There’s a Priceless Water

Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF

Claretian Publications, Macau

Jn 4:5-42


John has made the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman a theological text to teach the process of conversion of those who accept the gospel of the Lord.

It is noon when the woman comes to draw water, and Jesus asks her for a drink. The way in which the evangelist presents her clearly reveals his intention to transform her into a symbol. Let us try to identify her: she has no name, nothing is said where she comes from. The only element that defines her is that she is a “Samaritan,” which is equivalent to a heretic, unfaithful to God. Who can she be?

The evangelist cunningly sends the disciples away from the scene to buy bread to keep the “lovers” alone! Whom do the two “lovers” at the well represent? The woman represents the unfaithful Israel (keep in mind that Israel in Hebrew is feminine). So the lovers are Yahweh and Israel. This marriage did not have a happy outcome. The falling in love started in the desert where God and Israel had lived unforgettable experiences. At these moments, the Lord looked back nostalgically: “I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days when you followed me in the wilderness” (Jer. 2:2). Then the infidelities of the bride began: her betrayals, her infatuation with lovers, the regret for the gods of Egypt, the worship of Baal of the Canaanites, and many others.

At this point, the identification of the Samaritan woman is taken for granted; it is the bride Israel, backed by her whole story of love and adulteries. She had many “husbands,” and what she has now is not her husband. At the well, Jesus meets her and wants to bring her back to the one true love, the Lord.

The thirst of the Samaritan woman is the symbol of the most intimate needs that torment the heart of the bride-Israel: the need for peace, love, serenity, hope, happiness, sincerity, consistency, and for God. These are the needs that every person experiences.

The water of the well indicates the attempts and tricks that humans put in place to quench this thirst that no material “thing” can satisfy.

The living water that Jesus promises is the spirit of God. It is that love that fills the hearts. Those who let themselves be guided by this spirit get peace and do not need anything else.

The Samaritan woman at the beginning of the dialogue thought of material water. But gradually she began to perceive and accept the proposal of Jesus. Her progressive discovery is carefully underlined by the evangelist. At first, for her Jesus is a simple wandering Jew (v. 9), then he becomes a master (v. 11), then a prophet (v. 19), and afterward the Messiah (vv. 25-26), and finally, with all the people, she proclaims him the Savior of the world (v. 42).

The last part of the gospel (vv. 28-41) presents the conclusion of the spiritual journey of the Samaritan woman and every disciple. What does this woman do after meeting Christ? She leaves the pitcher (she has no more use of it because now she found another kind of water) and runs to announce her discovery and happiness to others.

It is the call to become missionaries, apostles, catechists to tell everyone the joy and peace experienced by one who meets the Lord and drinks his water.

Indebted to Fr. Armellini SCJ for the textual analysis