Homilies | Posted 20.03.2017

Stonyhurst St Peter’s Church Homilies

“Sir, give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty.”  (John 4:15)

It is commonly said of Jesus that He was a man who crossed boundaries, and indeed broke them down.  And this certainly is the case in this Gospel.  Jesus is a man, she is a woman, but he ignores convention and talks with her; Jesus is a Jew, she is a Samaritan, but he bypasses the religious rivalry to engage with her.  Jesus is the Messiah, she is an everyday person, yet Jesus talks to her on an equal level.

Whilst all this is true, there is a much more radical movement taking place.  Jesus will not merely treat the woman as an equal, he will make her so.  For the fact is that these two at the well are anything but equal: the woman is barren, Jesus is fertile: he is the spring of living water; she must fetch and carry it.   The woman lacks the key quality she should have, a quality that Adam had named at the beginning of creation, where we are told “The man called his wife ‘Eve’ – ‘Life-giver’ – because she was the mother of all the living.”   The woman at the well is not producing life, at best she is hanging on to it.  She labours daily to hump water, but is forever thirsty; she has tried to find a life via no less than 5 husbands, but remains lonely.  When Jesus talks about living water, welling up from within, she perks up, because she feels that is what she should be, but knows so painfully that she is not.

The one sitting at the side of the well is offering to restore her to the true role of her creation: to be a person who brings forth life, rather than drags on in a painful, barren existence.  And so she sparks up.  Oddly she is not too bothered about the startling revelation of the man sitting there that he is the Messiah, she is more taken with the way he has understood her, and seen her need, her deficiency.  “Come and see that man who has told me everything I ever did,” she tells the Samaritans.

And clearly she has been changed by this encounter.  She has been made back into Eve – life-giver: she brings life to the local people, who on her enthusiastic message, come to believe in Jesus.  The woman at the well becomes like Mary Magdalene; she is the one who first proclaims to the Samaritans – ‘I wonder if this is the Christ’.

Jesus then has not come merely to affirm our equality with everyone else, like a politician declaring ‘we are all in this together’: that merely points out that we are all equally in the same mess.  No he has come to give us back our lost dignity, to make us who we truly should be, people who live, give life, not creatures who merely exist.