Taken from the Gospel Commentary of St. John
by St. Augustine
John 4, 1-42:
1 When the Lord learned that the Pharisees had heard him say: Jesus makes more disciples and baptizes more than John 2 – though it was not Jesus himself who baptized, but his disciples –, 3 He left Judea and made his way back to Galilee. 4 He therefore had to cross the Samaria. 5 Therefore he came to a city of Samaria called Sicàr, near the land which Jacob had given joseph his son: 6 Here was jacob’s well. Jesus, therefore, tired of the journey, sat at the well. It was about noon. 7 Meanwhile, a woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus told her, “Give me a drink.” 8 Indeed, his disciples had gone into the city to provide food. 9 But the Samaritan said untie untie untid, “How come you, who are Judeos, ask me for a drink, that I am a Samaritan woman?” The Jews do not maintain good relations with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is he who says unthod you, “Give me a drink!”, you yourself would have asked him, and he would give you living water.” 11 The woman said unthod to him: “Lord, t you have no means of drawing, and the well is deep; So where do you have this living water from? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank it with his children and his flock?” 13 Jesus replied, “Whoever drinks of this water will be thirsty again; 14 But he who drinks water which I will give him, shall never again thirst, indeed, the water which I shall give him shall become in him a source of water which paws for eternal life. 15 “Lord, the woman told him, give me this water, that she may no longer be thirsty, and may not continue to come here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go and call your husband, and then come back here.” 17 The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus told her: “You said well “I have no husband”; 18 Indeed you have had five husbands, and what you have now is not your husband; in this you said the truth. 19 The woman replied to him: “Lord, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers have worshipped God above this mountain, and you say that Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” 21 Jesus says unthis, “Believe me, woman, the time has come when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know, we adore what we know, for salvation comes from the Jews. 23 But the time has come, and it is this, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; because the Father seeks such worshippers. 24 God is spirit, and those who adore him must worship him in spirit and truth. 25 The woman replied to him: “I know that the Messiah (that is, the Christ) must come: when he comes, he will proclaim all things unthreas. ” 26 Jesus told her, “It is I who speak untho of you.”
27 At that moment his disciples came, and they marveled that he was running with a woman. However, no one said to him: ‘What do you want?’ or: ‘Why are you talking to her?’ 28 Meanwhile, the woman left the pitcher, went into town, and said unto the people: 29 “Come and see a man who has told me all that I have done. May he be the Messiah?” 30 They then left the city and went to him.
31 Meanwhile, the disciples prayed uneathed him, “Shave, eat.” 32 But he answered, “I have to eat a food which you do not know.” 33 And the disciples wondered of each other, “Has anyone brought him food?” 34 Jesus said uno them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to do his work. 35 Don’t you say: There are still four months and then comes the harvest? Here, I say to you: Take your eyes off and look at the fields that are already blonde for harvesting. 36 And whoever reaps receives wages and reaps fruit for eternal life, that together he may enjoy it who sows and who reaps. 37 Here, for the saying is fulfilled: a sowing and a harvest. 38 I have sent you to reap what you have not worked; others have worked and you have taken over their work.”
39 Many Samaritans of that city believed in him by the words of the woman who declared, “He told me all that I have done.” 40 And when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stop with them, and he remained there two days. 41 Many more believed for his word 42 and said unead to the woman: “It is no longer for your word that we believe; but because we ourselves have heard and know that he is truly the saviour of the world.
The mysteries begin. Not for nothing does Jesus tire, not for nothing does god’s strength tire. We are faced with a strong Jesus and in front of a weak Jesus. Christ’s strength created us, his weakness recreated us. He created us with his strength, he came to look for us with his weakness.
1. It does not sound new to the ears of your Charity that the Evangelist John as an eagle flies taller than all, elevated himself above the caligin of the earth, until he firmly fixes his eyes in the light of truth. With the help of the Lord and through our ministry, many pages of his Gospel have already been commented on; following the order comes this step, which today has been read. What I am about to say with the Lord’s help will serve to remind many of you of what you already know, rather than to teach you other things. But your attention must not be less, even if it is a question of reminding you of things that are already known. It has been read – and we have in our hands the text that we must explain – that the Lord Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at jacob’s well. On that occasion he exposed great mysteries and forenounced sublime things. The soul that is hungry finds here what to feed on, the tired soul finds something to refresh itself.
