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The Woman at the Well

On the Gospel of John 4:5-42

3rd Sunday of Lent


This wonderful passage is one of many examples in the Gospels a person’s life being touched deeply by an encounter with Jesus, and who then become a public witness for him.

This scripture passage tells of a meeting where, in the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, ‘heart speaks unto heart’. The Samaritan woman has an experience of God’s immense love for her. She had been looking for a love that would satisfy her in her previous relationships and here she meets the one who loved her into existence and now looks on her in love. She who went in search of the water needed to preserve her life, had now found the source of her life, and of eternal life, the Messiah from whom the “river of the water of life” flows (Rev 22:1).

St John shows us in this passage that the Samaritan woman is a model of a disciple’s experience of faith: In a personal encounter with Jesus, this woman who had been guilty of adultery, has a profound conversion where she confronts her own sinfulness and need for forgiveness; she then comes to realize the depth of God’s love for her. Once reconciled with God, her life is transformed. She then shares with others her “faith story” of what she has seen and heard of Jesus.

The Samaritan woman is so affected by this meeting with Jesus that she leaves the item that had necessitated the journey in the first place – her water jar – behind her, and returns to her city where she becomes a witness to her neighbours about Jesus. She cannot keep the good news of this encounter to herself. Her neighbours are stirred by her words and transformation, and many believe in Jesus on account of her testimony. The immediate effect of her witness is that her neighbours leave the city and travel to meet Jesus. They invite him to stay with them and he stays for two days. They too have a personal encounter with him. St John later tells us that “many more believed because of his word.” (Jn 4:41) What words the Word of God must have spoken to them for them to be able to say at the end of his stay, “we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (Jn 4:42)!

Jesus made his request of the Samaritan woman in the silence of their one to one meeting. To be able to hear Jesus speaking to us, we need to set aside that special quiet time each day to talk with and listen to him. This is what it means to be in relationship with Jesus. The rewards for setting aside this time are no less than the joy the Samaritan woman experienced when she finally found the source of all her longing.

As St Augustine wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

One of the psalms speaks to this scene:

O God, you are my God, for you I long;

for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you

like a dry, weary land without water.” (Ps 63:1)

The Samaritan woman had found the one for whom her soul was thirsting, the One who was in turn thirsting for her faith. None of us are any different. We all thirst for God and as Jesus said on the Cross, He thirsts for us. The only difference is that some of us are aware of the source of our thirst and others are not. During this Lenten season, can you, through your witness of faith, be a good Samaritan to your neighbours by leading them to Christ, so that their thirst may be quenched by the source of “living water”?



So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

– John 4:5-42


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