The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (4:5-42)
In today’s gospel reading we have the longest discourse between our Lord Jesus Christ and another person in all of the 4 gospels. We are told that the Lord Jesus was tired from His journey and He decided to rest in Samaria at Jacob’s well. We are told that at about the sixth hour a woman of Samaria came to draw water from the well. We sometimes think of the Lord as being like Superman, invincible, strong etc. Yet here something quite unexpected happens. The Lord asks the woman for a drink of water. He who created the heavens and the earth and set a boundary for the seas and the oceans, the creator of water itself, is thirsty and asks this woman to serve Him. However that is not the only amazing feature of this encounter. The Samaritan woman is quite surprised by the request for water because Jews traditionally had no dealings with Samaritans and because men did not generally interact publicly with women who were not well known to them, such as a close acquaintance or family member.
Yet our Lord shrugs off these social conventions because He has a purpose. Her soul was His purpose. This woman, whom we later call Photini, stands as a symbol of humanity. Our Lord demonstrated His tenderness and dedication by lifting her up out of her shame and darkness and making her a radiant and beautiful human being. Until this moment in her life she was probably considered outwardly beautiful, but on the inside she was full of filth. Sin had made her downright ugly. Her path was darkened through her life of rebellion. What was her sin? She was sexually immoral. She was divorced multiple times and as the Lord reminds us, when we divorce and move on to another person, that is a form of adultery. Later she did not even marry but simply had relations with another man. She did much of this in secret. It was her burden that she carried around within her soul. Yet the Lord who was thirsty for water was even more determined to aid this woman’s spiritual thirst.
“Give me a drink.” He started to engage with her through these simple words. The Lord could have fetched His own water, it wasn’t a difficult task and the Lord wasn’t helpless, but He instead, connected with her. His interest is hardly in the water, water only goes so far. Yet it is the potential of her transformed life that will truly refresh Him. Yet the Lord’s interest is not so much in refreshing Himself but in refreshing this woman’s life. He saw her and understood her burdens and He took pity on her and offered her something that she could never have earned or deserved. He offered her living water!
Our Lord tells her that “everyone who drinks of the (water) of the well will thirst again”, what does this mean? It means that physical water quenches the physical thirst. But it is temporary. It doesn’t last. We get thirsty again. Yet this applies to more than just water, it applies to all of the things that we think we need in life. It even applies to our addictions and our passions. They have such a powerful sway over us that we think that we cannot live without fulfilling those desires. We turn to things that are addictive. Sometimes it is food or alcohol, sometimes it is drugs, or thrill-seeking, sometimes it is movies and texting and games, sometimes it is the desire to control life. Sometimes it is sex, as it is for those struggling with pornography or as it was for Photini, the Samaritan woman and her addiction to attention, relationships and men. No matter what we thirst for within our flesh, it can never be enough. We get what we desire and we immediately desire more. We are never satisfied. Indeed the Lord says that “everyone who drinks of the water of the well will thirst again but whoever drinks of the water that the Lord gives will never thirst forever”!
Which water do we desire and chase after in our lives? Is it water for our flesh, or water for our souls? If we keep chasing the various waters that satisfy our passions temporarily, we will always return empty, hungry, thirsty and ultimately broken. This was the life of Photini. She thought the answer was to be found in the embrace of men. But she would find out that the answer was only found when she first embraced the living God!
Through her life Photini had learned about God, but she had never had a relationship with Him until this very moment at the sixth hour of the day. You and I are not so different from her. We may know about God but to know and converse and have a living relationship with God is another thing altogether. The Lord tells us that we must worship God in spirit and truth. It means that we have to rightly believe in God and that we must have inspiration from the Holy Spirit to help us.
St. Basil the Great writes, “To worship in the Spirit implies that our intelligence has been enlightened…” He continues, “By truth he clearly meant himself. If we say that worship offered in the Son (the truth) is worship offered in the Father’s image, we can say the same about worship offered in the Spirit since the Spirit in himself reveals the divinity of the Lord.”
Going on further St. Basil writes,
“Light cannot be separated from what it makes visible, and it is impossible for you to recognize Christ, the image of the invisible God, unless the Spirit enlightens you. Once you see the image, you cannot ignore the light; you see the light and the image simultaneously. It is fitting that when we see Christ, the brightness of God’s glory, it is always through the illumination of the Spirit. Through Christ the image, may we be led to the Father, for he bears the seal of the Father’s very likeness.”
So here we see the harmony of worship and prayer life in the Holy Trinity. We know who God is because of the person of Jesus Christ. This woman at the well also learned who God was because He came and spoke with her and revealed all things to her. This encounter with the living God changed her life. Our encounters with the living God also promise to change our lives, my brother and sisters. Understand that the whole of your life is meant to be an encounter with God. Don’t chase after water that will never satisfy your deepest needs. Don’t live your lives in constant thirst. Instead let us chase after the life-giving water that proceeds from Trinity and is shared with each of us in the life of prayer and worship. To Christ be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit AMEN.