Living Water

First Published at All Along the Watchtower.

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Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron calls this particular event of the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John a master’s course in Evangelization. What is the good Bishop getting at when making such an assertion? Let’s examine the facts: the woman goes to the well at high noon, Jesus is already present at the well, Jesus initiates a conversation, the conversation is initiated without condemnation, Jesus offers to quench her thirst of the affliction of her soul by revealing to the woman what he knows about her.

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. ¶ The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings 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 nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?[1]

As one notices by the woman and Jesus’ conversational exchange is that the woman believes Jesus to be talking about literal water, but this, of course, is not what Jesus is talking about to her.  So, Jesus further explains to her the meaning of his words:

13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 ¶ but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 ¶ The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Scholars and Theologians have determined that this woman going to the well during this period of the day would mark her undoubtedly as an outcast. Jesus, himself, as the event begins to unfold eventually brings forth the condition of the woman and why she looks to avoid social interaction by drawing water from the well during the extreme heat of the Middle Eastern day.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 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 he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20[2]

It’s important to notice here that before Jesus attempts to correct her or acknowledge her sins, Jesus offers her an invitation to obtain a living spring within herself. Of course, as Christians, we must refrain from thinking that this living spring in which Jesus speaks of doesn’t mean to just live by the rules of the Christian God and be subject to him in fear of damnation, but rather the desire want to praise him and glorify him–for our own benefit– by doing good works in the world.

For example, just this last Sunday prior to hearing this Gospel reading at Mass, I was walking downtown nearby my diocese’s Cathedral and at a distance, I saw a homeless man. As I used this story to explain to my PSR students, I will certainly explain to any reader as I explained to them, that I did something that was not in my personality to do by approaching the man. I asked him his story and what was going on with his life. I won’t go into the detail of what said exactly and what I did to aid him, but I can tell you certainly that after many months of digging the well of my own prayer life—in the words of St. Teresa of Avila—I was drinking living water. I truly felt the presence of Christ with me because he was acting through me. I finally understood what St. Paul meant when he said, “20 ¶ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[3]

After this encounter, I walked the rest of the way to the church and entered the Cathedral. When I arrived at the pew and knelt before God, I took off my glasses, put my hands over my face to hold back tears as my thoughts were lifted up toward God. All I can say is how strange and beautiful the paradox to be both Jesus and meet him at the well. After retelling the event to my PSR students, I explained to them that they can be Jesus at the well and stir forth springs of living water in their classmates, teachers, and parents. I told them that if they are to come across another kid at their school is may not be the “cool” kid go and eat lunch and play with them. If they are the one being bullied at school and the bully demands their pencil offer a piece of paper as well.

The students were perplexed by the last option, so I explained through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can stir forth our neighbors living water so that they might believe in Jesus even the worst of situations. I offered them the idea that if a robber demanded my cell phone, I would freely give them the phone and more. At this point, a young lady jerked back and said, “Why would you just give in?” I told her “If I give them the phone freely then they are not stealing, and therefore, not a robber.”

I reminded them that at the heart of breaking forth a living spring is one of the core ideas of the Sermon on the Mount:

39 ¶ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Mt 5:39–42). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[1] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:7–11). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 4:13–20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[3] The Holy Bible. (2006). (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Ga 2:20). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

4 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the post, especially the interpretation of the passage about the woman at the well.

    I am not certain what to make of this part.

    I offered them the idea that if a robber demanded my cell phone, I would freely give them the phone and more. At this point, a young lady jerked back and said, “Why would you just give in?” I told her “If I give them the phone freely then they are not stealing, and therefore, not a robber.”

    It is the robber’s intent that make him a robber, not our giving in to his theft.

    That passage from the Sermon On The Mount is confusing. One thing to keep in mind, however, is when Jesus is talking about being struck on the cheek, He is referring to being struck with the back of the hand. He is instructing us not to return an insult with an insult.

    We are supposed love our neighbors. Therefore, we are supposed to help those who are desperate. Nevertheless, I don’t think Jesus advocated outright pacifism.

    Consider.

    Matthew 7:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

    6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

    There is a difference between loving our neighbors and enabling evil. If some guy is trying to steal your car, don’t you think it is okay to call the cops?

    Like

  2. I really loved this post, Philip. It truly spoke to my heart in so many ways. After the conversation with Bosco on the “Watchtower” blog (on your last post) and how it turned out in the end, I could see how we approach someone makes all the difference in the world regarding the outcome. (By the way I did understand what he meant regarding the question on the graven images.) For some reason I just did not choose to go into the combat zone. I felt God leading me in a totally different direction. A lot of it was in the direction of humor.

    This post and the Scriptures you gave brought me back to all of that. We can either hand back insult for insult, evil for evil, or we can try and steer things in the direction of God. I think a lot of the time, (at least in my case) when I am placed on the “defense” it brings something out in me I really do not like.

    Jesus did point out a lot of truth to her, which would have probably made me defensive. At the same time He was doing so, He was also leading her towards Him. I think as children of God, that should always be our objective.

    I like the Scripture you gave at the end and how you tied it in with the explanations you gave. I always resist the evil in someone, because I hate it. I understand through this, in doing so, I am also not doing one thing about it! When I do this, evil has prevailed.

    You teach me a lot Philip. I am thankful to God that He brought your wisdom into my life, as I pray for wisdom and knowledge daily, above all else. Will think about this post for quite some time. God Bless, SR

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is wisdom attempting to take the boat down the river of positive engagement rather than combat. In one of my posts on here in regards to The historicity of Moses, some atheists that I’m familiar with from other blogs engaged me. At first, I attempted to head off their comments as I was not interested in hearing the comments, as I knew they were typical of the militant strain of atheism. Sadly, they induced me into conversation by insulting my pride, by saying ” he thinks he’s a real scholar.” And so on.

      The assertion of the commenters is that no reputable scholars claims to the historicity of Moses. After I started to produce scholars who were employed by known secular institutions in favor for a historical Moses, there only thing they were left with were deflections and ad hominem arguments against those scholars.

      The testimony of those scholars speak for themselves and once their words were posted, the commenters gave short dismissals and left the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head here with the word, “pride.” I thank you so much for that word. As I reflected on some of my most heated debates, not only on blog but in personal life as well, many have been because someone has chipped away at my pride.

    I can be at times, fairly hot tempered. Nothing will flare it up more than my pride.

    I do think we are called to “defend” when defense is needed. Even the Bible tells us to be ready to “defend.” There is a difference I have learned from reading some of your post in “defending” myself, and “defending” all that is holy.

    I think we need to remember God is always ready to “defend” us, so someone cannot lead us into more sin. Like your example of the “cell phone.” By discerning something like that, we keep ourselves from sin and as you said, “others as well.”

    Thanks a lot, Philip. This has taught me a lot and look forward to reading more of your post. By the way, you are a pretty good “scholar.” 🙂 God Bless, SR

    Like

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