Moses almost fell out with God for the sake of the people, and with the people for the sake of God. The dilemma faced by the most important prophet of the Old Testament is palpable: “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

It’s lonely at the top if we venture to do things alone! As for Moses, He had God on his side. He more easily saw God face to face and heard Him with his own ears than he could humour the fickle-minded and ungrateful Israelites. Here was a man who had led them out of an oppressive land, across the Red Sea, and into freedom; yet his countrymen pined for the fleshpots of Egypt!

That is what the story of humankind has on the whole been like, as a result of Original Sin. But God never gave up; He knew that doubting pointed to a seeking. He commanded Moses to strike the rock and quench the people’s physical thirst with water in abundance. For their moral guidance He declared the Ten Commandments on Mount Horeb. Yet, one day, there would be a New Moses issuing a new Commandment of Love and from His heart wounded by a lance on Mount Calvary would come forth blood and water.

In the Gospel (Jn 4: 5-42) Jesus offers the Samaritan woman that water of eternal life. At first, mistaking this for the same sparkling water of Jacob’s well that Jesus Himself had asked for, she was confused. But then, with that doubt dispelled, she goes to town, exclaiming, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Obviously, open to divine grace, she had welcomed the Word of God.

Meanwhile, Christ’s disciples kept urging Him to eat and satisfy His bodily need; they miserably failed to see the significance of what he had said: “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” What a far cry from the Samaritan, who had understood the Lord. The very perceptive St Augustine sees her therefore as the figure of the Church about to be founded. And the fact that it took a Samaritan woman to proclaim Jesus as that much-awaited Christ shows that none is a prophet in one’s own land, and the Church is destined to attract the whole wide world!

Of the Gospel as a whole, the Bishop of Hippo says: “The things spoken there are great mysteries, and the similitudes of great things; feeding the hungry, and refreshing the weary soul.”[1] Indeed, of great profit are his interpretations of the Lord’s weariness; the sixth hour; the five husbands; the fountain and the well; the living water; the harvest and the labourers, and, of course, of the woman herself.

God promises to reveal to us by degrees the treasures of His love, just as Jesus did to the Samaritan woman. He is the Bread and Water of Life, and woe to us who do not believe it. We, who are heirs to the Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, must not hang on to new-fangled notions; when we have the Living Bread and Water, of what use is it to pine for the flesh-pots of Egypt? And is it not downright stupid for us who have the Saviour of the World to dabble in a weird world of petty godmen who go about ruining souls?

Let us, then, turn a new leaf. Let us harden not our hearts but rather praise and thank God, bow down in worship and kneel before Him who made us (cf. Ps 94: 2, 6-7). Let us pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and be sure, as St Paul teaches in the Second Reading (Rom 5: 1-2, 5-8) that “since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”

Above all, like the Samaritan woman, let us give witness and proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Pope John Paul has said, “The Church is very much aware of the specific contribution of women in service of the Gospel of hope.” Further, calling on laypeople in general, he states that “[a]s full sharers in the Church’s mission in the world, they are called to testify that the Christian faith constitutes the only complete response to the questions which life sets before every individual and every society, and they are able to imbue the world with the values of the Kingdom of God, the promise and guarantee of a hope which does not disappoint.”[2]

[1] St Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate XV, § 1.

[2] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (28 June 2003), 41, 42