The woman said to (Jesus), “I know that messiah is coming, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
There is something in us that naturally draws us to water. Beyond the physical need to have water when we thirst is a pull, an attraction, a deep desire to be near and enjoy water. Maybe that’s why we treasure living in Boston. Here we have the pleasure of the inner harbor and the banks of the Charles. This need to be near water has always been in us and is universal. Of course, we need to be near water to survive, but there is something more basic and elemental about being near bodies of water. One of Massachusetts’ native sons and our thirty-fifth president, John F. Kennedy, knew well of the attraction of the sea. He and his family frequented their home in Hyannis on Cape Cod. He expressed love and desire to be near the sea in his address at a dinner for the America’s Cup crew in 1962: I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came. President Kennedy’s pull of the sea he attributes partly to biology but in his description we also easily sense a romance, a mystical quality to the sea and our being drawn to it.
There is a well of water in Sychar, Samaria, in the Gospel passage for today and it is to that well that we are drawn and hear the well-known exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The attractions of the water here can be attributed to both material and spiritual phenomena. One could make the case that there is the physical thirst Jesus must have as He is on His hurried trip through Samaria. It could be that thirst that has brought him to the well. This is similar to last week’s Gospel passage in which Nicodemus is questioning how one can be born again. Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Beyond and above this literalism, there is also the spiritual desire of the woman at the well for the water of life, who is Jesus. That attraction to the living water that is Jesus is the more powerful. It’s more authoritative because it feeds the woman with the truth.
The pull of the supernatural and divine grace of Jesus is present and active in the Samaritan woman and it is that grace that converts her and moves her to bring others to see Jesus as the Savior. We learn from this that in matters of religion, persons will be drawn by the supernatural. There has to be a sense of mystery in our worship lives just as there was a deep sense of mystery in the woman at the well concerning Jesus. She declared to the people in the city, Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ? She knew this man must be of divine origin because he was telling her things about her past even though this is their first meeting. She would not have been amazed and awed by Jesus without that evidence of His divinity.
We know it’s true here at the Advent. We come here because there is a sense of mystery and awe and wonder in our worship. That mystery lets us know that there is someone out there, for us it’s God Almighty, whom we need to have shed His supernatural grace on us. We would not come here if the worship was just a reflection of what we see and experience all week long. We need to be drawn by the open space that makes us move our eyes upward to heaven. The beauty of the art and architecture, the color, the music, the other-worldliness of the worship moves our hearts and minds to someone other than ourselves. As transcendent as God is shown to be in our worship, still He seems to know us intimately and we ask Him to come and love us personally. Especially in these times of uncertainty visited on every one of us by the Coronavirus. Don’t we naturally look to the God who sees all, knows all, and will have the power to bring us through the crisis. At the same time, we want and need to know that He knows each of us and holds us in His heart. In the end, we count on His mysterious and wondrous love to pull us through.
It must have been the same for the woman at the well. Two actions of Jesus let the women know that Jesus is no ordinary man: He promises her water that will lead to everlasting life. Every one who drinks this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Then he told her things about her life that could only be possible if someone could know her heart and soul. In response to Jesus’ bidding the woman to get her husband she responded, I have no husband. Jesus, having never met her, said, You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly. The woman is not ashamed or offended by this. She is amazed and awe-struck and even overcome with joy. She responds, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Jesus tells her the truth about herself. She knows that Jesus sees her as she really is. When she knows that He is the purveyor of the truth, she has a sense of joy and wonder and even freedom. Jesus converts the woman and the conversion is so strong that she must run and tell others.
The woman at the well becomes a convert. She knows that the Messiah, in her words, …will show us all things. Jesus had just shown her everything about herself and then declared, I who speak to you am he. Like most excited converts she runs to share this new found truth and belief with those in the city and begins her work as an evangelist. Many come out from the city to see Jesus when she bids them, Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. This shows the universality, the catholicity, the all-encompassing love and grace of Jesus Christ. Everyone has a soul and Jesus sees down to the heart of it.
So what do we do? Where does that leave us? It leaves us in the middle of Lent, working on our own souls. Maybe asking ourselves the question, “When Jesus looks at me and sees down to my heart and soul, what will He find?” He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Will He find me as I truly am supposed to be? If He finds things there that are not the way He wants me to be, can I have His grace help me make them right? Part of the serious and important work of Lent is taking on Lenten disciplines. In setting aside the habits that are not helpful, and denying ourselves the things that are not necessary, we make opportunities to turn more to God. The simple acts of our Lenten disciplines peel away layers of things that are not needful so we can concentrate on the things that matter to the soul. Praying at more frequent intervals. Not taking in foods that are not essential so we have more control of our bodies. Opening the Scriptures for longer periods so the revelation of God in Christ comes to us. All these acts and more have the effect, with the correct attitude, of allowing Christ’s forgiving and healing grace to come into our souls and work His will.
What was good for the Samaritan woman is also good for us. She was offered to drink from a spring of water welling up to eternal life. When she, by faith, believed that Jesus is who He said He is, new life-giving water was given to her. In Jesus she found that the endless supply from that well lasts until it brings her to eternal life. More of the Good News is that everyone can have that water. Everyone is drawn to the water of life much like we’re drawn to the sea. It doesn’t matter who we are, the water from the well of life is necessary and open to all. At the well a Samaritan woman was converted just like the Jewish disciples of Jesus were converted. Later the same conversion is open to the Gentiles. We find that the wellspring of life is for everyone and that’s why the believing Samaritans from the city declare Jesus the Savior of the world.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.