Jesus’ passion was to save the spiritually lost, a vision with a mission far more important to Him than food and drink. The Gospel reading is about Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (Jn 4). Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman reveals His commitment to His heavenly Father’s purpose and inner desire to bring people of all races, cultures, and backgrounds into a personal relationship with God.

 St Augustine’s beautiful description of the episode of Christ and the Samaritan woman suggests ‘her as mystically representing the “Church not yet made righteous.” Saint Augustine writes, “She is a symbol of the Church not yet made righteous but about to be made righteous. Righteousness follows from the conversation. She came in ignorance, she found Christ, and he entered into conversation with her.” [1]

The Church as a ‘foreigner,’ is called out from the Gentile, a different race worldwide. The Church, in this context, is not about nationality but about new life in Jesus Christ. The Church is not about race but about redemption in Christ. St Augustine explained that ‘We must then recognize ourselves in her words and her person, and with her give our thanks to God. She was a symbol, not reality; she foreshadowed reality, and reality came to be. She found faith in Christ, who was using her as a symbol to teach us what was to come. She came then to draw water. She had simply come to draw water in the normal way of man or woman.’ Jesus used the woman’s question to introduce His mission. Jesus offered the gift of God (redemption) and living water (eternal life). Like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman thought only of literal items. How could Jesus secure such living water without a bucket?

Until the Church finds faith in Christ alone, we remain divorced from the life and promises of Christ. Until Moses struck the rock, there was no water for the people to drink (Exd. 17:1-7). In the New Testament, this rock is identified with Jesus Christ, the “spiritual rock” (1 Cor. 10:4). Jesus remains the true source of living water. Just like a rock was struck, Christ was struck by death on the cross (Isa 53:5). Jesus was thirsting for the Samaritan woman’s faith; hence He was asking for a drink of water, her surrendering and recommitment. Jesus asks for a drink, and He promises a drink. Jesus is in need, as one hoping to receive, yet He is rich, as one about to satisfy the thirst of others. He says: If you knew the gift of God. The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. The Samaritan woman did not understand even when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in satisfying abundance. In her failure and ignorance, she said to Jesus, “Master, give me this drink so that I may feel no thirst or come here to draw water.” From her statement, we can see that her need forced her to her labouring just as the people’s thirst for water forced them to murmur against Moses, and said, “Wherefore is that thou has brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” (Exd. 17:3).  

The Samaritan woman stands, says St. Augustine, for the Church, the bride of Jesus. With divine insight, Jesus turned the conversation to the woman’s spiritual needs. Jesus’ request, ‘Go, call your husband,’ opened the door for Jesus to expose her sin. The Gospel highlights the woman’s position as an adulteress. The reflection is that confession is the first step toward receiving eternal life. The woman tells Jesus that she is unmarried. Jesus responds with devastating clarity: “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.'” Indeed, the Church has no husband than Jesus Christ, and He is returning for His bride again!

Bishop Robert Barron points to the ‘five husbands as five errant paths that the woman has taken.’ He says the woman ‘has “married” herself to wealth, pleasure, honour, power, material things, etc. Or think of them as five ideologies or gurus that she has followed, hoping to find joy.’ Just as in the Church in Thyatira, Satan had infiltrated the Church with evil ideology, frivolity, and the lifestyle of the city where the Church was planted. Indeed, the adulteress church is in wrong marriages to the wealth of the world, the pleasure of the world, the honour of the world, and the power and material things of the world. The adulteress church is married to different ideologies and theologies, hoping to find freedom and joy. The reflection is that an adulteress church in a wrong marriage turns movement into a monument – no true mission without true marriage. The Good News for us in this Lenten season is that Jesus proposes marriage to the woman – His bride, the Church. Only in Jesus can we find the “spring of water welling up to eternal life and everlasting joy. 

  [1] Saint Augustine, Tract. 15, 10-12. 16-17: CCL 36, 154-156.