First Reading: From the Book of Exodus 17:3-7
3 But tormented by thirst, the people complained to Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt,’ they said, ‘only to make us, our children and our livestock, die of thirst?’
4 Moses appealed to Yahweh for help. ‘How am I to deal with this people?’ he said. ‘Any moment now they will stone me!’
5 Yahweh then said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, taking some of the elders of Israel with you; in your hand take the staff with which you struck the River, and go.
6 I shall be waiting for you there on the rock (at Horeb). Strike the rock, and water will come out for the people to drink.’ This was what Moses did, with the elders of Israel looking on.
7 He gave the place the names Massah and Meribah because of the Israelites’ contentiousness and because they put Yahweh to the test by saying, ‘Is Yahweh with us, or not?’
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
1 Come, let us cry out with joy to Yahweh, acclaim the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, acclaim him with music.
6 Come, let us bow low and do reverence; kneel before Yahweh who made us!
7 For he is our God, and we the people of his sheepfold, the flock of his hand. If only you would listen to him today!
8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as at the time of Massah in the desert,
9 when your ancestors challenged me, put me to the test, and saw what I could do!
Second Reading: From the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
1 So then, now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;
2 it is through him, by faith, that we have been admitted into God’s favour in which we are living, and look forward exultantly to God’s glory.
5 and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
6 When we were still helpless, at the appointed time, Christ died for the godless.
7 You could hardly find anyone ready to die even for someone upright; though it is just possible that, for a really good person, someone might undertake to die.
8 So it is proof of God’s own love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of Saint John 4:5-42
5 On the way he came to the Samaritan town called Sychar near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Jacob’s well was there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me something to drink.’
8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew. How is it that you ask me, a Samaritan, for something to drink?’ — Jews, of course, do not associate with Samaritans.
10 Jesus replied to her: If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me something to drink,’ you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.
11 ‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered, ‘and the well is deep: how do you get this living water?
12 Are you a greater man than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’
13 Jesus replied: Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again;
14 but no one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life.
15 ‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty or come here again to draw water.’
16 ‘Go and call your husband,’ said Jesus to her, ‘and come back here.’
17 The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”;
18 for although you have had five, the one you now have is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’
19 ‘I see you are a prophet, sir,’ said the woman.
20 ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, though you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’
21 Jesus said: Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews.
23 But the hour is coming — indeed is already here — when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.
25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah — that is, Christ — is coming; and when he comes he will explain everything.’
26 Jesus said, ‘That is who I am, I who speak to you.’
27 At this point his disciples returned and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘What are you talking to her about?’
28 The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people,
29 ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I have done; could this be the Christ?’
30 This brought people out of the town and they made their way towards him.
31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat’;
32 but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’
33 So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has someone brought him food?’
34 But Jesus said: My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work.
35 Do you not have a saying: Four months and then the harvest? Well, I tell you, look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest!
36 Already the reaper is being paid his wages, already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, so that sower and reaper can rejoice together.
37 For here the proverb holds true: one sows, another reaps;
38 I sent you to reap a harvest you have not laboured for. Others have laboured for it; and you have come into the rewards of their labour.
39 Many Samaritans of that town believed in him on the strength of the woman’s words of testimony, ‘He told me everything I have done.’
40 So, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and
41 many more came to believe on the strength of the words he spoke to them;
42 and they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe no longer because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he is indeed the Saviour of the world.’
Theme: A spring of water welling up to eternal life
Would you do a favor for someone who snubbed you or treated you like an enemy? Jesus did just that and more! He treated the Samaritans, the sworn enemies of the Jews, with great kindness and respect. The Samaritans who lived in middle region of Israel between Galilee and Judaea and the Jews who lived in the rest of the land of Israel had been divided for centuries. They had no dealings with one another, avoiding all social contact, even trade, and inter-marriage. If their paths crossed it would not be unusual for hostility to break out.
When Jesus decided to pass through Samaria he stopped at Jacob’s well because it was mid-day and he was both tired from the journey and thirsty. Jacob’s well was a good mile and a half from the nearest town, called Sychar. It wasn’t easy to draw water from this well since it was over a hundred feet deep. Jesus had neither rope nor bucket to fetch the water.
When a Samaritan woman showed up at the well, both were caught by surprise. Why would a Samaritan woman walk a mile and a half in the mid-day heat to fetch her water at a remote well rather than in her local town? She was an outcast and not welcomed among her own townspeople. Jesus then did something no respectable Jew would think of doing. He reached out to her, thus risking ritual impurity and scorn from his fellow Jews. He also did something no strict Rabbi would dare to do in public without loss to his reputation. He treated the woman like he would treat one of his friends – he greeted her and spoke at length with her. Jesus’ welcoming approach to her was scandalous to both Jews and Samaritans because this woman was an adulteress and public sinner as well. No decent Jew or Samaritan would even think of being seen with such a woman, let alone exchanging a word with her!
Jesus broke through the barriers of prejudice, hostility, and tradition to bring the good news of peace and reconciliation to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike. He demonstrated the universality of the gospel both in word and deed. No one is barred from the love of God and the good news of salvation. There is only one thing that can keep us from God and his redeeming love – our stubborn pride and wilful rebellion.
What is the point of Jesus’ exchange with the Samaritan woman about water? Water in the arid land was scarce. Jacob’s well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee. One can live without food for several days, but not without water. Water is a source of life and growth for all living things. When rain came to the desert, the water transformed the wasteland into a fertile field.
The kind of water which Jesus spoke about was living, running, fresh, pure water. Fresh water from a cool running stream was always preferred to the still water one might find in a pool or resevoir. When the Israelites complained about lack of water in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to strike the rock and a stream of fresh living water gushed out (Exodus17:6 ). Even though the Israelites did not trust God to care for them in the wilderness, God, nonetheless gave them abundant water and provision through the intercession of his servant Moses.
The image of “living water” is used throughout the scriptures as a symbol of God’s wisdom, a wisdom that imparts life and blessing to all who receive it. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 13:14). “Living water” was also a symbol for the Jews of thirst of the soul for God. The water which Jesus spoke of symbolized the Holy Spirit and his work of recreating us in God’s image and sustaining in us the new life which comes from God. The life which the Holy Spirit produces in us makes us a “new creation” in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?
Hippolytus (170-236 AD), an early Christian writer and theologian who lived in Rome, explains the significance of the Holy Spirit’s work in us:
“This is the water of the Spirit: It refreshes paradise, enriches the earth, gives life to living things. It is the water of Christ’s baptism; it is our life. If you go with faith to this renewing fountain, you renounce Satan your enemy and confess Christ your God. You cease to be a slave and become an adopted son. You come forth radiant as the sun and brilliant with justice. You come forth a son of God and fellow-heir with Christ.” (From a sermon, On the Epiphany)
Basil the Great (330-379 AD), a great early Christian teacher and Greek bishop of Caesarea, speaks in a similar manner:
“The Spirit restores paradise to us and the way to heaven and adoption as children of God; he instills confidence that we may call God truly Father and grants us the grace of Christ to be children of the light and to enjoy eternal glory. In a word, he bestows the fullness of blessings in this world and the next; for we may contemplate now in the mirror of faith the promised things we shall someday enjoy. If this is the foretaste, what must the reality be? If these are the first fruits, what must be the harvest?” (From the treatise, The Holy Spirit)
“Lord Jesus, my soul thirsts for you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may always find joy in your presence and take delight in doing your will.”