A great deal of gossip has been spread about this Samaritan woman and her supposed ‘shady past.’ Before we make any hasty judgements about what this woman has been up to, let us do exactly what Jesus does in the story; let us encounter this woman gently and listen to her.
In today’s Gospel we meet her at a well. Wells are important places in the bible. They are places of revelation, rich in spiritual and emotional meaning where biblical life-changing stories begin. Wells are where thirst is quenched; thirst for authentic love and connection.
Travelling back in time to Jacob’s well, let us listen to this nameless woman’s story. Perhaps she will tell us how a series of husbands had cast her off (which was common in those days) or treated her disrespectfully. Maybe one of them died and left her destitute. She might share a few sad words of what it’s like to be a marginalised woman and how the people of the town fall silent and exchange glances around her.
In the peak of a hot day Jesus asks her for a drink. Jesus is thirsty. He encounters her with respect, revealing her life’s struggles and taking her spiritual inquiries to heart. She is thirsty for love, acceptance and for God. This meeting becomes an authentic encounter of rich conversation which culminates in a revelation from both sides.
Jesus is thirsty to reveal himself to the people who most need to hear the Good News. He is thirsty to share his identity as Messiah and the living water for all humanity. When the Samaritan woman hears what Jesus is offering, she is immediately ready for the living water that he promises.
This is a story about a woman with a hurtful past, experiencing grace, where her deepest thirst for love is quenched in Jesus. And Jesus, who thirsts to reveal who he is to God’s people, but who is having a rough time with the Pharisees and Jews, finds another disciple in the Samaritan woman. She has eyes to see and ears to hear. She is a woman able to recognise God in him. Her exclusion is replaced with exuberant love, ready to tell anyone that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus chooses this outcast woman as an evangelist to the Samaritans and to all people!
Jesus goes to where the outsiders are. Who in your life is in need of inclusion and belonging? Could you encounter another as Jesus encountered this woman, revealing the Good News of God’s love and mercy? Imagine the impact a new believer could have on the Kingdom of God as they proclaim Jesus to others!