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Friday, March 25, 2011


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In a desert country like Palestine water is a symbol of life. Jesus in our gospel this third Sunday of Lent will be the source of the living water.
Let us take a look at some of the background in understanding the meaning of the symbols in the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus.  The setting is Samaria which belonged to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  The Samaritans were impure and considered second class Jews because they inter-married with pagans besides they also built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim and recognized only the five books of the Moses as their scriptures.  This caused hostility between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. Rabbis did not speak with women in public.
The well is also very important in our story which was the well Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  Jacob would later be called Israel and from his twelve sons would come the twelve tribes of Israel.  The well was usually a place where women would gather to chat while fetching water early in the morning.  In Genesis, it was in well where Jacob met his future wife Rachel so the well here is also used as a setting for courtship. The time of the story, about twelve noon, is very crucial.  Let us go now to the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
Jesus tired by the journey sat by the well; Jacob was also tired on his journey and came to the well.  Jesus was a type of Jacob. The water from Jacob’s well gave the Samaritans water but the water that Jesus would give “will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life.”  This means that Jesus is greater than Jacob. Jesus did not directly say that he was the living water.  The water that he was referring to in our gospel and in Jn 7:37-39 is the Holy Spirit.
 The Samaritan woman came during a very unholy hour precisely because she was avoiding other women.  Jesus broke a religious and social taboo by starting a conversation in public with a woman, Samaritan at that.  The conversation was like a courtship between Jesus and the woman.  When Jesus asked for a drink, the woman must have been shocked.
In the account of the conversation, we could see the woman constricted to her religious and cultural beliefs and wrapped in fear because she was hiding her sinful situation being adulterous.  Jesus let her express her beliefs but he offered her a new viewpoint hence a new way of living.  When she misunderstood Jesus as somebody who could give her a spring of water, he invited her to see what could prevent her from getting it, that is her being adulterous.  Whenever we come closer to Jesus, he will let us see our true selves and any hindrances to possess him.  In the conversation, there was both the unfolding of the personality of the woman and the gradual opening of her understanding of who Jesus was: an ordinary Jew, a man greater than Jacob, a prophet, the Messiah and the Saviour of the World.  As a kerygma, Jesus proclaimed a new way of worship in the future, that is not bound by any geographical constriction, neither in Jerusalem nor in Samaria.
At the end of the conversation, when the woman had reached a fuller understanding of the man in front of her, Jesus proclaimed the great I AM.  Then the woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people about her experience. There was no need of the water from the well which represented her old beliefs, there was no need of the water jar which represented her old self.  Then the whole town believed in her so Jesus and his disciples stayed two more days with them and they believed that he was the Saviour of the world.  This is what evangelization is: that after we encounter Jesus, we have to tell everyone about our experience with him.
Like the woman, we may be carrying our own “skeletons in the closet”.  But the Lord is not interested in our dark secrets nor our sins, nor our old selves, he is only interested in our new beginning and how we could be instruments of changing the world to be a better place than we first found it.

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