Dear Family in Christ,
Here’s a little Old Testament trivia for you: most of us know Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, the great Patriarchs of the people of Israel. But did you know that they all met their wives in the same way? Well… the same place at least.
When Abraham sought a wife for his son Isaac, he sent his servant to find her. The servant stopped at a well to give his camels some water, and it was there that he met Rebekah, who became Isaac’s wife(Genesis 24); Jacob, who would later be called Israel, was watering his sheep at a well when he met Rachel, who became his wife(Genesis 29); and finally, Moses, after fleeing from Pharoah, sat down by a well where he met Zipporah, who became- you may have seen this coming- his wife(Exodus 2:15-17).
So it would appear that in a first-Century Jewish context, a well was a sort of ‘meeting place’- perhaps not so unlike what we might call a ‘pub’ or a ‘bar’(sometimes referred to as a ‘well’, but I digress). At any rate, it was certainly the place to go if you were a young man hoping to meet a young woman, share a drink, and ultimately find a spouse. It is within this context that Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
The people of Israel were anticipating a Messiah, but they were also expecting something more. They were waiting for the Bridegroom. The Song of Songs speaks of the relationship between God and His people as a marriage, and the prophet Isaiah proclaims that ‘your maker shall become your husband’(Isaiah 54:5). Jesus, the awaited Messiah, refers to Himself as ‘the Bridegroom’(Matthew 9:15, 25:1-12), and scripture refers to the Church as His Bride (Ephesians 5:25, Revelation 21:2). This is why we call marriage a Sacrament(a visible sign of an invisible reality); because it points to the reality of God’s love for us.
The woman who encountered Jesus at the well had looked for fulfilment in husband after husband, and still found herself coming up empty. Jesus, however, was no ordinary Bridegroom, and the relationship He invited Her to was greater than anything possible in this world. He Himself was the fulfilment of the desire of her heart- to be fully known and fully loved.
What about us? Aren’t we tired of looking for fulfilment in things that, like water from a well, only temporarily satisfy us? Don’t our hearts long for a peace and a joy that lasts? This is the heart of the Good News, the proposal that Jesus sets before us all. This is the relationship, the love, that we are offered, and it’s what we were made for. With St. Augustine we cry out, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord; our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
God love you,