Visiting an Old Friend
Recently I visited an old friend whom I had met a few years ago while doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I came across her story in the first week of my journey through the Exercises, yet encountered her several times along the way. My most recent visit led me to a deeper understanding of Christ’s work in her life and my own.
In the fourth chapter of John’s gospel, we meet the woman of Samaria who fetches water from Jacob’s well in the noon day sun. Jesus comes upon this woman, who was alone at the well, and asks her for a drink of water. The woman is surprised by this and reminds him that, as he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan, it isn’t right that she gives him a drink of water. Jesus replies to her by telling her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10) Then, Jesus reveals to the woman that he is the Living Water, and that those who drink the water he gives will have eternal life welling up within them. The woman, revealing her faith, says, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty nor will I have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15)
In this exchange at the well, Jesus tells her, “I know you. I know who you are and what you have done, and yet, I have come to you anyway.”
He Knows Me?
My first reaction to the Samaritan woman’s experience with mercy focused on the trivial details of who she was and what she had done in her life. It wasn’t hard for me to consider myself in her place recalling all the times I encountered Christ in my life, and the many times I questioned his mercy for me. As I re-met her again recently, I reexamined the entire exchange. The story continues as the disciples return and find Jesus engaging with the woman, and it was in their interaction I realized the deeper work being done here.
In verse 34, Jesus says to his disciples, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.” Jesus understood his purpose, the will of God for him, was to be merciful. To love. Jesus is fed as we are fed, his giving to us is in turn fulfilling a need in him. This is how we know there is an exchange between us and God.
Exchange of Mercy
Jesus, extending himself to the woman who sinned before God and before man, gave his mercy so freely and so fully. He knew–he knew her deeply. He knew her so deeply that even if she had run away when he first asked for that drink of water, he would have found a way to heal her, to love her, and to minister to her. The woman, who was unafraid to admit who she was and what she had done in her life, heard the word of God and knew that she was saved.
Then, in a most remarkable way, Jesus uses her. He uses her to heal others. He uses her extend his mercy to others. “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done”…Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” (John 4:39, 41-42)
The Work of Mercy
Isn’t this how Jesus works in our lives? He meets us where we are, ashamed, broken, wounded. He heals us, forgives us, places his loving gaze upon us and restores us with new life. Then he turns us back to the world and sends us out to minister to others. He wants us to tell others of him. He wants us to share our brokenness and how we are bound up by him. He uses us, sinners though we are, to take part in the salvation of the world by bringing others to him.
This is the work Christ does with the Samaritan woman. This is the work Christ does with me. Each time I visit my dear friend in the scripture of the woman at the well, she brings me back to Christ. She reminds me of his knowing and forgiving. His mercy and love which I need so desperately.
What about you?
- Who are the people in your life who give witness to Christ’s mercy?
- Where has Christ met you recently?
- What wound is Christ revealing to you now that needs his healing today?
Want to go Deeper?