2. When the Lord learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made more disciples and baptized more than John, – although he did not baptize Jesus himself but his disciples – he left Judea and returned to Galilee (Jn 4:1-3). There are no difficulties here, and we must not dwell on what is clear, so that we do not lack time to face and clarify what is obscure. If the Lord had known that the Pharisees were interested in the fact that he made more disciples and baptized more than John, with the intention of using it to follow him and become his disciples and be baptized by him, he would certainly not have left Judea, but he would have stayed there for them. Having known their bad intentions, as they had not been informed to follow him but to persecute him, he left Judea. He could certainly have stayed there, without getting caught by those, if he wanted to; if he had wished he would not have been killed: he might not have been born, if he had wished so. But, since in everything he did as a man, he wanted to offer an example to the men who would believe in him, that good Master left Judea not out of fear, but to teach us a lesson. Thus, a servant of God does not sin, if he takes refuge in another place in the face of the fury of his persecutors or those who seek to harm him; but if the Lord had not shown by his example that this way of acting is legitimate, that servant of God could have believed that acting in this way hurt.
Jesus still baptizes
3. It may perhaps be difficult for the Evangelist to say: Jesus baptized more people than John, and, having said that Jesus baptized, he immediately adds: although he did not baptize Jesus himself but his disciples. What does that mean? Perhaps John was first wrong, and then corrected himself by adding: although he did not baptize Jesus himself but his disciples? Or are not both things true, which Jesus baptized and did not baptize? He baptized, in fact, because it was he who purified from sins, and did not baptize, because it was not he who plunged into the water. The disciples exercised corporal ministry, he intervened with the power of his majesty. Could he stop baptizing him who never stops purifying? he of whom the same evangelist through the mouth of John the Baptist said: Is he the one who baptizes (Jn 1:33)? It is Jesus, therefore, who still baptizes, and baptizes as long as there is one to be baptized. He safely lingers the man to the lower minister, for he has a superior master.
4. Someone will observe: Christ baptizes yes spiritually, but not physically. As if someone could receive the sacrament of baptism, even in his physical and visible reality, as a gift from another other than Christ. Do you want to convince yourself that it is he who baptizes, not only through the Spirit but also through water? Listen to the Apostle: Christ loved the Church and offered himself for it to sanctify it, purifying it with the washing of water by word, and thus to make the Church appear before, all shining, without stain or wrinkle or anything like that (Eph 5:25-27). How does Christ cleanse his Church? With the water wash by word. What is christ’s baptism? Water wash accompanied by speech. Take away the water, there is no baptism; take away the word, there is no baptism.
5. After this introduction to the interview with the Samaritan, we see the rest, so full of meanings and full of mysteries. Now, it was necessary – says the Evangelist – for him to pass through Samaria. He then arrives in a samaria town called Sichar, near the farm jacob gave to his son Joseph. There was jacob’s well (Jn 4:4-6). There was a well. Now, a well is also a source, but not every source is a well. Where there is water that flows from the earth, for the use of those who draw it, let’s say that there is a spring there; if it is at hand and at the surface of the soil, we simply call it a source; if it is located deep, below the surface of the soil, then it is called a well, while still remaining a source.
6. Jesus, therefore, tired of the journey, thus sat on the well. It was about the sixth hour (Jn 4:6). The mysteries begin [ 47 ]. Not for nothing, in fact, Jesus tires; not for nothing does god’s strength tire; it is not for nothing that he who, when we are fatigued, refreshes us, when he is far away we break down, when he is close we feel supported. However Jesus is tired, tired of the journey, and he starts to sit down; you sit on the well, and it’s the sixth hour when, tired, you sit down. All this wants to suggest something to us, it wants to reveal something to us; calls our attention, invites us to knock. Open to us and to you the same one who deigned to exhort us by saying: Knock and will be open to you (Mt 7:7). It is for you that Jesus got tired on the journey. We see Jesus full of strength, and we see him weak; it is strong and weak: strong because in the beginning it was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; this was in the beginning with God. Do you want to see how strong the Son of God is? Everything was done through him, and nothing was done without him; and all effortlessly. Who, then, is stronger than him who has done all things effortlessly? You want to see his weakness now? The Word became flesh and lived among us (Jn 1: 1.3.14). Christ’s strength created you, Christ’s weakness has recreated you. Christ’s strength called to existence what it was not, Christ’s weakness prevented the lost of what existed. By his strength he created us, with his weakness he came to look for us.
