This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
Jesus said “The water I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
In our world we see divisions between and within communities: divisions in families caused by some argument which, left unresolved, is now a festering wound, poisoning individuals and the whole family; divisions between the political factions of one country preventing leaders working together for the common good; divisions between nations caused by political, racial or religious differences that have hardened into prejudice and the hatred that causes wars, terrorism and oppression.
Within our own communities people get left on the edges because of their lifestyle, the disadvantages they were born with or the disadvantages that their life experiences have brought them. We may not actively create the division but something in us prevents us reaching out to them as valued members of our community.
As Jesus meets the Samaritan woman we see him reaching out across the divisions of his world which are not so very different from the divisions of ours. Jesus shows us a way of love which draws people together, uniting them and restoring to fellowship the rejected and outcast.
There are several reasons why Jesus should ignore the Samaritan woman when she comes to draw water from the well where he is resting. Any other respectable Jewish Rabbi would have done so.
First of all, no Jewish Rabbi should even greet a Jewish woman in public and he certainly shouldn’t be getting involved in a long conversation with a Samaritan woman as Jesus does.
The division between Jews and Samaritans is deeply entrenched. John tells us, “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans”. In fact the differences between the two groups on theological and ecclesiastical matters had hardened over many years into overt hostility towards each other.
It also seems that this woman has a dubious reputation in her community otherwise she would have come to the well with the other women earlier when it was cooler. Perhaps her numerous husbands and present lifestyle have pushed her to the fringes of her society.
Her conversation with Jesus sends the woman back to her city in excitement to tell others about Jesus who she now believes may be the Messiah. Jesus has ignored the barrier between Jew and Samaritan and between men and women and has enabled this woman to reach out across the barrier between her and her community. Suddenly others want to hear what she’s saying and to discover for themselves who Jesus is. They too reach out across the religious divide and invite Jesus to stay with them. Their personal experience leads them also to believe that Jesus “is truly the Saviour of the world”.
Jesus tells the woman of God’s gift of living water, a gift that Jesus himself has received, the Holy Spirit, flowing through him, enabling him to reach out to others.
Jesus reaches out to the woman because the Holy Spirit takes no notice of religious or gender differences. With humility Jesus asks the woman for a drink and establishes a relationship with her in which he accepts her as she is; talks with her of the things they have in common (their ancestor, Jacob and the expected coming of God’s Messiah) and reveals to her that he himself is that Messiah.
This conversation and revelation fill the woman with a desire to reach out and share her news with others. The living water of the Holy Spirit takes no notice of reputations.
At our baptism we receive the Holy Spirit, the source of the living water that Jesus offers. What has happened to that gift within us? Perhaps we prevent the living water from flowing through us because we are afraid of other people, of rejection and of loss. Perhaps through prejudice and hate we have built a barrier to hold back the flow of the living water of truth and love.
If this is so we need to ask for healing and forgiveness so that the gift within us can be released and allowed to flow again. Reaching out to others as Jesus did requires courage, humility and the grace of God. We risk rejection, hurt, hatred and ridicule just as Jesus did. But it might also be that our reaching out is met by a shared willingness to receive, to reach out in response and to dismantle the barriers separating us from each other. Like Jesus, we could bring new hope for peace in our divided world.
If we knew the gift of God we would ask him and he would give us living water.
1. Jesus, like us, lived in a society which was divided along political, religious and social lines.
2. Jesus always reached out to establish relationships with people no matter who they were. He accepted them as equals, respected them and invited their trust.
3. If we allow the same Holy Spirit that was within Jesus to flow through us like living water, we too will be enabled to reach out to those around us, breaking down the barriers that divide our world.
4. Through this reaching out in peace to seek reconciliation through the Holy Spirit there will be new hope that all people will one day say “we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world”.
Let us pray in spirit and in truth to God, our loving Father in faith that he will hear our prayers and respond to the needs of those for whom we pray.
Holy Father, we pray that you will pour out the living water of your Spirit upon your Church in the world. Give us the humility and courage to seek unity where we are divided. Give us the grace to exclude no-one from fellowship because we disapprove of their way of life or the expression of their faith. Remind us always that it is only through your gracious love that we can find peace with you.
Holy Father we pray that you will pour out the living water of your Spirit upon the nations of the world. Help us to find new non-violent ways of seeking peace and reconciliation. Give grace, wisdom and insight to the powerful that they may surrender some of their power; to the rich that they may surrender some of their wealth; and to those who express hatred and prejudice through violence to learn that there are better ways to be.
Holy Father we pray that you will pour out the living water of your Spirit upon our communities and our families. Help us to allow that living water to flow through us enabling us to reach out to those around us. Help us not to be afraid to show kindness to strangers or to stand alongside those on the edges of our society. Give to us the Spirit that was in Jesus, drawing people to him and uniting them in their common experience of his compassion and love.
Holy Father we pray that you will pour out the living water of your Spirit upon all who are in need. We pray for those who face another day of pain, fear, loneliness, depression or anxiety. Let them find in you refreshment, hope and comfort for their spirit and the peace of mind that comes with the assurance of your presence alongside them.
Heavenly Father we offer these prayers to you and ask that you use them, and us, to further the work of your Kingdom here on earth and so that all people will know that you, our Lord, are indeed among us today.