Struggles at a Well (John 4:5-42)

by | Feb 22, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

Some of the traits which come out in the Samaritan woman as she interacts with Jesus at the noonday well could paint her as a hard-hearted and difficult lady. She snaps at Jesus, “You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan for a drink?” And then her sarcasm, “Do you think you’re greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us this well in the first place. You don’t even have a bucket.” But as the story moves on, her edge not only softens, but more to the point she provides some helpful lessons in how to come before The Lord in prayer.

First off, she perseveres. Rather than continuing her huff and walking off, she moves through her hesitations and remains in place to hear what he has to say.

Secondly, she not only stays put but begins to mull over His disturbing words, particularly his intriguing description of this new kind of water.

A third thing. She fights off feelings of shame at her numerous failed marriages and then continues to listen. Commentators tell us that her reason for coming to the well at high noon was to avoid the gossipy neighbors who met there in the cool of early morning.

Lastly, she is open to change. Absorbing Jesus’ lesson, she follows up in action — dropping her bucket, running into town and rousing her neighbors with the life-changing News this stranger at the well has been offering.

As in our own day we meet Jesus at the different wells of our lives, we note some useful lessons in prayer the woman provides.

Perseverance: in periods of coldness and discouragement, not growing  disheartened, but rather staying with our God-conversations in hope that light will eventually dawn.

Open mindedness and large heartedness: striving for greater receptiveness to Jesus’ words, actions and attitudes, for instance as they show themselves in the Sunday scriptures, the teachings of the Church, and in the faith-examples of people around us. This is allowing The Lord’s presence sink in, as water (His life giving water) seeps into a sponge.

Working through shame: not letting a sense of unworthiness shut down our communication with Jesus. God speaks to us through our lights and our darknesses, in both the grace and the sin that runs through our lives.

Readiness to change: the Samaritan woman dropped everything and ran in a new direction. Her turning gives us an action shot of conversion; i.e., challenging present attitudes and behaviors and then taking up new, Spirit-prompted ones.

Finally, spreading the News: letting people know not just our faith convictions but even pieces of our personal prayer experiences. This is to be an apostle, one sent out to proclaim the Good News that Jesus not only announces but that He Himself fully is.

Lessons surging up from a noonday well, from Jesus as the font of life and indeed also from the waters of our own baptism. Central is the prayer-assurance Jesus gives that pliable Samaritan woman: “I am He, the one who is speaking to you now.”


Similarly, Vincent writes to one of his struggling priests:

I sympathize deeply with you in the spiritual trials you are suffering… That is why, dear Brother, you should pray fervently that God will remove them far from you or give you the grace to make good use of them. His Goodness will doubtless do one or the other if, despite this dryness, you are faithful to your spiritual exercises. Furthermore, do not be surprised at seeing yourself in this state; you have it in common with many saints who have endured it. I hope it will soon change to fervor and cheerfulness…

(Volume: 5 | Page#: 631) To a Priest of the Mission, 14 June, 1656 added on 6/28/2011


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