His path is the flesh that for us has assumed
7. It is with his weakness that he feeds the weak, as the hen feeds his chicks: he himself has compared himself to the hen: How many times – he says in Jerusalem – I wanted to gather your children under the wings, like the hen his chicks, and you did not want it! (Mt 23:37). Don’t you see, o brothers, how the hen participates in the weakness of its chicks? No other bird expresses its motherhood so evidently. We have every day in front of the sparrow eyes that make the nest; we see swallows, storks, doves making the nest; but only when they are in the nest, do we realize that they are mothers. The hen, on the other hand, becomes so weak with her young, that even when the chicks do not go after her, even if you do not see the children, you realize that she is a mother. The lowered wings, the hispid feathers, the hoarse voice, in everything so resigned and neglected, is such that, even when – as I said – you do not see the chicks, you nevertheless realize that she is mother [ 48 ]. So was Jesus, weak and tired of the way. His path is the flesh he has taken on for us. Why, how could the one who is everywhere and who nowhere be absent move? If he goes, if he comes, if he comes to us, it is because he has taken the form of visible flesh. Therefore, since he has deigned to come to us by appearing in the form of a servant for the flesh assumed, this same flesh assumed is his path. So tired of the way, what else does it mean if not fatigued in the flesh? Jesus is weak in the flesh, but you must not be weak; from the weakness of him you must draw strength, for God’s weakness is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25). His weakness is our strength
8. Through this image, Adam, who was the figure of the one who was to come (Cfr. Rm 5:14), offered us the sign of a great mystery; indeed it was God himself who offered it to us in the person of Adam. Indeed, while he slept, he deserved to receive the bride that God had formed from his side (Cfr. Gn 2, 21); for from Christ, asleep on the cross, the Church would be born, when from the side of him hanging from the cross, struck by the spear, flowed the sacraments of the Church (Jn 19:34; cf. Homily 9, 10; 120, 2; Psalm Displays 103, 4, 6; 40, 10). Why did I want to recall the fact of Adam, o brothers? To tell you that Christ’s weakness makes us strong. That fact was a great prophecy of Christ. God could have taken away from the man a piece of meat to form the woman, and perhaps it would have seemed more convenient: with the woman, in fact, the weakest sex was created, and what is weak could have formed better with the flesh than with the bone, which of the flesh is stronger. Instead God did not take flesh to form the woman: he removed a bone, with it he formed the woman, and filled the place of the bone with flesh. He could have replaced the bone with another bone, he could, to form the woman, take not a rib, but Adam’s flesh. What did that mean? The woman was formed in the bone as a strong being; Adam was formed in the flesh as a weak being. Here is the mystery of Christ and of the Church: Christ’s weakness is our strength.
God is everything to you
9. But why in the sixth hour? Because it was the sixth age in the world. The Gospel calculates as before the first age of the world, which goes from Adam to Noah; the second, from Noah to Abraham; the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the Babylonian exile; the fifth, from the Babylonian exile to the baptism of John, with whom he begins his sixth age. Why are you surprised? Jesus came to earth and, humiliating himself, came to the well. He arrived tired, for he bore the weight of the weak flesh. It was the sixth hour, because it was the sixth age in the world. And he came to the well, for he descended to the bottom of our dwelling. For this reason it is said in the psalm: From the bottom I cried to you, O Lord (Ps 129:1). He sat down, because, like I said, he humiliated.
