Commentary on the Gospel of
Both the first and the second reading of today point to the gospel reading, albeit in different ways. In the first reading the people’s longing for water prepares us to hear the Samaritan woman’s longing for a water that would spare her the need to keep returning to the well. In the second reading Paul’s words while we were still sinners provide a setting for Jesus’ engaging the woman in conversation while she was still a sinner. The gospel reading itself offers us several lessons, but I will focus only on two of them.
The first lesson is that sin can blind us to the recognition of our sins. The woman seems to have gone about her daily chores oblivious of the moral predicament of her life, yet perhaps not so totally oblivious. Women in that region went to draw water in the cool of the morning, yet here she is, coming to draw water about noon in the heat of the day. Was she avoiding the gossip of other women coming to the same well? Regardless, her conversation with Jesus reveals no awareness of her morally wrong situation. Sin can blind us and this can happen also to good people. King David is presented to us as a man after God’s own heart [1 Sam. 13: 14], yet it took the voice of the prophet Nathan, and even then talking to him in a circuitous way, to reveal to David his double sin of adultery and murder. It took the voice of Jesus to reveal to the woman the sinful situation of her living. Sin can blind us.
The second lesson comes from the town folks, who first come to Jesus after hearing the woman’s story of her encounter with him. They invited Jesus to stay with them and he indeed stayed there two days. Their interaction with him during those days led them to say to the woman: we no longer believe because of your word, for we have heard for ourselves... We ourselves may have been led to the Lord initially by someone else’s words and this can be a promising beginning. But in the last analysis our believing will need to rest on a personal experience of the Lord. We have today an abundance –superabundance?– of words about Jesus. What we need, more than words, is the testimony of believers, who know the Lord from more than just hearsay.