“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” — St. Augustine in the Confessions.
Let’s assume that everyone has read these verses, so we can talk about it in terms of what Jesus was concerned with when He spoke to the woman at the well. He uses all His responses to draw her into a topic much more profound than the mere water that she has come to draw–eternal life. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4: 13-14)
Jesus is concerned about the deepest concerns of human existence. He wants to satisfy our thirst for the ultimate meaning and purpose of life. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus offers faith in eternal life as the response to the fear of death.
This conversation with the Samaritan woman reveals an important aspect of coming to God in conversion. God knows us better than we know ourselves and more thoroughly than we are willing to admit to ourselves. For this reason, the process of conversion entails a thorough examination of conscience, an examination that becomes clearer in the light of Christ resulting in a deeper repentance.
Jesus reveals her life to her. (Jn 4: 17-18) Her response to His revelation is two-fold. She admits that she perceives that Jesus is a prophet. Secondly, she dodges the issue of her personal life of sin by alluding to a theological dispute between Jews and Samaritans about where to worship. Isn’t this just like us? Changing the conversation when anyone or Someone gets too close to the truth?
Let’s examine how Jesus answers her.
- In John 4: 21, Jesus addresses her question directly.
- In John 4: 22, Jesus states the truth about salvation history.
- In John 4: 23-24, Jesus talks about authentic worship. God will be worshiped in spirit and truth wherever people know the truth.
The woman redirects the conversation once more by speaking of the Messiah. Now, for the first time in the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly states “I who speak to you am He.” (Jn 4: 26)
Hearing this she runs back to the city telling her fellow citizens about Jesus. They come out to see Jesus. After a while, they come to believe in Him “because of His word.” (Jn 4: 41) The fruit of this visit can be seen in Acts 8: 1-25 when the deacon Philip and then the apostles Peter and John evangelize in Samaria.
Meditation: How do faith and charity require each other?
To my non-Catholic friends who were questioning that baptism was required to be called a Christian, I would like you to read Acts looking for the essential elements of Christian initiation: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion. As time permits, we will look at these various elements, so that you can determine if baptism is necessary for yourself.