The Samaritan Figure of the Church
10. A woman arrives. He is a figure of the Church, not yet justified, but already in the process of being justified: this is the theme of conversation. She arrives without knowing anything and finds Jesus, who attacks discourse with her. Let’s see what and with what intention. A Samaritan woman arrives to draw water (Jn 4:7). The Samaritans did not belong to the Jewish people: they were foreigners, although they inhabited a nearby land. It would be long to tell the origin of the Samaritans; in order not to spread too much, perhaps neglecting what is necessary, you need only know that the Samaritans were foreigners. This statement of mine will not seem arbitrary to you, if you take into account what the Lord Jesus himself says about that Samaritan, one of the ten lepers that he had cleaned up, and who was the only one who went back to thank him: Have not ten been cleaned? Where are the other nine? Didn’t you find someone to come back to give glory to God outside of this stranger? (Lk 17, 17-18). It is significant that this woman, who represented the Church, came from a foreign people for the Jews: the Church would in fact have arisen from the Gentiles, who were foreigners for the Jews. Let us listen to ourselves in her, in her we recognize each other and in her we give thanks to God, for us. In fact, she was a figure, not the truth: she foreshadowed the truth that she herself became; for he believed in him who wanted to make him the figure of us. So, it comes to draw water. She had only come to draw water, as men and women usually do.
11. Jesus tells her: Give me a drink. His disciples had gone to town to buy supplies. The Samaritan woman, therefore, tells him: Why are you, who are Jewish, ask me for a drink that I am a Samaritan woman? The Jews, in fact, are not on good terms with the Samaritans (Jn 4:7-9). Here’s proof that the Samaritans were foreigners. The Jews did not use their receptacles at all; and the woman, who carried a container with her to draw the water, was astonished that a Jeude asked her for a drink, which the Jews did not usually do. But, in reality, the one who asked for a drink was thirsty for that woman’s faith.
God’s gift is the Holy Spirit
12. Listen, now, who is the one who asks for a drink. Jesus replied: If I knew God’s gift and who is who says “give me a drink”, you would have prayed to him, and he would have given you a living water (Jn 4:10). He asks for a drink, and promises a drink. He is in need as one waiting to receive, and is in abundance as one who is able to satiate. If I knew , he says, the gift of God. God’s gift is the Holy Spirit. But the Lord speaks to the woman in a still veiled way, only gradually penetrates into the heart of her. In the meantime, he instructs her. What could be more soave and amiable than this exhortation: If you knew god’s gift and who is the one who tells you “give me a drink”, would you have prayed to him, and he would have given you a living water? So far, he’s keeping it on the rope. In fact, it is commonly called live water that paws from the spring. Rainwater, which collects in ditches or tanks, is not called live water. It may be spring water, but if it has been collected somewhere and is no longer in communication with the spring, being cut off, it can no longer be called live water. Living water is called only the one that draws on the spring. Now, such was the water that lay in that well. How then could Christ promise what he asked for?
13. However, foreless, the woman exclaimed: Lord, you have nothing to draw, and the well is deep (Jn 4:1-11). As you can see, living water for her is the water of the well. You want to give me living water, but I own the pitcher to draw with, whereas you don’t. There’s live water here, but how do you give it to me? Although he meant something else and reasoned according to the flesh, he nevertheless knocked on the door, waiting for the Master to open what was closed. He knocked more out of curiosity than for the sake of truth. She was still to be mourned, not yet in a position to be enlightened.
14. The Lord speaks more clearly of living water. The woman had told him: Would you be older than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it, he and his children and his flocks? You can’t give me this living water because you don’t have a container to draw; maybe you want to promise me the water from another spring? Would you be more than our father, who dug this well and used it with his? May the Lord explain to us, therefore, what he means by living water. Jesus replied: Whoever drinks of this water will still be thirsty; but whoever drinks the water that I give him will not be thirsty forever: the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of gushing water for eternal life (Jn 4:12-14). The Lord has spoken more clearly: He will become in him the source of gushing water for eternal life. Those who drink this water will not be thirsty forever. Nothing is more evident that he promised not visible water, but mysterious water. Nothing is more evident that his language was not material but spiritual.
