Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, c 155
Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
The story of the encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at the well is an interesting one. People often ask many questions pertaining the setting of the story: why did Jesus decided to remain alone at the well during daytime, why did the Samaritan woman decided to go to the well during daytime when there is scotching heat. Those with rural experience know that the best time to go to the well is in the morning and later in the day towards sunset. Its rare to go to the well during the day when temperatures are high and it will illogical for Jesus to go to the well to seek someone to help him with water at this time of the day. Setting aside all these questions, our major focus is on the dialogue between Jesus and this woman at the well. This story serves as the perfect example of John’s use of misunderstanding as a literary technique. The two are speaking at different levels; the woman is at the physical level while Jesus is at spiritual level. First the woman did not understand who Jesus is and second, she did not understand what Jesus meant when he talked about living water. In ancient times they called spring water living water because it seemed alive as it bubbled up from the ground. At first glance, it might seem that Jesus told this woman about a nearby active spring. But Jesus made a play on words with the phrase “living water,” because He meant the spiritual water that quenches spiritual thirst and gives life. In the Old Testament living water is sometimes associated with Jehovah. He is called ‘the fountain of living waters in Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13. Lent period is a period to encounter the divine through fasting and prayer, but the question is; do we really know the God whom we worship? Are we not like a Samaritan woman who at first glance understood Jesus in his human nature as a mere jew not worth to give water? Lent period is like a well giving us the opportunity to be in dialogue with our creator. Let us use this opportunity to come to the well and dialogue with our creator.
O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, the boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior and the steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and to rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
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