This is the story of water from the rock when the newly freed Israelites complained about the lack of water in the desert and wondered if they had not been better off in slavery in Egypt. It is one of two accounts of the water from the rock. (The other account in Nu 20:11 is where he strikes it twice.) It is chosen today, probably to show the necessity of water for life and that God provides the true lifesaving water.
This reading tells us of the justification we have won through faith in Christ. Notice its emphasis that Christ brought us justification while we were still sinners. Faith in Jesus puts us at peace with God and gives us His love through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us, and all of this because of God’s love for us demonstrated in Jesus’ willingness to die for us.
“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jn 4:10
Initially, the woman, a Samaritan, resisted interacting with Jesus. Samaritans and Jews didn’t interact with each other because of long-standing mistrust and hatred. But Jesus didn’t let any of that get in the way of His desire to bring her to faith. Their relationship developed in a back-and-forth fashion wherein He led her and she followed. It invites us to reflect on how Jesus has pursued us and how He leads us to deeper faith.
He led her by inviting her to reflect on her journey. Many people think of her as a woman of loose morals because of how we translate Jesus’ remarks about her five husbands. If the Greek word for husband in this Gospel story were a translation of the Hebrew word for husband it could mean the five gods the Samaritan people worshipped. Also, the term was considered symbolic by Origen, in the second century, referring to the five Books of Moses since the Samaritans didn’t use the historical books or the prophetic books.
It is better not to focus on her being a woman of loose morals because, no matter the interpretation, this woman was thirsting for fulfillment. This story is about her search for fulfillment and where it led her. Where, or from what, have we looked for fulfillment? What has our journey been like?
The water theme, before this section of the story, is also about here being a seeker. She was thirsting for fulfillment and Jesus suggested to her that He is the fulfillment for which she had been searching; He is the living water that will give the fulness of life. She acknowledges her thirst and asks for that “living water”, that Jesus says He is.
After Jesus talks to her about her thirst and her history of trying to fulfill that thirst, she realizes that He is more than just a normal man. She believes that He is a prophet. Knowing that prophets are spokespersons for God, she asks questions about acting out her faith. He tells her that the time is coming when people will worship in spirit and in truth. Could He have been talking about the spiritual worship that is the Mass and the offering of ourselves that we make there? When we participate in the Mass, are we worshiping in truth or are we just being present?
He finally tells her plainly that He is the Messiah which must have made sense to her because she leaves her water jar behind and goes to tell the towns people; the symbol of her thirst is left behind as her thirst has been fulfilled. Do we share the Good News of Jesus as this woman did?
Many begin to believe because of what she tells them and come to Jesus to hear him directly. They too have a deep faith experience because of their interactions with Him. In their dialogue with Jesus, she and the towns people come to faith. How do we maintain a dialogue with Jesus, that we too may come to the fulness of faith?