15. However, the Samaritan continues to understand the language of Jesus in a material sense. She is beset by the prospect of no longer having to suffer thirst, and believes that she can understand the Lord’s promise in this material sense. Certainly the Lord will extinguish our thirst, but he will do so when the dead rise again. The Samaritan, on the other hand, wanted what the Lord had once granted to his servant Elijah to be realized now, who for forty days suffered neither hunger nor thirst (cf. 1 Kings 19:8). He who had granted this for forty days, why could he not grant it forever? The Samaritan aspired to this: to no longer have any need, to no longer have to struggle. Every day he had to go to that spring, be charged, and return to the spring again as soon as the drawn water was exhausted; and every day the same effort, because that need, momentarily satisfied, did not die out. Aspiring only to no longer have to suffer thirst, pray to Jesus that he will give her this living water (Cfr. Jn 4:15).
16. But let us not forget that the Lord promised a spiritual gift. What do you mean, who drinks this water will still be thirsty? This applies to natural water, and it also applies to what it means. The water of the well is a symbol of worldly pleasures in their dark depth; it is from there that men draw them with the amphora of greed. Almost curved, they sink their greed in order to draw their pleasure all the way; and enjoy this pleasure that they have preceded by greed. Those who do not carry on greed cannot come to pleasure. Realize, therefore, that greed is amphora and pleasure and deep water. Well, when one comes to the pleasures of this world: eating, drinking, bathing, shows, carnal amplection; do you think he won’t be thirsty again? That is why the Lord says: He who drinks of this water, will be thirsty again; who instead drinks water that I will give him, will not be thirsty forever. We will be satisfied – says the psalm – with the goods of your house (Ps 64:5). So, what is the water that he will give us other than the one that has been said: Is it the source of life with you? And how can those who will be intoxicated by the abundance of your home be thirsty (Ps 35: 10.9)?
17. The Lord promised abundance and fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the One still did not understand; and because he didn’t understand, what did he answer? The woman tells him: Lord, give me this water so that he may no longer be thirsty and not come here to draw (Jn 4:15). The need forced her to fatigue, which her weakness could not bear. Oh, if he had heard the invitation: Come unto me, how tired and oppressed you are, and I will refresh you (Mt 11:28)! In fact Jesus told her these things, so that he would no longer get tired. But she still didn’t understand.
18. Wanting him to finally understand, Jesus tells her: Go, call your husband and come back here (Jn 4:16). What do you mean, call your husband? Did you want to give her that water through your husband? Or, because she could not understand, she wanted to train her through her husband, according to what the Apostle recommends to women: If they want to learn something, do they question their husbands at home (1 Cor 14: 34-35)? But the Apostle says: Question their husbands at home, where there is no Jesus who teaches; and then they were women, to whom the Apostle forbade them to speak in gatherings. But jesus himself was present here, and he spoke to a woman who was present: what was the need to speak to her through her husband? Perhaps she had spoken through a man to Mary, when she sat at her feet and welcomed her word, while Martha was all busy and murmured for her sister’s happiness (Cfr. Lk 10, 39-40)? So, my brothers, let us listen and try to understand what the Lord meant when he said to the woman: Call your husband. Perhaps even to our soul he says: Call your husband. Who can be the husband of the soul? Why not immediately say that Jesus himself is the true husband of the soul? Let us be careful, because what we are about to say can hardly be understood by those who are not attentive; let us therefore be careful to understand: the husband of the soul could be the intellect.
19. Jesus, therefore, seeing that that woman did not understand, and wanting her to understand, calls your husband, he tells her. That’s why you don’t understand what I say, because your intellect is not present; I speak according to the spirit, and you listen according to the flesh. What I am saying has no relation either to the enjoyment of the ears, to that of the eyes, nor to smell, nor to taste, nor to touch; only the spirit can grasp what I say, only the intellect; but if your intellect is not present here, how can you understand what I say? Call your husband, make your intellect present. What do you need to have a soul for? It’s not much, the beasts have it too. Why are you superior to them?
