sunday-of-the-samaritan-womanIn the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

This morning I would like us to begin with the first thing that our Lord said to the woman of Samaria – “Give Me to drink.” He then uses that simple request to offer her the water of eternal life. In our society today, so many people are so lost, oftentimes ourselves included. As human beings, we’re searching constantly for something to fulfill us. And so we fill our lives with whatever we can find to bring momentary peace and happiness – but many of those things just lead to a greater feeling of emptiness. This “lack,” this feeling of needing something more, is, in a sense, driving our generation nuts. People want something, need something, but they don’t know what it is. We need desperately to see Jesus as He is, and to allow Him to fill that existential gap in our soul. As we’ll see this morning, He doesn’t force Himself on us, our free will always remains intact, but Christ offers Himself to us. And only in accepting that offer (and everything “accepting” entails) can we be made whole, and partake of the living water of eternal life.

So back to our reading from the Gospel of St. John – we find Jesus alone, sitting at a well in Samaria while his disciples have gone to buy food in the city. As a particular woman comes to draw water, our Lord makes a request that ultimately changes her life – “Give Me to drink,” He asks. She’s initially overcome by shock, because the Jews and the Samaritans don’t have anything to do with one another; Samaritans were considered unclean by the Jews, so Jesus speaking with her was very unusual. Also unusual, very different from the pattern we normally see in the Gospels, our Lord speaks very plainly and very directly with this woman, telling her that if she knew who He was, she would ask Him for living water. I think we should take note of how directly our Lord speaks with her, not veiling His speech as He normally does – it shows us that He approaches each person in the way that’s best for that individual. The Samaritan woman is confused by this talk of Christ giving her water, since He has no way to get water from the well. He then explains: “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The Samaritan woman then makes the critical request: “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst.” She makes the request, even though she doesn’t fully understand what her request entails, she makes the request that Christ share His life with her, since He is the living water which quenches every thirst. Jesus then moves to open her eyes, to help her understand Who He is, and what this living water is really all about. In the course of the dialogue, our Lord not only tells her all about her own life, He also prophesies about the future, and at the end of the conversation He reveals to her that He is the promised Messiah. This meeting with Christ changes something in the Samaritan woman – she returns to her town and tells everyone that she has met a man who told her all she ever did, and she invites them to come and see the Christ/Messiah/Saviour. Our Lord then has a very similar conversation with the Apostles, reminding them again that the bread which satisfies every hunger is the bread which comes from God. This water and this bread are not physical, but are the deeply satisfying things of the spirit, ultimately, Christ Himself.

After the rest of His conversation with His Apostles (which we won’t look at today), we see the Samaritan woman returning with many people from her village. The fact that our Lord had been able to tell her all about her own life was enough that “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him.” The begged him to stay on and teach for two more days, and we read that “many more believed because of His own word. ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’.” The people heard of Christ, then they desired to meet Him themselves, and they were converted both by what was said about Him, and by their actual meeting with Him as well.

So how does this tie back in to where we began? Just as this Samaritan woman had a hole in her spirit that she was constantly trying to fill with things of this world (in her case, men/sex, with five husbands behind her and the man she was with not even being her husband), so also many of us and those around us have this hole. There is a part of our life (and really, all of our life) that only God can fulfill – we are created in His image and in His likeness, so our fulfillment can only be in and through Him. We can trace the path of our fulfillment in Christ, of our purification and salvation, by looking at the conversion of the Samaritan woman.

Here we see three basic steps: she heard Christ, she met Christ, and she followed Christ.

1st – as with the people of the town, the first step is always hearing about Christ. The townspeople heard about Christ, heard what He had said and done, and many believed. We have many opportunities to hear Christ – we hear in Him in the reading of the Scriptures, we hear Him in our holy services, we hear Him in our daily prayers, we hear Him in our reading of the lives of the Saints and other spiritual books. The other side of hearing Christ, of course, is sharing Christ, just as the Samaritan woman did. She shared what she had seen and heard, which starts this process of introduction to the Lord with a whole new group of people.

2nd – we meet the Lord. The life changing event for the Samaritan woman was meeting the Lord. When the people of the town heard about Christ, they desired to meet Him, they went to Him, and many more believed because they’d met Him. The Fathers of the Church teach us very clearly (as do the Scriptures) that it is not enough to know about Christ, or simply to hear about Christ. We also have to meet Him face to face – we have to experience the presence of Christ. Of course, we experience God in many of the same ways that we meet Him – Scripture, services, prayer, reading. The difference is that we learn cognitively in hearing, we learn by experience when we meet Him.

3rd – we find our fulfillment in Christ by following Him. All three of these steps are so tied together – we hear our Lord in those same places where we meet Him, and it is really only by following Him that we’re offered the chance to meet Him. How do we know that the Samaritan woman followed Christ? By her immediate response to Him. How do we follow Christ? We love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, we begin to follow God by doing those things He has commanded us to do. This is the ascetic life of the Church – denying ourselves and our own will, and doing those things that are pleasing to God. And we join to the ascetic life our life of prayer, because it’s really our life of prayer in God where that relationship is built up and sustained. We pour out our hearts to God, we ask His forgiveness and His healing, and after we learn to sit and to be quiet and to be with God, then we become material that He can work with, that He can speak with and mold and fill with His Holy Presence.

As St. Seraphim of Sarov was so famous for saying – this life is given to us for the acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit. This life is all about God, and it’s only by keeping our Lord firmly in front of us, as our only hope and our only gain and our only desire, it’s only by keeping Christ as our aim that we can ultimately be fulfilled in this life, which means being what God has created us to be.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Post by Matthew Jackson