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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 4:1–12]

NOW it came to pass that Herod cast John the Baptist into prison; whereupon the Pharisees, taking courage, began to persecute the Saviour. He therefore left Judæa and returned again to Galilee. On His way He came to a town called Sichar, where there was a well dug by the patriarch Jacob (Fig. 70). Jesus, being weary from the journey, sat down by the well, whilst His disciples went into the city to buy provisions.

 

Fig. 70. Jacob’s well near Sichar to day. (Phot. Bonfils.)

But, behold, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her: “Give me to drink.” The woman, surprised, asked Him: “How dost Thou, being a Jew, ask of me to drink, who am a Samaritan woman!”

Jesus said to her: “If thou didst know the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, ‘Give me to drink,’ thou, perhaps, wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” The woman replied: “Sir, Thou hast nothing wherein to draw, and the well is deep; whence then hast Thou living water? Art Thou greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well?”

Jesus answered: “Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst for ever. The water that I shall give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life.” Then the woman spoke again: “Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst, nor come hither to draw.”

Thereupon Jesus said: “Go and call thy husband.” She answered: “I have no husband.” Jesus replied: “Thou hast said well; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast, is not thy husband.” The woman exclaimed: “Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet.”

“Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore.” Jesus said to her: “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father. The hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. God is a Spirit, and they that adore Him, must adore Him in spirit and in truth.”

The woman answered Him: “I know that the Messias, when He is come, will tell us all things.” Jesus replied: “I am He who am speaking with thee.”

Rejoiced at this news, the woman left her pitcher, and, going into the city in all haste, she said to the people: “Come out and see a man who has told me all my sins. Is not He the Christ!” Meanwhile the disciples, returning with the food they had purchased, pressed Jesus to eat. But He said to them: “I have food to eat that you know not of. My food is to do the will of Him that sent me.”

While He was speaking to His apostles, the Samaritans coming out of the city desired that He would stay there. He therefore remained two days teaching and instructing them. Many of that city believed; and they said to the woman: “We now believe not for thy saying, for we ourselves have heard Him, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.”

Jesus is the Messias and Redeemer promised by God. Our Lord made Himself known as such to the Samaritan woman: “I am He who am speaking to thee.”

Jesus is God. By revealing to the Samaritan woman the hidden secrets of her conscience, He manifested His omniscience.

Jesus is full of Grace and Truth. The living water which Jesus gives is His divine doctrine and grace. His doctrine and grace give supernatural and eternal life to the soul, which, without grace, is dead and in a state of mortal sin. The human soul thirsts for truth and happiness, and our Lord satisfies this thirst by His doctrine and grace. For he who believes in His teaching and lives in His grace, is at peace with himself and with God, finds joy and calm in the midst of the vicissitudes of this life, and will attain to the inconceivable happiness of heaven.

The Love of Jesus. In spite of His fatigue Jesus seized the opportunity to save the soul of the sinful woman of Samaria, and to reveal Himself to her and her townsfolk. His zeal for souls, that is, His ardent desire to save souls, made Him forget His hunger and fatigue.

The Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth. In what does this consist? We must first of all understand that both the question of the woman and our Lord’s answer refer to the public and common worship of God by sacrifices and ceremonial. Jews and Samaritans alike knew very well that God can be worshipped everywhere, but as regarded His public worship, laid down in the Law, the Jews affirmed that this could only be offered at Jerusalem, while the Samaritans affirmed the same of Mount Garizim. (In Old Test. XIII, we find the word “worship” used as synonymous with the offering of sacrifice, as when Abraham said to his servants: “When I and the boy have worshipped” &c.). Jesus told the woman that the dispute between the Jews and Samaritans would soon have no meaning, for the time had come when a new worship was to replace the old one. And this new worship was to differ from the old both as to place and kind, for 1. it would be universal, and 2. it would be a worship in spirit and truth. The ancient worship of the Jews was not a worship “in truth” but only “in shadows”, i. e. in types and figures of the truth. The truth is to be found only in that Sacrifice ordained by Jesus Christ, even the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the fulfilment of the typical sacrifices. The offering up of the spotless Victim of the New Testament is the highest act of worship possible, and is, indeed, the worship of God in truth. Again, the worship of the Jews was not a worship “in spirit”, but “in matter”, the sacrifices consisting only in things material which could not cleanse the conscience of the worshipper. In the new worship Jesus says that God will be adored in spirit, i. e. by a truly spiritual sacrifice and victim, the Lamb of God, and that the hearts of men will be cleansed and spiritually united to Him, by faith, hope, charity and contrition, and thus will a worship be offered worthy of Him who receives it. At the same time this new worship will not be limited to one place, but will be spread over the whole face of the earth, and in it will be fulfilled the words which God spoke through Malachias the prophet: “I have no pleasure in you and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down … there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation” (Old Test. LXXXII). All our Lord’s discourse on this worship of God in spirit and truth points to the spotless and unbloody Sacrifice of the New Law, in which the typical sacrifices of the Old Law have found their fulfilment. It also contains and exhortation to us to lift up our hearts to God, when we pray, and not to honour God with our lips only (Is. 29:13).

Correspondence with Grace. We can see by the case of the woman of Samaria, how only those obtain salvation who correspond with grace. The first or prevenient grace which the woman received, consisted in being asked by Jesus to render Him a service of love. She might have refused our Lord’s request and said: “You Jews are never civil to us: you hate and despise us!” But she overcame her national antipathy and proffered to our Lord the service He asked for. As a reward for this our Lord entered into conversation with her, and spoke to her about the wonderful living water. The woman believed that He could give her such water and asked Him for some. She was ashamed and humbled herself, when He reminded her of her sins. She accepted the hard truth, and acknowledged her guilt without excusing it. Then Jesus gave her further grace and revealed Himself to her as the Messias. She believed and with an apostolic spirit tried to spread the faith among her townsfolk.

APPLICATION. Do you honour God merely with your lips? Do you pray with attention? Do you worship God in spirit and truth by hearing Mass, and hearing it with devotion and with a clean conscience in the state of grace? Make a resolution to say all your prayers from this time forward with recollection and devotion.








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