It is hard for me to say anything substantive about the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel because her experience of life is much different than my own. Unlike herself, I am a man and have enjoyed the privileges (intentionally or not) of this identity. She is a social pariah on two levels: she is a Samaritan, a group in continual disagreement with the Jews of Jerusalem about the proper worship of God; she has remarried five times in a culture that prizes marriage fidelity. In addition, she is a woman with these two shameful identities for her time and context. The intersectionality of the marginalizing factors she experiences in life leaves her with low to no-value in her society. What I found myself praying with is what she was asking Jesus for in this passage. Her questions and responses to Jesus reveal a woman whose heart desires to know God.
The Samaritan woman wants Jesus to take who she is and her place in society seriously: “How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?” The biggest barriers between God and us are often the ones we have internalized from what other people might see in us.
She thirsts for something she has not been able to find: “where then can you get this living water?” Jesus is speaking in a way that is confusing to her because she is taking him literally. She thinks he is offering her water when he thinks he is offering her life.
Lastly, she asks for what she desires from God: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” She is bold in her request. At the beginning from her encounter, Jesus asks for her help. Then, she asks Jesus for his.
To each of her desires, Jesus responds in the way she needs. No part of her past is hidden from his knowledge, nor is Jesus afraid of violating a social custom by speaking with her. He engages with her as someone worthy of his time and attention. She has dignity in his eyes.
She eventually leaves her water jug behind because she is given life instead. Her life is renewed from being open to God’s invincible love for each person. The love transforms her from a social pariah to a witness to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. Others come to believe through her preaching if not through her new way of being. Let us pray for nothing less than for ourselves and the whole Church during Lent: that we may be renewed in the love of Jesus to proclaim Him by our words, actions, and way of life.
What are your desires for Lent? How has God been responding to them, like Jesus with the Samaritan woman? What desires do you want to bring before the Lord?