Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Lenten Faith Sharing. March 9, 2010. The Woman at the Well. Ken Hughes SJ


Saint Mary of the Angels Lenten Prayer Service

March 9, 2010

“The Woman at the Well”

Ken Hughes, SJ


We call this story, “The Woman at the Well,” but I am suggesting another title: “The Empty Jar,” with a subtitle, “From Brokenness to Blessing.”


Two people, Jesus and a Samaritan woman arrive at a well.  He is tired, vulnerable, alone, knowing that his journey is moving to the moment when his body somehow will be broken.  The woman has been broken in relationship after relationship, broken by shame, broken by isolation.  They both thirst, physically and spiritually.  The immediate need is to quench their heat driven thirst.  But both are thirsting to be known for who they are.  Both are thirsting for love, thirsting for God.  This mutual thirst brings them together in an unusual honesty and openness between man and woman, between Jew and Samaritan.  This woman reveals so much of her thoughts, her beliefs, her life.  Jesus, in turn, reveals God’s dream of a oneness of worship in the Spirit and in truth, and He reveals himself. This is the only place in the Gospel where Jesus shares his secret name, his very identity, the name of God,  “I am.” 


As she moves through the conversation, the woman sees more and more that Jesus knows her and accepts her, and she begins to grasp who Jesus is.  Healing sweeps through her soul. A new spirit wells up in her and, emboldened by this spirit, she leaves her jar behind, and becomes an evangelist to her neighbors:  “Come see a man who has told me everything I have done.  Could he possibly be the Messiah?”


What is the symbol of the empty jar left behind here?  She, who was broken, now holds the life-giving water of Jesus within her very being and, now, brings this water to the community.  She has become a blessing for her people.   


From brokenness to blessing.  Who of us has not been broken in one way or another? – broken by sickness, broken by tragedy, broken by failure, broken by betrayal, broken by misunderstanding, broken by rejection? What have we done with the brokenness?   Have we covered it over, hidden it from the sight of God, from the sight of ourselves, from the sight of others?  If so, then blessings have been lost.  But, if we let the water of faith given by Jesus fill our being, we can then, like this woman, bring life-giving water to others. 


What is your experience?  I have met many deeply wounded people who are and bring abundant blessings to others.  I believe that my call to Jamaica many years ago came out of the ashes of the fire that destroyed our formation house at Shadowbrook in the Berkshires.  I believe that, after 27 years, my call to come home to Boston and to a new ministry came out of the ashes of personal burnout.  But it has taken personal hurt and rejection to transform my heart to become more understanding and compassionate.  It is when we are most empty that we can receive the most and give the most.  It is to Jesus we must turn.


For Reflection: 


  • What is the life-giving water which God wants to fill me with this Lent?


  •  What is the life-giving water that God asks me to bring to another?      



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