249. Quenching Christ’s Thirst (John 4:1-30)

“To show that he was not different from us, he undertook hard work, he went hungry and thirsty, he took rest and sleep, he did not shirk suffering, he revealed the Resurrection.” – St. Hippolytus

John 4:1-30: When Jesus heard that the Pharisees had found out that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John – though in fact it was his disciples who baptized, not Jesus himself – he left Judaea and went back to Galilee. This meant that he had to cross Samaria. On the way he came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied: ‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’ ‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered, ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied: ‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband,’ said Jesus to her, ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, I have no husband; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir,’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said: ‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know: for salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour will come – in fact, it is here already – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and, when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus, ‘I am he.’ At this point, his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Christ the Lord Passing through Samaria was not the only route from Judea to Galilee, but Jesus chose that route. He knew the bigger picture. He is always attentive to our needs, just as he was attentive to the needs of this woman and her countrymen. He never uses his knowledge and power to oppress and abuse, but only to amplify his love.

Christ is the Savior of the World, the Messiah, the long-awaited King greater even than Jacob, inheritor of the Promise and father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, so he tells this divorcee. He graces the Samaritan woman with one of the richest descriptions of himself and his work that appear in all the Scriptures. Why? Why tell so much to someone so insignificant? Because to him, she wasn’t insignificant at all. He wanted to be known by her, to give her hope, to save her. Ours is a Lord who wishes to shower us with his love, to fill us with the “living waters” of “the Spirit and truth,” and to “tell us everything.” This is the God in whom we believe; this is the Lord we serve.

Christ the Teacher Jesus was tired after his journey. He sat down by the well, thirsty, hungry, worn out. He was so thirsty that he skirted all social protocol and asked a Samaritan woman to give him a drink. But his tiredness doesn’t hold back his love. He had come to rescue the lost sheep – this was his mission. The Samaritan woman came to the well at noon, the hottest hour of the day. The other women of the village would have come in the cooler hours of early morning and evening. This one was obviously avoiding contact with her peers. Jesus certainly notices this, seeing in her eyes the anxiety that comes from an unstable life, but he also sees a spark of sincerity – her rocky path through life had worn down any façade of self-righteousness or self-delusion. She was a woman in search of answers and direction, though she had perhaps given up on finding them. Jesus sees all this in her eyes, and he can’t contain the love that overflows in his heart. He sees a soul in need, and he can’t help reaching out. This is why he came.

Jesus became one of us on purpose with a mission in mind. Because of our sin, we could no longer raise ourselves up to friendship with God; so God comes down to meet us. In the Incarnation of Christ and the Church (which is the extension of that Incarnation throughout history) God continues to come down to meet us. He addresses us, he walks with us, he humbles himself so much that he even needs us to give him a drink: “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). When the Samaritan woman encountered this God who was man, she was so transported with joy and so eager to spread the news that she forgot to bring back her water jar, the very reason she came to the well in the first place. Christ is the kind of friend who can make a real difference in our lives, one who can put things in perspective – if we let him.

Christ the Friend The Samaritan woman: I knew something was different about that man as soon as I came up to the well. He looked at me in a way that men didn’t usually look at me. I met his eyes for just a second, and then I looked away. But I wanted to look again. I had seen in his glance something that I had only dreamed about before: he knew me completely – he knew exactly what kind of person I was. Yet it didn’t bother him; in fact, it was as if he was glad to see me – not because he wanted anything from me, but because he seemed to want something for me, as if he were pure kindness. So when I looked away, because that was the proper thing to do, I was just dying to look at him again, to see that kindness in his eyes, to drink it in.

But then I thought, no, it’s only my imagination. And then he spoke to me. He asked me for a drink. And that was the beginning of a conversation that changed my life. I didn’t understand everything he told me, but I understood that he knew me – he knew me through and through and he still cared about me, he was interested in me. For him, I was important, not just because I could give him something, but just… well, just because. In his eyes, I mattered. Even then I knew that what he said about being the Messiah was true. How else could I explain the change that was already happening in my heart? It was as if a door had opened in my life where before there had only been a thick, dark, high wall protecting my broken heart. He freed me. I had to tell the others in the town. I knew he was the Savior, and I just had to tell everyone. I knew that as soon as they met him they too would realize it. And they did! Before that day I was just surviving; after that encounter with his words, his glance, his presence – from then on I began to live.

Christ in My Life Jesus, tell me everything. Tell me about myself and the meaning of my life; tell me about your love and your wisdom and your plan for my life. Lord, give me your living water – how thirsty I am! I have tasted your gifts; I know at least a little bit about what you are offering. I want to know more. I want to live closer to you. I want to lead others to your heart, just as you led me…

I believe in you, Lord, and in your eagerness to save souls who are stuck in sin and darkness. And I believe that you can save them, just as you turned this woman’s life around – just as you have turned my life around. Thank you for guiding me. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for giving me a mission in life…

What does it mean, Lord, to worship in “Spirit and truth”? You want it; you came to make it possible. To worship is to acknowledge your greatness, majesty, and goodness. You want me to do so not only in external ceremonies but in my heart, in my attitudes, in my choices. You want me to live as you would have me live, Lord, trusting in you, seeking your will always. Teach me to do so because this is what you desire…

Editor’s Note: The Gospel to be read this Sunday will also include all, or part of, John 4:31-42 which Father Bartunek reflects on in his next post…on line today here.

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.


Art for this post on John 4:1-30: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Christ and the Samaritan Woman, Jacek Malczewski, 1909, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

Profile photo of Fr. Bartunek

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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