In the Gospel of John, perhaps more than anywhere else in the Bible, every single word is laden with symbolism and chosen carefully to evoke other significant, grace-filled events.
The mention of a well tells those familiar with Holy Scripture that, today, the Lord is looking for a romantic encounter with our soul. Rebekah was chosen as Isaac’s bride at a well (cf. Genesis 24:15-65) and Zipporah as Moses’ wife at a well in the land of Midian. (cf. Exodus 2: 16-21). It is safe to say that the Lord Jesus is keenly aware of the real state of our soul, while we might still have only a vague suspicion that something is amiss but are yet to identify it with accuracy. Like the Samaritan woman of our Gospel passage for the Third Sunday of Lent, we might decide to keep coping with our shallow spiritual condition rather than face it clearly and deal resolutely with it.
Back then, men had their set time to go to the community well for their needs. Women too had their separate time to draw water from the village well. But noon was the wrong time for anyone to go to the well. That is why this woman with a problematic past goes there at that unusual time, counting that no one else would be there. Maybe there could be something from our past which we are determined to keep hidden from people closest to us, people who love us and care for us. They might know part of it, but we do not want to find out for sure.
Every three years, Mother Church comforts us thoroughly by making us realize how much the Lord Jesus loves us. How intensely he desires to reestablish a rapport of love and spiritual intimacy with us. Intentionally, the Lord Jesus makes himself tired, sweaty, and thirsty because he doesn’t want us to miss also this opportunity for what he alone can give us.
The elements of our story that are pivotal are our basic need for “living water” and Jesus’ ardent, consuming desire to confront us in a gentle yet forceful way to change us completely, so that we can truly enjoy life again. He knows that we might have decided to ignore or spend a lot of time and energies covering up what we sense is wrong in us and directing people’s attention, instead, to the aspects of our life that are acceptable and even laudable.
Considering how desperately the Samaritan woman tried to wiggle out of confronting her past so that she could be free and enjoy life fully, we have a truly existential decision to make: we can continue to live with that nagging dissatisfaction in our mind and heart or open our soul completely and unreservedly to the outpouring of grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion so that our love rapport with Jesus will flood us with irresistible joy similar to the one we experienced when we were truly in love with him.
"If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." John 4:10
In plain English, Jesus would be saying to us: “Enough already! It is time for you, my brother, my sister, to let God surprise you beyond your hesitations, procrastinations, excuses, and rationalizations. Let God be God. And, no matter how big you might expect me to surprise you, what I want to give you will be much, much bigger!”
How many times before have we heard similar urgings from Jesus? How many times have we already ignored them and kept coping with a stunted Christian life marked by lukewarm love for Jesus?
If we hesitate once again, we should recall how exhilarating it was to enjoy Christian freedom and how fully enjoyable life was even amid trials and difficulties.
Each village had its own water well; life would have been impossible if it ran dry. Nowadays, life has become nearly impossible for too many people as their “wells” run dry everywhere. There is urgent need for real wells drawing their water from the well of Christ Jesus.
“… the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
Not only our thirst will be quenched but Jesus wants us to become wells of grace ourselves for many other people around us.