Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Gift of God

   “If only you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him instead and he would have given you living water.” If only you knew. Achingly beautiful and somehow disorienting. Hearing these words, this Word, we are reminded that Someone is very near,  but we may be somehow unaware of the gift and the presence. 
   Today Jesus comes to the well, that place of sacred encounter, a place that quivers with meaning. For this is the place of betrothal, where Jacob kissed Rachel his future wife and wept for joy. What will happen here? Jesus comes to this place of sacred communion, exhausted and very thirsty. And he meets a Samaritan woman with a history of infidelity.
 She senses immediately the inappropriateness of Jesus’ familiarity, “Why are you talking to me, a Samaritan and a woman?” She is female, Samaritan and promiscuous- the one who should be excluded, ignored by a rabbi, a prophet, certainly unworthy of the encounter.* Jesus should know better, but he does not; he does not back away, and neither does she. There is real lively exchange, real connection; and she gradually experiences Jesus’ self-revelation even as she reveals herself to him, and he tells her the truth about herself.* She hears the truth, receives it and is freed by it. And she recognizes Jesus as the “one who told me everything.” And this Samaritan woman of all people becomes disciple according to John’s criterion- for she puts everything aside to follow Jesus- she leaves her water jar and goes to tell. She has been understood, she has heard the truth, experienced the freedom and loving regard and she believes. She has been brought home to herself, to God, to her community. She knows, “This is He who was to come.” 
   “If only you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink…” What we hear in this Gospel is a kind of sacramental transformation of dialogue in which all that is said is symbolic, fraught with meanings that are bubbling over with heavenly effervescence. Back and forth, a mutual, marvelous exchange. Whose voice is whose? Who’s the thirsty one; who’s giving who a drink? Where’s the water? If only you knew.
   In as many words Jesus says to us: “If only you knew the gift of God, if only you knew that I am your Refreshment. I am the living spring who thirsts for you. And I am the well, the wellspring, for my heart was pierced for you on the cross. I am Life, your life. Without me you cannot live. And If only you understood that I cannot live without you. I AM speaking with you now, beside you, here within you. If only you knew it. Give me a drink; better still ask me for a drink. No wait, I am your drink; but wait it is you who are refreshment for me.”

* See Sandra Schneiders, Written That You May Believe. Photograph by Charles O'Connor.