Archbishop Fulton Sheen was preparing for a lecture in upstate New York. As part of his preparation, he went into one of the town’s barber shops for a haircut. The barber did not recognize him. Not long after the archbishop sat down, the barber asked him, “Are you going to that lecture tonight by Archbishop Fulton Sheen?” Archbishop Sheen nodded and said, “Yes.” The barber asked further, “Do you have a ticket?” Archbishop Sheen responded, “No, I don’t.” The barber then said, “Well, all the tickets have been sold, so you probably will have to stand.” In response to this comment, Archbishop Sheen said, “You know, it’s a peculiar thing that every time I go to hear that man talk, I always have to stand.”
In today’s gospel passage, “The Samaritan woman said to [Jesus], ‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Why did she say those words to Jesus? The Jews and the Samaritans had the same ancestors. At a point, there was a break: the Jews went to the South, while the Samaritans were in the North. The Samaritans intermarried with foreigners. As a result, the culture, the religion, and the language of the Samaritans were adulterated. So, even though they had same ancestors, the Jews and the Samaritans could tell each other apart based on how they worshipped, their vocabularies, and their accents, etc.
At that time, Jesus was traveling from one town to another with his disciples on foot. On that day, they must have covered many miles when it was about noon. They probably had had nothing to eat since morning. Their favorite food place was still a distance away. Jesus decided to catch his breath after a long walk. There was no better place to take a rest than at the famous well in town, named after Jacob. His disciples went ahead to buy some food for the group. Ordinarily, people did not frequent the well at that time of day, but there came a woman of Samaria, to fetch water from the well.
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Give me some water to drink, please.” The woman replied, “How dare you, a man, and a Jew, ask me, a woman, and a Samaritan for water? (Remember the hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. Even if his skin color, or facial features did not give him away as a Jew, as soon as he spoke, his accent must have revealed his Jewish identity).
Jesus then replied, “If you knew the real identity of the one talking to you, you would be the one asking him for something more important than the water you came to fetch.”
As the conversation continued, Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” She said, “I do not have a husband.” The rest of the conversation reveals that she was living with the sixth man in her life. When Jesus finally revealed his identity, the woman forgot about the water and her container, she went into the city to invite everyone to come experience the Messiah.
The conversation between Jesus and the woman took place at the well. The well in the Old Testament has been famous as a meeting point between future spouses. For example, Isaac and Rebekah found love at the well in Genesis 24; Jacob’s love story with Rachel began at the well in Genesis 29. Also, Moses and Zipporah found each other at a well in Midian (Exodus 2). Could there be an important message about marriage in this story? Why did Jesus ask her to go call her husband? Most likely, Jesus wanted to gradually lead her to her real husband. She had been with six men. Jesus came into her life as the seventh man. In biblical culture, seven stands for perfection. She moved from one man to another and did not find satisfaction until she encountered Jesus. There is no one who truly finds Jesus that can keep him to themselves. The joy of finding Jesus automatically turns you into a missionary. She immediately left her water jar, ran into the city, and began inviting everyone to come have their share of the Bridegroom, the Messiah, the Savior. Jesus came that divinity and humanity might be reconciled; that heaven might be wedded to earth. What a great privilege for the Samaritan Woman to be at the forefront of this reconciliation.
As human beings, we naturally evaluate everything we meet. We try to evaluate people and place them in a box. We build stereotypes around people and want to make sure they remain where we think they belong. But many people have missed their blessings in life because they were quick in evaluating others and placing them in a box. I wonder what Archbishop Sheen’s barber thought about himself if/when he later realized that the man he gave a haircut, was the famous Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The Samaritan Woman was quick to evaluate Jesus based on his gender, his appearance, his accent, and his lack of bucket. She quickly concluded that Jesus had nothing to offer her. Thank God, she later let Jesus get himself out of the box she placed him, and she found the true love of her life, the true living water, her salvation. My dearly beloved in Christ, what is that special blessing you have been asking from God? Why does it seem that God has not answered you? Could it be that the answer is right before you, but you misjudged it based on the packaging? Who have you placed in a box? Why not let them be? Why not let them out? What if they are the link to your blessing?