This Lent, Leave Your Water Jar Behind

This Lent, Leave Your Water Jar Behind March 12, 2012
Refreshing water – this is what God is for our soul.

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” – John 4: 28-29

Sometimes we are so familiar with a Bible story that we miss out on the gems meant just for us at a certain moment in our lives. We read quickly or listen half-heartedly and assume because we know the plot that we know what God is trying to communicate. This Sunday’s Gospel story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well is one with which many of us are familiar.

As I meditated on the Gospel reading, I was struck by a sentence that I had never noticed before.

The woman left her water jar…

These words stayed with me throughout the day on Sunday as I chewed on their meaning for my life. I thought of what I knew about this Samaritan woman. She probably walked quite far to get to the well outside of her town. She was drawing water in the middle of the day, which may indicate that she was trying to avoid meeting the other women in the town, (perhaps some of her five husbands had belonged to someone else?) And yet, after her conversation with Jesus, she completely forgets why she made the trip out to the well in the first place. She leaves her water jar and rushes to the town.

When Jesus meets the woman at the well, the ancient reader of Scripture would have immediately thought of Jacob meeting his wife Rachel at a well or when Eliezer found a wife for Isaac at a well.  In Scripture, the well is a symbol of marriage.  You may wonder, what does it mean then that Jesus, a celibate man, met this woman with five husbands at a well? Where does the symbolism of marriage belong in this story? The answer lies in the fact that her soul, and all our souls, are made for divine union. Human marriage is a symbol of the union with God in heaven for which our souls are created. In a sense, the Samaritan woman is meeting her spouse, God, the spouse of her soul.

Can you watch my water jar while I run into town?

This is why the Samaritan woman leaves her water jar, her worries about earthly needs erased from her mind, as she rushes to tell others of the treasure she has found. Her soul knows that she has met her Creator, the being for whom she is created to love. Like the scene in the Gospel of Matthew, when Peter and Andrew leave their fishing nets behind, this woman is leaving her old life behind. She has become a follower of Christ.

Of course, this does not mean that after we decide to follow Jesus we will not have any doubts, or feel fear or anxiety. Even as the woman runs into town, she can hardly believe that she has met the Messiah. She says to the people in wonder, “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” Doubts are still swimming in her head. And yet, she leaves her water jar behind.

What basic, “necessary” things do we need to leave behind this Lent to become better followers of Christ?

Jesus, give us the grace to leave our water jars behind with you at the well. You know what we need and you want to give it to us. Help us to trust that you will take care of both our earthly and spiritual needs. Give us the courage to leave our water jars behind and give our entire lives to you, the being for whom we are created. 

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