Please take a few seconds to think about the teachers who made a difference in your life. If you're like me, I remember them not because of what they taught, but because of how they taught. Good teachers do more than lecture students and spoon-feed them raw data. Instead, they try to draw out from them an understanding of the material and an ability to relate that information to real life. By engaging them in the learning process, a good teacher not only teaches students what to learn, but teaches them how to learn.
Like a good teacher, Jesus did not get his point across with lectures or by assigning book reports. Instead he encountered people face to face and sought to draw faith from them.
In today's gospel, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. Under the hot, noontime sun, he sees an opportunity to draw faith from the well of this woman's soul. By speaking to her and asking her questions, Jesus guides her through a gradual understanding of who he is. At first, she recognizes him to be a Jew. When he offers her living water, she asks if he is greater than the patriarch, Jacob. Then, when Jesus tells her that she has had five husbands and that she is living with a man who is not her husband, she recognizes that he is a prophet. Finally, when Jesus tells her that true followers will worship in spirit and in truth, she asks him if he is the Messiah. Elated at her new discovery, she drops her water jug and runs off to the village to tell the people that she has found the Messiah. Like a good teacher, Jesus did not just tell her who he was, but revealed himself to her gradually in a way that she could take to heart.
But not only is there a change in the woman's understanding of who Jesus is, there is a change in the woman herself. Remember that Jesus told her that she had had five husbands and that she was living with a man who was not her husband. That's probably why she was at the well at the hottest time of the day, to avoid the disdainful stares of the other women in town. She was the town harlot, a public sinner, who lived as an outcast. But now that she had encountered the Messiah and come to believe in him, she went from being the town sinner to a herald of the good news. She leads the people from the village out to meet this man "who told her everything she ever did!"
We are now in our third week of Lenten prayer and sacrifice. Through our prayer, Bible study and works of charity we have sat at the foot of our teacher, Jesus, and learned from him. By his presence in our lives, we have come to a deeper understanding of who he is. We may know in our minds that Jesus is our Messiah, but to have it change our lives is another story. Like a good teacher, Jesus is patient with us. He knows it will take time for our understanding of him to penetrate our hearts and to make a real change. The important thing is that we keep going to the well, that we keep seeking out Jesus, that we keep learning from him. Jesus will not deny us the living water when we approach him with sincerity and humility.