The Woman at the Well
Water is something we take for granted here. We turn the little handle and the water flows. In many parts of the world, water is a precious resource that is not easy to come by. Water is life.
When I was in Malawi, I saw women carrying buckets of water on their heads. Each day they walk to the local well, fill up their buckets, and carry it home for their families. The wells are centers of activity in the communities. I would guess that many stories are told around the wells, some are rumors, others are gossip, and occasionally, something important, and maybe even true.
I imagine it was the same in first century Israel. The Samaritans are frequent subjects for the stories of our Lord. Perhaps you know that the Samaritans were not well liked in Judea. The reasons for this stem back to around 930 BC, when the kingdom was divided in two, the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Some of the residents were deported to Assyria, while some Assyrians were sent to Israel. The land of Samaria took its name from the capital city.
Let’s say that there was some animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Samaritans built their own temple, which was anathema to the Jews, so they were seen as heretics and not worth associating with.
By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were hated by the Jews, so as he liked to do, Jesus told parables which cast the Samaritans in a positive light, the about the Good Samaritan, for example. I’m sure the Pharisees hated this, too!
The scene of this story is at Jacob’s Well, at Sychar in Samaria. This is about halfway between Jerusalem and Nazareth. Today, the well is within the compound of an Orthodox monastery.
Jesus was traveling North to Galilee when he came to this well, and he was weary from his journey. The disciples went into the city to get food. A woman came to draw water at the well and encountered the Lord, whom she did not know. Jesus tells her if she only knew who he was, “he would have given you living water.”
This woman was in the presence of God and she did not know him. She was having a chat with the creator of the universe, and she did not know him. Was he so hard to recognize?
If Jesus were sitting among us today, would we recognize him? If we are focused on temporal things, just as this woman was, would we miss the spiritual things before us?
We heard a story this morning about how Moses had to put up with this bunch of ungrateful people who constantly complained. They wanted water, too, so Moses turned to the LORD for help. The LORD told him to strike the rock at Horeb and water would gush out, so this he did.
St. Paul would write the Corinthians nearly 1500 years later about this rock: “They all ate the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” 1 Cor 10:4
That rock was a prefiguring of the Holy Eucharist.
Now Christ is at Jacob’s well offering Living Water. Would we recognize Jesus offering us living water just when we need it?
Do you want to see Jesus now? You can, you know. Because of the Holy Eucharist, the blessed Body and Blood of Christ which we receive here, we become the Eucharist we celebrate. So just look to the left and to the right, and you will see Jesus in his tabernacle that is each one of us.
Because we receive the Body and Blood of Christ from this altar, Jesus dwells within us, and is infusing himself into every fiber of our being.
Jesus is not just a figure from history that we read about. He is the living water coming to us in the Eucharist, filling us and satisfying us. He is not just living within you, but within everyone who comes to the table to receive him. Look past the brokenness, past the sin, into the very soul of each other and see Jesus.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.