The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (4:5-42)
Today, on the fifth Sunday of Pascha, we hear the familiar and powerful story of the Samaritan woman. This is one of the Lord’s longest one on one interactions in all of the gospel texts. In dealing with this Samaritan woman patiently, the Lord is giving us a foretaste of the way that He would unite the Jews and the gentiles through His work and would reconcile the gentiles back to a living relationship with the living God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ comes to sit near Jacob’s well and we are told that He was tired from His journey. As He saw the Samaritan woman at the well He did something completely unexpected. He broke the social conventions and the ritual laws of purity by speaking to her. He asks her for a cup of water. What a simple act! Yet, in demonstrating some need, He was actually opening her up and reeling her in for the conversation and the encounter that would change her life.
Since Our Lord is our model for life we might do well to learn from this example. Sometimes we have to appear vulnerable and needy in order for others to get closer to us and through this we may be able to help them come to a living knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. It is a sign of humility and in humbling Himself to ask for her help, the Lord actually draws her in. He doesn’t really need her help, He can certainly handle the bucket and the well without her assistance, and yet, He chooses to humble Himself in order to give her an opportunity to be truly blessed.
The woman at the well, whom we later know to be St. Photeini, did not understand what the Lord was doing but only looked at the social conventions and the laws of the day. She replied to Him “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” And Jesus answered her with these lovely words “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 Samaritan woman is still clearly confused. She is thinking about physical, material water, yet the Lord is offering Her something that is divine, and spiritual in nature. So after she questions the Lord again, He replies “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst forever; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
What is this water of which the Lord Jesus is speaking? What is this water that will allow us to never thirst again, and will become in each of us a spring that leads to eternal life? It is the Holy Spirit.
St.Cyril of Alexandria writes “Jesus calls the quickening gift of the Spirit “living water” because mere human nature is parched to its very roots, now rendered dry and barren of all virtue by the crimes of the devil. But now human nature runs back to its pristine beauty, and drinking in that which is life-giving, it is made beautiful with a variety of good things and, budding into a virtuous life, it sends out healthy shoots of love toward God.”
It becomes clear to us that the Lord has come specifically to heal this woman and give her life. He can see and has known her thirst for God. In fact he saw in her failed marriages and divorces, a woman who ultimately was searching desperately for love. Often our sins can be traced directly to an inner sense that we feel unloved. When a man falls into drug addiction or alcohol abuse it is often because he is trying to self-soothe, he doesn’t sense love and so he turns to something that numbs that pain or that emptiness. When a young woman doesn’t feel attention or love, especially from her father, she looks left and right and tries to find a man who will give her attention. She is so thirsty for such a deep love that sadly, she will almost throw herself at anyone to try to quench that thirst, no matter how destructive the situation, no matter how toxic the individual she meets. Men likewise struggle through such issues when dealing with pornography…and the list goes on.
Yet, we see good news in all of this…We are loved. We were created for more than empty addictions. We were created for more than endless hunger and endless thirst. Christ has created us and given us tremendous, deephunger so that nothing created could ever fill this void. So that we would desireto be filled with the infinite love of God, our maker. St. John Chrysostom says that the Lord calls the Holy Spirit“water” “in order to highlight the cleansing it does and the great refreshment it provides those minds that receive it. For it makes the willing soul like a kind of garden, thick with all kinds of fruitful and productive trees, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan. It quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
He offered her something precious. Something which she did not deserve. The Fathers understand that the Samaritan woman is a symbol of the Church. She symbolizes each of us. Christ comes to her, and He comes to each of us and offers us what He offered to her many years ago. His promise remains. We know that she was thirsty for the Spirit of God, we can see this from her actions after this encounter, from the life she lived. What about you? Does your life demonstrate thirst for the Holy Spirit? Does it demonstrate hunger in doing the will of God? Let me tell you a secret: God will not force Himself on us. He gives us according to our desires, but the deeper you go, the more He will share of Himself and His Holy Spirit.
In about 3 weeks we will celebrate the Great Feast of Pentecost, and I don’t want you to think of the feast as an event of the past…NO. It is an event in the present. The Holy Spirit desires to fill you by His grace and recharge you and give you power to walk and to live according to the image and likeness of the Lord. Whatis needed from us, is to direct our thirst to the right place. If we keep chasing empty, abandoned wells, we should not be surprised that we are left in worse shape than before we found them. Let us, the faithful, run to the well of our salvation, to the Lord Jesus who alone can bring us into fulfillment and love in the Holy Trinity. Cast aside the other bitter waters that have stolen away yourjoy, and attention and turn to the One who gives sweet and living water. To Christ be the glory, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, AMEN. Christ is Risen!