Fr. Francis Scaria
“Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7). This is not another Lord’s Prayer but the same Lord’s another prayer. Jesus said it and wants us too to say it. In Lk 11:1, we find the disciples asking the Praying Lord, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples”. He readily taught them a prayer which has come down to us to be known as the “Lord’s Prayer”. Yet the Scripture teaches us that Jesus taught the Samaritan woman too to pray. This time the prayer was incredibly short, but with loads of explanation for her to comprehend the import of these few words.
Jesus, physically tired, hungry and thirsty, was standing at Jacob’s well. There was an inner thirst in him to ensure the salvation of human souls, for that was the very purpose of his coming into this world. At the well, he meets a woman spiritually tired, hungry and thirsty. She is probably unable to verbalise this inquietitude within herself. She carries an empty jar which she restlessly and helplessly fills time and again. Yet she finds the jar empty always. She seems to be always frantically scuttling between her home and the well – a well that used to provide water for both humans and animals.
Jesus thirsts for her soul – a thirst, the nature of which, he reveals when he says elsewhere, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49) He seems to bring down fire to warm up her cold soul with the warmth of the messiah. Just as a loving mother teaches her little child the first words of its life by pronouncing the word expecting the child to repeat, Jesus would want to impart to her the first spiritual lessons. He slowly but clearly, simply but meaningfully says, “Give me a drink! (Jn 4:7). He seems to expect her to repeat these very words back to him. Through some human syllables Jesus was making her utter divine syllables. The Samaritan woman knew human language and the human import of the words, “Give me a drink!” Yet Jesus wanted her to enter into the divine sphere and so he says, “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” (Jn 4:10). Jesus is thirsty not for the earthly water. Instead, he is thirsty for the seemingly unquenchable human souls.
The Spirit stirring her heart from within makes her understand that she had always been carrying dead water and that is why she had been running back and forth between her home and the village-well finding herself thirsty and the jar desolately empty. It is symbolic that the Samaritan woman finds the well ‘deep’ (cf. Jn 4:11). It is straining for anyone to draw water from such an earthly well. Jesus gives her these effortless magical words, “Give me a drink!”. It was just enough for her to utter these words before the divine and her jar would be filled not with ‘dead’ water but ‘living’ water to the brim. She does not need a bucket, nor a rope. The divine well too is deep but overflowing that she does not have to strain, but simply utter those magical words, “give me a drink!” Added to that, Jesus foretells that the water that he gives will become in her “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14). She had been living a wild life drinking water from the earthly well like the ‘flock’ of Jacob. Jacob’s sons and flocks used to drink from the same well. Jesus wants her to recognise her own real identity and dignity.
Nevertheless, Jesus also teaches her that unlike the animals, she is made in the image and likeness of the Loving Creator God. For his privileged creatures, God, who is greater than Jacob, Himself dug up unique spiritual wells. She does not any more need to drink with other animals, but approach the springs of living water with the Lord’s magical words and she would then never be thirsty again. With the joy of a mother who listens to the little child repeating her own words, Jesus now finds her repeating the Lord’s prayer – “give me a drink” (cf. Jn 4:15).
By now she learned the magical prayer but she had not yet become a magician. He shows her how to become the magician. She uttered the magical words but nothing happened, for she had not set the stage of her life for the performance. There were too many players on her stage and she could not relate to anyone properly or meaningfully. At the school of Jesus, she learned to rearrange her life with meaningful and lasting relationships; only then could her words gain their magical power, could her jar hold the living water. She gradually mastered the art of the spiritual magic and began to teach her neighbours and friends the magical prayer “give me a drink”. The Beloved disciple carefully notes : “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (Jn 7:37-38) Lord, give us today our daily drink!
MUSINGS : 1-25,