John 4:7-15: 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus had this knack of doing conversational flybys. He would say something to someone at a profound and deeply spiritual level, and they would hear it nowhere near the level he was communicating. Jesus told the woman he had spiritual water that would take away an eternal thirst, and the woman thought Jesus was talking about never needing a well again. Right over her head. It is also possible that she understood what Jesus was implying, but was uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was headed, and decided to avoid the spiritual probing of Jesus’ inquiry.
Water holds an important place in the rituals of the Jewish people. Ritual washing was part of the spiritual preparation for participation in the community. Houses and synagogues included a mikveh, a pool in which one immersed their whole body to be cleansed from impurities and touching the unclean. As priests, the sons of Levi had to be ritually purified using water before they carried out their religious duties. Even when a Gentile converted to Judaism, his final act was to go through the immersion of the mikveh.
What is this living water the woman inquires about? What is this “eternal life” water that Jesus speaks of? It is the Holy Spirit, gifted to us at our baptism, a constant companion throughout our baptismal journey of death, resurrection, and new life in the Jesus way.
Prayer: God, pour out your Holy Spirit on our thirsty land, creating streams of living water in the dry ground of our lives. Wash away our sin and prepare us as inheritors of your glorious kingdom. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.