disciples is pretty significant, too.
Photine is pretty intuitive. She’s smart. Insightful.
The disciples, on the other hand, are pretty dull. And sexist. And racist.
By our standards anyway. But, such was the cultural norm. That’s how we would expect them to act as Jewish men in the first century. We might not like it, but that’s the way things were.
And that’s what makes this story so remarkable. Jesus isn’t acting like a first century Jewish man! He’s acting like someone who really believed that G‑d’s Realm was coming into our world through his own life somehow. He didn’t really care what social or religious rules he broke to show what true humanity looked like. He even addressed that in his conversation with Photine. When she brought up the “right” place to worship, Jesus replied, “It no longer matters where people worship G‑d. Now’s the time for people to worship G‑d with honesty and mindfulness.” And that, my friends, is something that we really need to focus on in our day. Why are we still fighting over which path is “right”? Or who’s in and who’s out? It’s like we’ve become the disciples in the story. We’re so caught up with our own understandings of the way things are “supposed to be,” that we miss what G‑d is doing right in front of us. My prayer is that we become more like Photine.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC