Reflection for the Vigil of the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2014

22 March 2014

by Barbara Ann Mayer, OSB

I came across a reflection on the woman at the well adapted from Woman of the Word by Mary Lou Sleevi. It speaks of the boldness of Jesus and the forthrightness of the Samaritan woman. Sleevi writes:

“A woman with a jar came by to draw water. 
‘Give me a drink,’ he opened, that simply.  

He surprised her by speaking, 
and she was just as direct: 
‘How is it you ask me for something to drink?’ 

 Among his countrymen who bypassed the region, 
water in the jar of a Samaritan woman 
was considered impure.”

Jesus purposely chooses to pass through a place other Jews avoided and to speak to a woman others scorned. He seemed to enjoy breaking traditional practices, shocking Jewish elders by eating with sinners, curing on the Sabbath, not condemning the woman caught in adultery. 

The reflection continues:
“Jesus, the Outsider,
was the first among equals
to evangelize an outsider, a woman.
One without identity
was among the first persons he told who he was,
in one of his longest conversations
with anyone in the gospels.
The Man-without-a-bucket
offered her Living Water.”

Jesus reveals himself as the dispenser of eternal life which he speaks of in terms of water: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:14)

Jesus, since he flaunted the burdensome rules of the Pharisees, was considered an outsider. The woman, being a Samaritan, was also an outsider. But Jesus was not afraid to talk with her, tell her who he was, and offer her “living water.” They didn’t waste time on small talk—this was a serious exchange. At first she was wary since the offer of living water seemed too good to be true. She gradually came to understand his meaning since Jesus had already created in her the gift of faith. Jesus took the broken vessel of her life and poured living water into it, making her whole. 

Sleevi goes on:
“She became a first evangelist
through a capacity for belief she could not contain.
But then, did Jesus ever meet a woman 
whom he chided for unbelief?”

There were many women he encountered – the bent-over woman, the hemorrhaging woman, the Canaanite woman, Mary Magdalen, Mary and Martha, the widow of Naim, the women who stood with him under the cross. They were all believers. They were all women whose lives were changed through their encounter with Jesus. 

We also are women whose lives are changed through our encounter with Christ. Sometimes he asks us for a drink and sometimes he offers us life-giving water.  He lifts us from our weariness and reveals himself to us as the one we have been waiting for. We rise from our anonymity, like the nameless Samaritan woman, to become evangelizers, water-bearers, refreshing the weary, the alienated, the wounded. Jesus calls us to be generative. No matter who we are, we have water to offer – a life-giving word, a tender touch, a listening ear, an understanding heart. May the spring of water well up within us and never run dry.