Monday, May 30, 2016


In today's Gospel, Jesus enters the city of Sychar in Samaria and sits on Jacob's well.  Weary and thirsty from His journey, when he encounters a woman approaching to draw water, he says to her, "Give me to drink."  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this Samaritan Woman is literal and earthly minded.   When she expresses her surprise that Jesus, being a Jew, should make such a request of a woman of Samaria, our Lord responds, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that sayest to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." 

Now she is skeptical, idly noting that Jesus has nothing with which to draw up the water.  Then--when He declares that "whoever drinkest of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst," her interest is piqued--and she thinks in very practical terms of how convenient it  would be if she should never again have to trudge her way to the well in order to draw water.  Surely she hears Jesus' words, but she has no comprehension of their depth. 

It is only when He reveals to the woman her marital history (concerning which, by the way, He does not condemn her), does she perceive at last that this is no ordinary man, but some sort of prophet--though even then she does not request those living waters of which He has spoken, but rather changes the subject--attempting to engage our Lord in a theological discussion.  She does not, though, seem to be quite convinced by Jesus' response, replying in effect: "Oh well, never mind: when Messiah comes, he will explain it all."

What then?....   When Jesus declares plainly that He is that long awaited Messiah, suddenly the scales fall away from her eyes and she runs off (not merely saunters away) to bear witness to Christ before her fellow villagers.  She--a mere Samaritan woman and a sinner to boot (for she is living with a man out of wedlock)--is enlightened, perceiving the truth that the Jewish leaders stubbornly denied unto the very end.  Thus she is, according to Orthodox tradition, St. Photini (her name means "light").

But there had to be more at work here than the mere fact that Jesus had told her all things that she ever did (which was, of course, an exaggeration).  Though she was initially confused and skeptical, her humble heart was open and receptive to our Lord's salvific revelation.  Deep down, she had known all along that the happiness and fulfillment she had sought through marriage and material comforts was shallow and ephemeral, and that (as St. Augustine once wrote) "our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee."  And so it happened that by the grace of God, Jesus' words struck a chord in her soul, lifting her beyond the threshold toward a truly spiritual life (that is, a life permeated by the "living waters" of the Holy Spirit of God).  May we all likewise respond to our Lord's words with an open and contrite heart, freely forsaking all things earthly in exchange for God's gift of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.

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