“Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst again.”
Thirst – the need and nature of it- brought Jesus and the Samaritan woman into a life-changing dialogue at the well. The conversation was awkward, scandalous, and should not have happened in the first place, given the social and religious norms of the day. Jews avoided Samaritans. Samaritans avoided Jews. Distance and disgust for the other were part of the cultural formation of each.
Nevertheless, in spite of this, their differences drew them together; their encounter revealed a common ground: they were both thirsty and exhausted. Rejection will do that. Jesus was wearied from the rejection of his message. The Samaritan woman was worn out from the rejection by others for her way of life. They met in this geography of common experience: of narrow minds and hardened hearts.
Before drawing water, Jesus draws the truth from the Samaritan woman. It frees her. Instead of condemnation, she finds a depth of love and liberation that she had been thirsting for. She encounters and experiences the living water of unconditional love and its infinite source. It overflows within her to the point she cannot keep it to herself and must go tell the others. Everything. The outcast becomes the evangelist. She who avoided the townspeople now draws them to Jesus so they, too, will thirst no more.
In our political discourse today, rhetoric is being used to demean and dehumanize peoples and cultures. Today’s gospel gives us renewed resolve to follow Jesus who broke through the barriers of his day to encounter, to seek out, to engage with, to welcome, and to be in solidarity with others.
By encountering our humanity, we just might discover God’s divinity.
- What are the cultural or political barriers today that create distance and division between peoples?
- Where are you being called or invited to a deeper solidarity this Lent, in mind or heart? In attitude and action?
Sr. Katherine Feely is the director of John Carroll University’s Center for Service and Social Action.