We have all heard the story of Christ’s encounter with the woman at the well many times. Christ comes into the town of Sychar in Samaria (northern Israel) hungry, tired and thirsty. He meets a Samaritan woman who, as we would say today, has “relationship issues.” This is a story of kind healing by Christ. We need to remember that Christian teachers for centuries have seen this woman as a metaphor for the people of God, and in fact the Church. This is a real event that St. John records for us, but he wants us to see the symbolism. She is a Samaritan and not of Israelite origin. Around 722 BC the Assyrian Empire invaded and conquered Northern Israel. They took the Israelites away to slavery and resettled five other captive peoples in northern Israel (2 Kings 17:20-30). These people were polytheistic, they were accustomed to worshiping may gods. The Samaritans adopted the religion of Israel, but never let go of their original beliefs, therefore, five husbands.
St Thomas Aquinas points out (Commentary on St John’s Gospel) that when Christ tells the woman, “the one you have now is not your husband” the one she is with is Christ but has not recognized Him as the Christ. She may well have been in a bad relationship, but the point St John is making is that this woman, representing the people of her time, does not recognize Christ as the Son of God. She starts to get the picture, “sir, I see that you are a prophet.” St Thomas reflects on her ultimate response. The woman, realizing that Christ is offering reconciliation with God, goes and brings her neighbors back to Him.
St. Thomas points out, and this makes a lot of sense, that this woman is a metaphor for the Church, broken and wounded humanity, healed by God and sent out to bring friends, family and neighbors to Christ. This is an example for us. We are called to witness to our Christian faith. Hopefully the people around us know we are Catholic. They see what we do and hear what we say. We witness most profoundly by the example of our lives. Another critical aspect of our discipleship is our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is like the relationship we have with the people we love. We go to a lot of trouble to spend time with, and communicate with the people we care about. Sometimes we act against these people and need to seek reconciliation. We need to treat our relationship with God the same way. We encounter God in a privileged way in the Eucharist at Mass. We need to talk to God every day in prayer. As human beings we know that if we want help we have to ask for it. Sometimes we all stray from the plan God has for us and we need reconciliation. We need to go to confession. God has a plan for the life of each human being, like the woman Christ meets at the well. That plan always involves a relationship with Him. Relationship always involves two people. We need to make sure we are working on our relationship with God.