3rd Sunday of Lent
Water has such powerful connections with human beings; it forms part of our world and ourselves. Too much or too little is incredibly destructive for life. Some of us, as in the UK, live on an island, surrounded by sea. On land, rivers streams, books and becks irrigate and nourish the earth. I have very strong memories of childhood summers spent with our French relations in the Jura, France, a landscape of river springs welling up from deep inside limestone caverns, similar to the river sources in the Yorkshire dales of my upbringing. The sight of a 'source' of a river appearing is powerful, the unending power of the bubbling water, literally welling up from the rock and pouring out itself on the long route to the sea. It is a living thing and free.
Wells on the other hand go deep, they are powerful too but in a completely different way, we dig down to find, and then collect the water that seeps through the ground. It means hard work and it can dry up!
In the Gospel of the Samaritan woman John uses that image of well and 'source' to make a point about Jesus. As always Jesus has crossed the safety of known boundaries, he is in foreign territory, he talks to somebody from a group traditionally enemies with the Jews. At the well, often a huge conflict point in arid and desert lands, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink.
What follows is at first a misunderstood exchange about water and life, but also a new and growing relationship. A dialogue during which Jesus reveals his own identity as Saviour the true source of God! The woman doesn't immediately open up but she thirsts for this endless spiritual food and drink, the very nourishment of faith. Her life is far from blameless but Jesus points that he knows of her true situation.
Jesus does not condemn, he offers her salvation: "The woman said to him,
"I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything."
Jesus said to her,
"I am he, the one speaking with you."(Jn 4: 25-26)
What he offers her is eternal life given through the Spirit, for the Spirit is the water given by God that reveals Christ as the truth and enables us to worship God appropriately.
What she does is change her life and give witness to Jesus. And so the Word becomes our flesh, nourished by Baptismal water and the Chrism of the Spirit, constantly fed by the Bread and Wine of life in the Eucharist our never-ending source. Like the woman we are called to be witnesses of Christ, so that others may believe.
Prayer from the Orthodox Kontakion and Oikos for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
Having come to the well in faith, the Samaritan woman beheld Thee, the Water of Wisdom; whereof having drunk abundantly, she, the renowned one, inherited the Kingdom on high forever.
Let us hear of the august mysteries, as John teaches us what cometh to pass in Samaria: how the Lord speaketh unto a woman, asking water of her, even He that gathered the waters into the places where they are gathered, and Who is of one throne with the Father and the Spirit; for He, the renowned One, came, seeking out His image forever.
--Kontakion and Oikos of the Feast
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for the Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Oxford