Corpus Christi Blog

A Bridegroom and a woman meet at a well

03-19-2017HomiliesFr. Chad King

Welcome to the greatest love story ever told, this drama (and I use that word on purpose) between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is so full, and rich, and deep, let me jump right into it.  I am sure you have heard this story many times in the past like I have, however, there is a book by Dr. Brant Pitre, a Catholic theologian who has a PhD in Jewish Studies, the same theologian who I’ve learned the Jewish roots of Christ’s death and resurrection that I am currently presenting to the parish over 3 more Monday evenings.  Anyways, he wrote a book called “Jesus the Bridegroom- the Greatest Love Story Ever Told” that devotes a whole chapter to this story about the Samaritan Woman at the Well.  Let me give you some of the profound insights so that we can have a much deeper understanding and appreciation about just what Jesus says and does.  And I cannot make all the connections from the chapter in this 1 homily, so I encourage you to buy and read it for yourself. 

Our Gospel tells us that Jesus travels into the region of Samaria to a town named Sychar.  This is interesting in itself, as every other Jew would actually go around and avoid Samaria, instead of intentionally going into it.  As the Gospel points out, Jews and Samaritans have nothing in common with each other.  That is because Samaria was considered the place of betrayers and sinners. You see, in the year 722 BC the Assyrian army conquered the Israelites living in this region making some of them scatter and let pagan Gentiles move in.  Therefore Samaria became a region whose inhabitants worshiped not only the God of Israel, but also continued to worship their numerous other gods as well, so they had aspects of the faith but not all of it.  With that in mind, there must be a reason why Jesus intended to go into Samaria at this time of the day. Notice also that Jesus goes into Samaria first, with his disciples following some distance behind.  Jesus goes by himself and waits at Jacob’s well.          Jacob’s well is a famous well we hear about in the book of Genesis.  Although I can’t go into to detail about why Jesus goes to this well as the book does, just being at a well is necessary to understand what Jesus wants to do. Throughout the Old Testament, important and life-changing encounters happened at wells.  At the time of Jesus, if you were an eligible young Jewish man looking for an eligible young Jewish woman, you would not go to a bar or a club. Instead, you would go where the ladies were to be found: the local well.  Many times in the Scriptures, a bridegroom first encounters his future bride at a well.  For example, a well is where Moses meets Zipporah, Isaac meets Rebekah, and Jacob, who’s well Jesus is sitting at, also met his future bride Rachel.   Now obviously, Jesus is no ordinary bridegroom after all, He is a celibate Jew with no intention in an earthly marriage; But He is the Divine Bridegroom Messiah.  And as we will see, she is no ordinary woman. 

This woman is going to the well by herself and at 12 noon, in the middle of the hot day, begins to reveal the degree in which this woman is an outsider of her Samaritan community. And therefore, it is an important gesture when Jesus goes to the well first.  The fact that Jesus went to the well midday and begins the conversation with this woman is another example of Jesus seeking out the sinners.   But more than who this woman is, there is more significance to who this woman represents.  2nd Kings tells us that there are 5 male gods whom the Samaritans worshiped.  Interestingly, Baal, the name given to these male gods, is the Canaanite word for ‘husbands’.   And the fact that John tells us this woman of Samaria has had 5 husbands, and the one she is with now is not her husband, has been seen as a connection with the 5 false male gods of Samaria.  Therefore, many New Testament scholars see that this woman with 5 ex-husbands represents every Samaritan.  And in fact this woman represents not only every Samaritan, but you and I as well. Because even though we believe in and worship the one true God, we, like Samaria, also have false gods who we tend to worship from time to time.  And like this woman, Jesus is inviting us into a covenantal marriage relationship with Him.  Jesus wants to be in an intimate loving relationship with us, a relationship as exclusive as marriage, so that our hearts are given to Him and Him alone, and through Him we love what and who He places in our lives.  God wants a deep relationship where we give him our hearts just as He gives his heart to us.  Do you have that kind of relationship with God?

So now as we look at the conversation with the woman, let us reflect on what God wants for us. Like a good possible bridegroom, he takes the lead, he starts the conversation and waits for a response. How are you responding to Jesus’ invitation to an intimate relationship?  (PAUSE)  He asks her for a drink of water, and although she is taken back by this Jewish man talking to her, a Samaritan woman, she is intrigued by Jesus offering the gift of God, which is ‘living water’.  Notice that at this point Jesus doesn’t want her to give him anything, but instead, he wants to give to her living water, he just wants her to respond that she wants what he’s offering.  My brothers and sisters, God has so many good gifts that he wants to give us, but he won’t force us to receive them.  Our God is a giver of all good things, but do we strongly desire what He wants to give?  This woman, though, simply understands the water he’s offering to be a physical and practical thing- just something so that she will not have to come back to the well anymore.  Are you keeping your relationship with Jesus on a practical, temperal, and superficial level, afraid to let Him enter deep within your heart?  (PAUSE)  But Jesus wants more than the superficial, Jesus wants something deeper.  Jesus clarifies that he wants to give water that is not stagnant, but living water that will quench our every thirst, living water that will become in us “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.  In the Old Testament, before a woman could present herself for marriage on the wedding day, she first had to be cleansed, she had to bathe in waters. And interestingly, that water was described as living water because they prepared her to become someone new.  For us, we can easily understand that this living water is the waters of baptism, and indeed all the grace of God, which well up inside us to eternal life.  In particular, how exciting of a time it is for 2 adults in our parish preparing to be baptized.  (Gabe and David, I hope and pray you know the kind of relationship with Jesus you are entering into).  But for all of us, how living are the waters of our baptism in us?  How well are we allowing the grace within our hearts to be stirred, how often and how well do we pray and let the grace within us to become a spring stirring us closer and closer to eternal life? 

And notice that when the woman acknowledges that she wants this living water, and whenever we respond within our hearts that we want the fullness of grace that he offers, that we want that deep and intimate spiritual marriage that he wants to have with us, then he brings awareness to that which keeps us from him, our sin.  He shows to this woman, and to us, that our unrepentant sin is an impediment to the relationship and marriage He wants with us.  And just as he did with this woman, although he makes her recognize her sins, He at the same time reveals who He is- He is the Messiah, the Savior who has come to take away the sins of the world.   Notice also that through this encounter this woman believed Jesus was the Messiah, and when she accepted God’s desire, his thirst for her, she let go of her shame and sin.  She became a new person by letting go of her shame, then she went back to those who isolated her and revealed to them that she had just encountered the Messiah, she encountered the One who still wanted her hand, even in her shame and sin.  And they came for themselves and believed. How will we respond to Jesus who reveals himself to us in this Mass, will we remain in our shame and sin, or acknowledge that He is the Messiah and let go of everything that keeps us back from falling deeper and deeper in love with Him.  And then set free and filled with His love, will we go and reveal him to others and invite them to come to the marriage of God and man- which is this and every Eucharist?