By Brother Matt Schaefer, C.PP.S.
An unfortunate result of having regular and familiar Gospel readings at Mass is the tendency to take the obvious or surface meaning of the reading and go no further in our thoughts. Sometimes the meaning of a reading is quite clear and we don’t need to delve into it for context or particular interpretations that will fit our individual circumstances. But many readings offer the opportunity to dig deeper into the meaning of Jesus’ words. A great exercise is to put ourselves into the story. This gives depth to the reading and allows us to go beyond a surface impression to see the complexity of the parable and the wealth of nourishment for us in different circumstances in our lives.
In today’s reading of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well there is a lot to unpack. Where do you see yourself in this story? Are you the outcast woman going to the well alone who is shocked by this Jewish man talking to her? Are you this woman trying to understand the concept of water that conquers thirst forever? Are you one of the disciples who is shocked by Jesus talking to this woman and aware that you have missed out on something? Are you a disciple trying to comprehend Jesus’ command to harvest what has just been planted? Are you the woman daring to relate this encounter to her fellow Samaritans? Are you one of the Samaritans struggling to understand how this amazing encounter could have happened to this most unlikely of people?
When I meditated on this Gospel passage, I focused on the well. I imagined this well existing inside of me. This well is a depth, a union with God that has existed since I was created. The well contains the waters that connect me to Jesus through baptism and my mission as a disciple. All of us have this precious gift within us. But what keeps us from making the most of this gift? I’ve read spiritual writers who speak about seeking union with God through prayer, as if this were a goal to achieve. But we don’t have to search for this union; it already exists within us. The problem is that we don’t recognize it because of all the stuff we have covered it over with—our egos, anxieties, doubts, negative emotions, unhealthy behaviors, our feelings of unworthiness, our busyness, or the heaps of distractions that clutter our lives. Imagine an actual well covered with a junkyard of stuff. What good would it serve if the water could not be accessed? Live-giving water hidden from desperately thirsty people would be a travesty. And yet we carry within us untapped reserves of living water that would not only benefit ourselves but others.
During this reflective season of Lent, let us go inward to encounter God who is part of our very being. Let us drink in those living waters, refreshing, cleansing, and invigorating ourselves to carry out the mission to which Christ calls us.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Brother Matthew Schaefer, C.PP.S., is in ministry at the Dayton Region Seven parishes, which include Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.