25 March 2011

'Give me a drink.' Third Sunday of Lent Year A

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, Bernardo Strozzi (born 1581, died 1644)

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 


During the week Elizabeth Taylor, one of the world's best known women, died. I might have seen one or two of her movies, but that's all. Like the Samaritan woman in today's gospel she had had many husbands, in her case eight, one of them twice. The world seemed to be more interested in that aspect of her life than in any other.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman he wasn't interested in the colourful details of her life, those that her neighbours probably gossiped about. He was interested in herself, in her eternal salvation, in what she most longed for. He was prepared to break two religious and cultural taboos. As a Jew he wasn't supposed to talk to a Samaritan. As a man he wasn't supposed to talk alone to a woman in such a public place, least of all a woman with a 'past'. Jesus was prepared to do that. He was more concerned with the woman's future than with her past.

Bernardo Strozzi's painting above shows how alive the interest of Jesus in the eternal salvation of the person he was with. The woman isn't looking directly at Jesus but her left hand indicates the longing in her heart for what is good and pure. Jesus reveals himself  as the Messiah to this sinner, not to someone leading an upright life. Her response is what ours is meant to be to God's overwhelming mercy - sharing what she discovered with others.

Jesus came to 'give a drink' of the water of eternal life to every single one of us, to bring the water of hope to all who are thirsty. He came to give this water to Elizabeth Taylor and to all who, like the woman in the gospel, have a 'past'. Do we every pray for public figures such as actors, entertainers, sports personalities, 'celebrities'? Jesus mingled with their equivalents in his day, not to become famous by association but because he longed enough for their eternal salvation to die on the cross for them and for all of us.

As we meditate on this gospel let us pray for the soul of Elizabeth Taylor and other public figures who have been directly or indirectly part of our lives and ask Jesus to give them the water of eternal life.

A Reflection by Fr Thomas Rosica CSB

I came across this gospel song, He Gave Her Water, sung by Acappella:

Words and music: Traditional
Arrangement: Keith Lancaster
© 1987 Anthony K. Music (ASCAP)
Lead: Jerome Williams

Oh Jesus, he gave her water
You know my Jesus gave her water
Oh Jesus gave her water
And it was not from the well

Well, there was a woman from Samaria
She came to the well to get some water
It was there she met a stranger
And he did her story tell
She left my savior singing
She came back to him bringing
The time she had water
And it was not from the well

Repeat Chorus

Well on that woman he had pity
She ran back to the city
Crying glory hallelujah
I'm gonna let his praises swell
Every time she'd doubt him
She's stop and think about him
The man that gave her that living water
And it was not from the well

Oh, gave her water
Jesus gave her water
Oh Jesus he gave her water
I'm gonna let his praises swell
Jesus gave that woman water
He gave her that living lasting water
Oh, and it was not from the well

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