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Notes from Fr. Vitalis

The Encounter


Dear Parishioners,


Last Sunday, our gospel reading briefly recalls the experience of Jesus, who after in today’s gospel Jesus engages a woman in a dialogue that turns into a sound catechetical teaching moment. This unique encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well shows a tender but persuasive way to engage someone in the art of evangelization. Both were friendly and respectful of each other. They were open to listening and hearing each other.

It started with Jesus travelling through the dusty and dry plain of Samaria. Tired and thirsty, he sought shelter and rested beside the village water well. And behold, a woman came to fetch water from the well. Jesus initiated a conversation. He asked her for water, “Give me a drink.” Surprised by Jesus’ request the woman reminds him that a Jew doesn't talk to a Samaritan.

This usual encounter will change the entire village. It marks a new page for all. Jesus seems to be determined to abolish the enmity and hatred that has existed between these two groups. For the Jews and Samaritans were both descendants of Abraham, but they have allowed selfishness, greed, and discrimination to destroy their common ancestry heritage. They accused each other of being unfaithful to God and go as far as not having contacts with each other. That explains why the Samaritan was surprised by Jesus’ request.

On the other hand, Jesus was determined to break down the barriers between them. He reached out and tried to make himself understood. The woman did not shy away from the conversation. She was equally engaging and curious. She was thirsty too; unbeknownst to her she was also looking for directions. She got more than she could have imagined. Perhaps there was a reason why she comes to fetch water during the hottest time of the day when most people are resting. Perhaps her troubled history was the cause of embarrassment and public gossip. She decided to go only when very few people were there. Perhaps she was hiding and living in shame.

Our Lord Jesus offered her something far better than water; a fountain that provides eternal life. Also, she received Jesus’ respect and dignity. She quickly sensed that this young Jew must be a prophet or someone very special. She was willing to take the risk of conversing with this stranger.  If she gets to the fountain perhaps life may become easier.

Jesus was speaking figuratively, using well water as a symbol of a different kind of water that he will give to those who follow him. Saint Paul will speak of this water as grace, a love that has been poured into our hearts. Indeed, it is the Lord who takes the initiative and pours his favors on us.  God’s favor was not denied to us even when we are struggling with sin. Rather, God’s grace shines and illuminates us so that we overcome sin and turn away from it.

This woman did receive grace from speaking with Jesus. She became illuminated and she saw her sinful ways. She accepted Jesus’ invitation to conversion. She did not die of shame; she ran back to the village and invited others to come and hear Jesus. From that moment, she became a disciple and evangelizer. Her testimony brought salvation and healing to her people.

Like Moses, the Samaritan woman became the sign that points to the source of water. Not just any kind of water, but a fountain that is a wellspring of life.  Jesus surprised the Samaritans by reaching out. The woman was surprised by her special encounter and conversation with the Messiah. She surprised her folks by bringing them to Jesus, the source of life. The well became a meeting point for those who search for life. What about you? Has Jesus surprised you? Perhaps, let us surprise him with our openness and allow him to lead us.


Sincerely yours in Christ

Fr. Vitalis Anyanike