Shortly before my ordination, I made my canonically-required retreat and began the first day by praying with the Gospel account of the Samaritan woman at the well. It seemed to me that reflecting upon this very personal encounter of one person with our Lord would make for a good start to the retreat, and I was not disappointed. For four one-hour periods of prayer, the Lord spoke to me in various ways through this passage. When I met with my spiritual director for the first time, I explained to him how rich my meditations had been and asked if he had any recommendations for where I might turn next in the Scriptures for the next four periods of prayer. “Why turn anywhere else?” he asked. “If you are meeting Christ in this passage, there is no need to look in another place.” And so it happened that for an entire week, four times a day, I joined the Samaritan woman and met our Lord at the well.
There is immense depth to this beautiful account handed on to us by Saint John. It speaks in a profound way to the kind of intimacy the Lord desires to have with each one of us. To each of us He says, “Give me a drink.” As it was on that day, so it is now; it is not His physical thirst that He desires to satisfy but His longing for communion with us. He longs to commune with us so that He can give us “living water.”
There is much we have in common with the Samaritan woman. We can be slow to recognize the Lord when He comes to us, and even after we recognize Him, we can misunderstand what He is asking. Even when He offered her the gift of living water, she responded, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?” Nevertheless, Jesus is patient with us and brings us along slowly until we know and trust Him.
Like the Samaritan woman, we are often slow to trust, slow to fully reveal ourselves to Christ. “Go call your husband,” He asks. “I do not have a husband,” she answers succinctly. Only when He probes the wound of her sinfulness – “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” – does she begin to open herself to Him. We can try to hide our sins, but, as Saint Augustine observed so astutely, “What is there in me that could be hidden from you, O Lord, to whose eyes the depths of man’s conscience is bare, even though I did not confess it? I might hide you from myself, but not myself from you.” (Confessions, X.2)
Lent is a time for us to seek deeper purification and conversion of heart. Let us, during the days that remain in this holy season, bare our souls to the Lord, even the ugliest part of our souls, the things we would rather hide. This is how we quench His thirst, and this is how we open ourselves to receive in place of our sins the gift of living water. This is what the woman sought when passed from one man to another, never satisfied, and it is what we seek when we attempt to fulfill our own thirst with anything other than the living water which Christ alone can give. In Him alone will we find living water, and we will never thirst again.
Father David Skillman is a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He had been the Associate Pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in St. Charles, Missouri since his ordination in 2009. In 2012, Father Skillman was appointed the Vice-Rector of Cardinal Glennon College and he serves as a Spiritual Director for Kenrick School of Theology in St. Louis. Father Skillman is a Certification student with TOBI and has attended numerous courses. You can access audios of Father Skillman’s homilies through: http://frskillman.podbean.com/