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The Woman at the Well - Gospel Reflection (3/12/2023 - Third Sunday of Lent Cycle A)

Background and Summary

Jesus was known in His day for dealing with outcasts in a way that was uncommon: with dignity and understanding. In today's Gospel of John, we hear about Jesus coming across a Samaritan woman who was filling her bucket in the middle of the day as he stopped on his travels on his way from Judea to Galilee. In His conversation with her, he tells her that he knows that the man she is currently with is not her husband, and that she had been married five times. There are three major reasons why Jesus' willingness to speak to her was unprecedented.

Firstly she was a Samaritan. As it says in verse 9 "For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans" (RSV). There was a rift between the Jews who worshiped in Jerusalem and the Samaritans who worshipped on Mount Gerizim. There was discrimination between the two groups and as the NABRE translation says, "For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans." Yet here was Jesus asking her for a drink, which she was taken aback by and questioned how He could even ask her for one.

Secondly, she was a woman. Jesus was considered a Rabbi in those days, and they did not speak to women in public. His own disciples "were amazed that he was talking with a woman." (v. 27).

Third, she was quite possibly an outcast in her own community. Consider the time that she went to the well was in the very middle of the day when the sun was highest. It would have been too hot to carry a bucket full of water down the mountain and into the village at that hour. The ideal time would have been early in the morning when it was cooler. Yet the time she went was when it was hot and no one else would have been around. As a woman who was married five times and currently with a man who was not her husband, she was very likely to have gained notoriety and was looked down upon amongst her people. Jesus was aware of this fact and He still stayed and conversed with her. Not only that, but revealed who He was to her when He said to her, "the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."


Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep (4:11)

Historically and factually this is true. Jacob's Well in those days was over 100 feet deep, and you needed to have the right equipment to be able to draw water from it. But let's go beyond the literal and look within ourselves. How many of us do not allow God deep within our hearts, either because we feel unworthy of Him, or because we doubt Him? Jesus was gentle and patient enough with her that she was willing to stay and talk to him rather than walk away with shame. How many times has Jesus patiently stayed and spoke to us, whether in prayer or through others? He knows the deepest secrets of our hearts like He did the Samaritan woman when she told him she did not have a husband and he responded, "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." Jesus not only knows the depths of our desires and our needs, but the depths of our pain and afflictions. He knows the secrets that we keep, and he knows why.

What we need to allow ourselves to see and feel is that Jesus has already reached the depths of ourselves without needing anything to draw from within us. But we struggle to see Him because we question Him, just like in the first reading when the Israelites questioned and tested God (Exodus 17:2).

Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw (4:15)

One of the hardest things to admit is when the things we do cannot fulfill us. How many times has this woman drawn from the well? There is indication of promiscuity on her part, unable to fulfill her loneliness. Why? The fulfillment we seek goes beyond what the world itself can offer. Only God can fill us to the brim. But we must be willing to "drink of the water I shall give him and he will never thirst." (v. 14). By allowing herself to stay with Jesus and to open her heart to Him, He was willing to reveal to her the truth of who He was. "Sir, I perceive you are a prophet."

Jesus emphasized honesty more than once. The first was when she admitted she had no husband, and Jesus said to her that she was speaking the truth. The second was when he told the woman "The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father... God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (v. 23-24). God's fulfillment is not in the physical world, but in our own spirit. How many times do we go to Church but our minds and hearts are distracted? We are physically and mechanically worshipping God, visible to the physical world. Yet our spirit is not there. We need to see the truth within ourselves, honest with ourselves about our faults and shortcomings that God already knows and sees. Only then can we truly "worship in spirit and truth."

"Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"... Many Samaritans from the city believed in him because of the woman's testimony. (4:29, 39)

Knowing now what we know of this woman, imagine the surprise of the town when they hear that this Jewish Rabbi spoke to this notorious woman even though He knew of her troubles? We all have our struggles. But our testimony of overcoming our past, our weaknesses, our sins, can be powerful enough to bring others closer to God and to see God. Jesus revealed Himself to this woman and she in-turn brought others to Him. As Jesus said "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick...for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13). Jesus calls every single one of us to the well of the Living Water.


Lord, help me to look beyond my shame and see you in the depth of my heart; that I may not continue in my attempt to quench my thirst with the temporary things of this world, but find the everlasting and ever-living water of Your love and mercy. May I see the truth of my afflictions and empty myself of them, that I may be filled with Your grace.

- Amen

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