Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman. Throughout the Old Testament, wells are trysting places. Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac by a well; Jacob met his wife, Rachel, by a well.
Therefore, when St. John tells us that Jesus encountered a woman at Jacob’s well, we should expect that something like marriage is in the offing. The Samaritan woman stands, says St. Augustine, for the Church, which is the bride of Jesus.
The Samaritan woman tells Jesus that she is unmarried. Jesus responds with devastating clarity: “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.’” Think of the five husbands as five errant paths that the woman has taken. She has “married” herself to wealth, pleasure, honor, power, material things, etc. Or think of them as five ideologies or gurus that she has followed, hoping to find joy.
The point of the story is that Jesus is proposing marriage to the woman, to his bride the Church. Only in him will the human race find happiness, peace, and the “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”