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03.15.2020 Third Sunday of Lent

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

A Well that Springs to Life Eternal


John 4:5-42

5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, 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 know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”


The Context

We are still at the beginning of the Gospel of John. In Chapter Three John writes one of the most controversial episodes Jesus had with the religious leaders: the Cleansing of the Temple.

This episodes justifies the trip of Jesus back from Jerusalem to Galilee. We are not told what the reason for the trip was, but given the composition of the Gospel of John, one would think that Jesus escaped the persecution that might have started on account of the Cleansing of the Temple.

The Jews travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem and vice versa were not compelled to enter Samaria. Actually, they would avoid entering the land of the Samaritans, since through their history, they despised Jews from Judea on the ground of their religiosity[1].

Samaritans, too, were considered an unclean tribe because after the deportation to Babylon (700s B.C.)[2], foreigners had been brought to the region. They mingled and intermarried with the inhabitants and the latter adopted elements of the pagan religion of the new settlers, thus, taking distance from the religious purity of the Hebrew people of Judea.

The Samaritans have their own temples[3] and did not agree with the building of the Temple of Jerusalem, which was one of the most important unifying historical institutions in the history of Israel. Indeed, the annual pilgrimage to the Holy Temple of Jerusalem was a duty imposed on every faithful Jewish believer, and Joseph and Mary every year brought the Child Jesus to the Temple.

The animosity among both peoples is well reported in Scripture[4].

The Well of Joseph

In the desert, a water well would be a reference place for any sojourner[5]. So much so, this well because the Samaritans gave to it a historical significance[6].

The Gospel introduces at this point, one Old Testament topic, that is one the signs of the arrival of the Messianic times: water as a sign of God’s love and salvation[7].

The True Worship

The second argument in the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is about the right place of worship. This brought great animosity and rivalry among Samaritans and Jews from Judea.

Jesus takes the argument to a deeper level of understanding. He does not engage in the polemic about Shechem or Jerusalem having the right to worship, though the Samaritan woman recognizes Jesus as a Jew, and by default, a supporter of the Temple of Jerusalem.

But Jesus gives the “Living Water”, and therefore, He inaugurates the messianic times and, by analogy, the water well of Jacob and the temple of Jerusalem as well, have become like dry cisterns[8]. The true worship is no longer to be done in Shechem or in Jerusalem, but in hearts faithful to the Lord[9].

Growth in Faith

This is one of the most famous passages of Scriptures and the way the Evangelist John has narrated it, shows a typical story of the on-going conversion of a person who comes in touch with the saving power of Jesus Christ.

We see how some details in the text show the humanity of Jesus (He is travelling from Jerusalem away for the leading Jews, He feels tired of the journey and He feels hungry).

As the narrative develops, we find some other expressions that show an openness to recognizing Jesus divine identity: his disciples call him ‘Rabbi’, the woman calls him first ‘Prophet’ and eventually, ‘Lord’ and ‘Messiah’.

The story demonstrates that personal contact with Jesus leads people to acknowledge Him as the Messiah. This is not only on account of words of the Samaritan woman. Other Samaritan people who met him during the two-day visit to the town believed in him, too.

The Samaritan Woman

The Samaritan woman was one of the many anonymous women we find in the Gospels. She was found at the well at an hour when no other woman would be drawing water: ostracized or afraid to meet others?

As she allowed Jesus become familiar with her, her faith in Him grew progressively and she became a missionary to her own people. The encounter with Jesus transformed her, empowered her and made her messenger of the ‘Good News’.


You, Jesus, are the Living Water, our refreshment and the Source of our Life. We meet You and want to receive from You the graciousness that springs from your Heart.

Awaken in us the desire to be closer to You, nurtured, refreshed, renewed and restored by Your loving presence in the very persons we meet, especially those most needed of Your Loving Care.


Some elements of this Gospel passage point out to the Passion of Jesus.

The recognition in the form of a question mark “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”[10] and the statement by the Samaritans “we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world”[11], make us think of Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus to the crowds, saying: “Ecce Hommo [Here is the man]”, precisely at the very same hour: “… it was about noon”[12].

There were individuals around the community of St. John who grew progressively more affectionate to Jesus Christ. To them, this story of the Samaritan woman was very appealing because they saw in her a paradigm of their own faith experience.

John introduces Jesus as the man who asks questions but answers them. He is the One who makes a request but grants a Gift. Jesus shows He is thirsty but He is the One who quenches the thirst of the woman at the well of Jacob.

This well of Jacob is now unable to satiate the thirst; it belongs to the Old Covenant. It is no more than a cistern that contains water which is stagnant; unlike the healthy running water that will thrust from the Heart of Jesus on the Cross.

The cult of the Samaritans and the Jews alike have become meaningless. Their own temples are void of the presence of God, because both invented a ‘god’ to meet their own needs of mutual hatred and rejection, and none of them was able to love and recognize God as the loving Father.

Come as you are

Paul Gurr O.Carm, Paul Gurr

Come as you are, that's how I want you. Come as you are, feel quite at home. Close to my heart, loved and forgiven Come as you are, why stand alone?

No need to fear, love sets no limits. No need to fear, love never end. Don't run away, shamed, and disheartened. Rest in my love, trust me again.

I came to call sinners, not just the virtuous. I came to bring peace, not to condemn. Each time you fail to live by my promise Why do you think I'd love you the less?

Don't run away, shamed


[1] Sirach.50,25-26: “Two nations my soul detests, and the third is not even a people: Those who live in Seir, and the Philistines, and the foolish people that live in Shechem”. For the full story of Shechem and the Daughters of Jacob check Gen. 34

[2] Gen.48:22: “I now give to you one portion more than to your brothers, the portion that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” -‘Mountain slope’- (Heb shekem) is a play on the name of the town and district of Shechem. [3] Gen.33:18-20: “Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram; and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (God, the God of Israel)”. Malachi.1:11: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts”.

[4] Lk.9:52-53: “And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem”. Mt.10:5-6: “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Lk.10,33: 33 “But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity”. [5] 2 Chronicles 26:10: “He [Uzziah] built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain. He also had plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil”. [6] Joshua24:32: “The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for one hundred pieces of money; it became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph”. Psalm 23:2-3: “He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul”. [7] Zac.14,8: “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter”. [8] Jer.2,13: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water”. [9] Ez.47,9: “Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes”. Prov.13,14: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, so that one may avoid the snares of death”. Isa.44,3: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring”. Jl.3,1: “For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem”. Jn.7,37-39: “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified”. [10] Jn.4:29

[11] Jn. 4,42 [12] Jn.19:14

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