The Conversation That Leads To Conversion

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (4:5-42) 

Christ is risen! Today we are given the tremendous privilege of hearing this profound conversation between Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well. This is the longest single discussion that is recorded between Our Lord Jesus and anyone in all of the gospels.

We are told that the Lord Jesus was wearied by His journey and decided to stop in the region of Samaria at Jacob’s well. We often think of the Lord like we think of a superhero character, someone who is aloof and unable to understand and sympathize with our own frailty and weaknesses and yet even here at the beginning of this passage, our thinking is corrected. St. John tells us that Christ was “wearied”. It means that He was tired, exhausted from the physical labor of traveling a long journey that day. We constantly refer to the Lord as having condescended to dwell with us as a man, but I wonder if that ever truly resonates with us. We have the supreme being, the creator of everything that has ever existed in the whole universe and He chooses to empty Himself of all of this and to dwell not only with humanity but in humanity. He takes on all of our human limitations. He becomes truly man! He feels hunger and thirst. He feels exhaustion. He knows what it is to be tempted, although He did not fall to temptation but instead showed His true righteousness and holiness, demonstrating what it is to be a man, fully alive.

We are inspired and overcome with awe at the love that God has shown for us by lowering Himself to take on our form. St. Ambrose of Milan writes “Many things we read and believe, in the light of the sacrament of the incarnation. Even in the very affections of our human nature we behold the divine majesty. Jesus is wearied with his journey, that he may refresh the weary. He desires to drink when about to give spiritual drink to the thirsty; he was hungry, when about to supply the food of salvation to the hungry.” On the Christian Faith 5.4.53.

The Lord is tired and as He sits by the well, He calls to a woman who has come to draw water and he says to her, “give me a drink.” Andhere we begin to see the true nature of the Lord’s thirst. We find that Our Lord thirsts for this woman’s soul, and for her whole beingto come alive. He thirsts for her to know Him and to seek to do His will. He thirsts for her to thirst for Him. Whoever you are, whatever your past, Jesus Christ also thirsts for you. How does He thirst for us? He thirsts to know us and have communion with us. He wants to sit with us, to dine with us, to be with us.The Lord says “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”Yet here we see that Christ takes the initiative as He always does in His dealings with mankind. The Samaritan woman was far from the Lord. She lived a life of confusion because of her own sins and unchecked desires. She hungered and thirsted for the love of men, and little did she know that all of her hunger and thirst was about to be fulfilled by thelove of the one who is Himself,love incarnate. He had come and asked for water, but He knew that in fact it was she who was truly thirsty. St. Cyril of Alexandria writes that “mere human nature is parched to its very roots, now rendered dry and barren of all virtues by the crimes of the devil.” We are like this woman, hungry and thirsty to our very depths. We are hungry for God, His presence, His grace, His blessings.

Our Lord says to the woman “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.” When we are thirsty for the things of this world, our thirst can never be quenched. This woman fell into the trap of believing that she could find the right manto take away her hunger and thirst but there was no mere man that could do it because in truth the problem was deep within her heart. No mere human can live up to our deepest needs and desires.Men are finite and created beings. When we expect the finite to give usthe infinite, when we expect the created to do the works of the uncreated, we fall into the ultimate idolatry. On his own, man isquite limited. But what is impossible with man is possible with God.

Our Lord promises the woman “living water” and what is this water? We are told that it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Lord gives this as a promise, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”How did this woman drink of the water? She listened to the words of the Lord intently. She allowed herself to be taught by Him. She humbled herself and acknowledged her own faults and sins.  She repented and changed her life. She accepted the Lord and was later baptized and He poured out the Spirit upon her.

Church tradition tells us that the Lord fulfilled His promise to her. She left behind her old life and her addictions. She left behind the things that enslaved her and kept her bound and chained in this life. Christ gave her freedom through His mercy and love. More than this, He took what was only the shell of a life and replaced it with actual and abundant life! She took what was given to her from the Lord and it fueled the rest of her life as an evangelist. After her baptism, she worked diligently to bring others to the Lord. The Church has even bestowed one of its greatest honors upon her by giving her the title “equal to the apostles.” Such is the glory that our Lord shares with those who truly love Him and pour out their lives in dedication to their Master. Whoever loses his life for My sake and for the gospel’s will save it!

What are we thirsty for? What are we hungry for? To what or whom are we each dedicating our precious lives? If the Lord encountered one of us at the well, what conversation would He have with us, and how would we respond in return? Would we be offended? Would we argue? Would we run away as so many did? Or would we follow Him for the rest of our lives? In fact we don’t have to imagine this encounter. We can live this encounter through our time of quiet prayer and spiritual reading with Christ on a daily basis. A conversation is happening between our prayers and our reading of Scripture, especially the gospels. Christ engages us, and we engage with Him. Through our daily conversation, comes our daily conversion. Sometimes this comes to us easily, but usually it requires us to struggle a bit. God knows this and will bless our struggles to search Him out with a pure heart.

May we courageously take up the struggle with renewed faith and dedication that we might also be filled, overflowing with the living water of God that leads to eternal life. Christ is risen! 

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