Jesus loved surprises. His command to the Samaritan woman is certainly one of them. For one, we know who He is. As God, Jesus has the power to miraculously avoid any human entanglement at will; as a leader with a following, He can wait until more devoted servants return; and as a someone with a proven endurance, He has the capacity to do without water for some time. None of this is known to the Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at the well.
The Samaritan woman has her own reasons to be surprised. She notices that Jesus is a devout Jew, and Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. She is traveling to the well alone at midday, which biblical scholars have interpreted to suggest that this woman was ostracized even among Samaritans. And in her heart, she is painfully aware of her own defects, especially her current messy marital affairs. It is later revealed to the reader that she has not two, not three, but five husbands.
Jesus addresses the Samaritan woman because she is ostracized. His request for water pulls the woman into his orbit, a woman who is used to being excluded. It is the essence of the incarnation: God descending into flesh, adopting all of humanity’s frailities and troubles, to participate and commune with us.
The first reading concerns God, through Moses, giving water to the Israelites in their exile. Moses strikes a rock from which flows water to quench the thirst of the people wandering in the desert. The narrow-minded grumblings of the Israelites who ask “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” are proved wrong. Water is found, and God literally joins the Israelites in the person of Jesus.
Jesus gives living water. But as human, He also asks for earthly water. It is a further cruelty that he is given vinegar while thirsty on the cross.
Nearly twenty years ago, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns published these five principles on “Water and the Community of Life:” Water is its own reality, a dimension of planet Earth, ancient and life-giving. Water is the common heritage of all creation as it is an essential dimension of the journey of life. Water is an ‘endangered species,’ its purity, nurturing power, free-flow and availability for all, under attack. Water is both a sacred gift and a central symbol in all religious traditions. Water concerns are front and center across the globe as enlightened peoples awaken to this crisis.
Consider then the crime against God it is to pollute, withhold, or waste water.
In ten days’ time from this third Sunday in the Season of Lent, the United Nations Water Conference will commence in New York City. Maryknoll missioners will be there, to affirm the human right to water and protect the global supply from all “poisonings of the well.”
Questions for reflection
How does your care for water and natural resources resonate with the five Maryknoll principles?
God of the Ages,
Christ, the Alpha and the Omega of history,
Holy Spirit, You who fill and connect all things,
We know that in You a thousand years are a single day,
And a single day is a thousand years.
Your today does not give way to tomorrow,
Your now does not follow yesterday,
You Live in the eternal present, where all things are one, and forgiven,
And surrounded by mercy.
We who are caught in the flux of time,
Seek to be where You are.
We seek to be present to Your Eternal Presence – where all is one, forgiven, and surrounded by mercy.
– Richard Rohr, OFM
Commit to one week of buying only local, in-season produce. Locally produced food grown during natural seasons is fresher and requires less energy to produce and transport.
Ask Congress to meet the U.S. pledge to deliver $11.4 billion a year to international climate finance. These funds will help vulnerable countries who have least contributed to the climate crisis to reduce emissions, transition to clean energy, and better prepare for the climate disasters to come. https://mogc.info/GCF
This reflection was published in the 2023 Lenten Reflection Guide: Inspired by Laudato Si’ from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
Featured image: Haitian women are shown carrying tubs commonly used for water, laundry or food. Water is a theme addressed in the 2023 Lenten Reflection Guide published by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. (Bailey Torres, Unsplash)