The Samaritan woman in this Sunday’s gospel narrative exemplifies the search that everyone has embarked upon. She desires the peace and the happiness that the things of this world cannot provide.
First, the fact that the Samaritan woman is unhappy is evident from the gospel passage. She has been living a sinful life. Because of her sinful life, she does not draw water from the well located in her village. Instead, she journeys to another well that is located more than a half of a mile away. We can conclude from this fact that she was a social outcast.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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” (John 4: 16-18).
Secondly, her profound unhappiness causes her to search for meaning and peace. The first encounter that the Samaritan woman has with the Lord deeply affects her. She is surprised that he even speaks with her. The Jews and the Samaritans did not speak to each other. Moreover, the rabbis of that time would not speak to women. Therefore, these two facts alone surprise her and begin an encounter that changes her life forever.
Jesus brilliantly uses the circumstances of the well, the water and her quest as parts of a pedagogy that brings her along an intense personal encounter. Initially she relates to Jesus strictly on a human level. After addressing him a number of times by calling him “sir,” her mind and heart begin to open and she realizes that he is a prophet. At this point, she moves on to even a deeper level. Her soul opens up to the reality that Jesus is the Messiah. “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4: 26).
It is interesting to observe how the Samaritan woman becomes a true apostle once she encounters the Lord Jesus for who he truly is. Here, like in other parts of the gospels, we see that the true disciple of the Lord will always be a passionate apostle.
“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4: 39-42).
Every day we are faced with choices and challenges that affect our relationship with the Lord. It is not easy to be faithful. However, God’s grace makes discipleship not only possible; it also makes it an amazing adventure.
We must not be surprised that Christianity essentially implies a daily, personal struggle. Commitment and battle go hand in hand. We have to take very seriously the fact that our human nature is wounded by original sin. Discouragement is never an option for true disciples of Christ. Every day presents a new opportunity to begin again. God’s loving mercy is always available to us through the sacrament of Confession. It is precisely God’s loving willingness to forgive our sins that fills us with the hope of eternal life.
Fr. Maroun El Kazzi