Encounters at the Well

Matthew Chicavich 3/27/23

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The Gospel of John paints the picture of the encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42). Scripture tells us that as Jesus left Judea he passed through Samaria on his way to Galilee. He came to a town called Sychar and sat down at a well by himself while his disciples went to find food. It was around noon. At this time and place, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman.   

Several aspects of this encounter already stick out as unusual. During the hottest part of the day, the well would normally be traffic free. Manual labor in the heat of the midday sun was avoided at all costs in ancient times. Yet, the Samaritan woman arrives right on time. It is the perfect setting for the encounter of God with His daughter.  

The Samaritan woman comes carrying more than empty water jugs. She shows up carrying the pain of her past and present ridicule. A weight that she endures daily. She chooses to experience the struggle of fetching water from the well in the heat in order to be alone and away from constant criticism and accusing eyes. Perhaps this is not a choice. Perhaps this is what her life has become. The Samaritan woman is an outcast.  

This is exactly where Jesus wants to meet the Samaritan woman: in her vulnerability, her struggle, in her pain. This is exactly where Christ wants to meet us.  

Lent is a period in which we have an immense opportunity to take advantage of the rich graces Our Father has to offer us. Lent invites us to journey to the well of our souls, where Jesus wants to meet us. It is a time to clear away all the dead leaves and brush that surrounds the well, these earthly things we put before Jesus. Lent calls us to remove the masks and fake facades we wear to protect ourselves from the pains of life. Jesus invites us to let go of the comforts onto which we desperately grasp, and instead, cling to him and receive his Love .

At the well, Jesus reveals Himself to the Samaritan woman as the Messiah and offers a drink that will satisfy all her longings: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”(Jn 4:14). We can conclude that the Samaritan woman experiences some sort of healing or conversion through her encounter with Christ. She has conversed with the Messiah and her first action is to preach to the very people she has been avoiding. 

All that the Samaritan woman carried to the well, has been left behind: her water jars, her self indictment, her woundedness. She is no longer ashamed of her past. The Samaritan woman has accepted God’s Love and identifies herself as a daughter of God.  

Lent provides us the road map to the well. The three Lenten tenets of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving point us in the direction of the meeting spot. As we willingly take on sacrifice and struggle, our eyes are more capable of recognizing Jesus’ Face and our ears are opened to more clearly decipher His Voice. Jesus journeys to the well and waits for us to bring him our empty jars so that He can fill them with the water that satisfies: His Love.

Matthew Chicavich teaches religion and physics at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and four children. He has a masters degree in theology and a bachelor’s degree in physics.

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