Because you have the intellect that the beasts don’t have. So what do you mean, call your husband? You don’t understand me, you don’t mean me; I tell you about God’s gift and you think of material things; you no longer want to suffer material thirst, while I am referring to the spirit; your intellect is absent, call your husband. Do not want to be like the horse and the mule, who have no intellect (Ps 31:9). So, my brothers, having the soul and not having the intellect, that is, not to use it and not to live in accordance with it, is a life as beasts. In fact, there is something in us that we have in common with the beasts, so we live in the flesh, but the intellect must govern it. The intellect holds from above the movements of the soul that moves according to the flesh, and wishes to spread effortlessly into the pleasures of the flesh. Who deserves her husband’s name? Who holds up, or who’s right? Without a doubt, when life is well ordered, the one who holds the soul is the intellect, which is part of the soul itself. The intellect is not in fact anything other than the soul; just as the eye is not a different thing from meat, being an organ of meat. But despite being the eye part of the flesh, it only enjoys light; the other members of the body may be flooded with light, but they cannot perceive it; only the eye can be flooded with light and enjoy it. So, what we call intellect is a faculty of our soul. This faculty of the soul that is called intellect or mind, is illuminated by a higher light. This superior light, from which the human mind is illuminated, is God. It was true light, which illuminates every man who comes into this world (Jn 1:9). This light was Christ, this light spoke to the Samaritan; but it was not present with the intellect, so that it could be illuminated by that light: and not only to be flooded by it, but to be able to enjoy it. In short, it is as if the Lord wants to tell her: he whom I want to enlighten, is not here; call your husband; use the intellect through which you can be enlightened, and from which you can be guided. So, realize that the soul, without the intellect, is the woman, and that the intellect is like the husband. But this husband will not be able to drive his woman well if he is not in turn ruled by those who are superior to him. The head of the woman is in fact man, the head of man is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 11:3). The man’s boss was talking to the woman, but the man was not present. It is as if the Lord wanted to say: Let your head come, so that he may receive his head; then, call your husband and come back here; that is, pay attention to me, be present; because, not meaning the voice of truth present here, it is as if you were absent. Be present, but not alone; come here with your husband.
20. The woman who had not yet called that husband, does not yet understand, and being absent her husband still reasons according to the flesh. She says: I have no husband. And the Lord continues in his language full of mystery. It must be borne in mind that at that time the Samaritan really did not have a husband, but she was live with an illegitimate husband, who therefore more than a husband was an adulterer. Jesus tells her: You said well “I have no husband”. But then why, O Lord, did you say: Call your husband? The Lord knew that the woman had no husband; and so that she might not believe that the Lord had told her: Have you said well “I have no husband”, for she had learned it from her, and not because she knew it because she was God, adds something which the woman had not said: You have had, indeed, five husbands, and what you have now is not your husband; in this you have told the truth (Jn 4:17-18).
21. And here too, with regard to the five husbands, it forces us to deepen the meaning of this fact. It is neither absurd nor improbable the interpretation of many, who believed that they could see in this woman’s five husbands the five books of Moses , also used by the Samaritans, who lived under the same Law and also practiced circumcision. But what follows is: what you have now is not your husband, it leads us to see in the first five husbands of the soul the five senses of the body. In fact, when one is born, before reaching the use of spirit and reason, he is guided only by the five senses of the body. The soul of the child only looks for or flees what he listens to, what one sees, what smells, that he tastes, that touches. He researches everything that sensits these five senses, escapes from anything that offends them. Pleasure attracts these five senses, and pain hurts them. The soul lives first according to these five senses as if they were husbands, because it is guided by them. And why are they called husbands? Because they’re legitimate. They were created by God, and by God given to the soul. The soul that is guided by these five senses and acts under the protection of these five husbands, is still weak; but when she has reached the age of discretion, if she accepts the most mature method and the teaching of wisdom, those five husbands will be told by her true and legitimate husband, who is better than the previous ones, and who will guide her better: he will guide her to eternity, educate her and train her for eternity. The five senses, on the other hand, do not direct us to eternity, but only to seek or escape temporal things. When, then, the intellect begun to wisdom, it begins to guide the soul, then it will know not only to clear the pit and walk on a safe road that the eyes can show to the weak soul; not only will it be able to enjoy harmonious voices by rejecting out-of-the-blue ones; or dabble in pleasant smells by rejecting unpleasant ones; or even let yourself be taken by what is sweet, offended by what is bitter; or let yourself be caressed by what is soft by defending itself from what is rough. The sick soul still needs all this. What, on the other hand, will be the function of the intellect? He will not teach to discern white from black, but the just from the unjust, the good from evil, the useful from the useless, chastity from impudence, so that he may love that and avoid this; charity from hate, so that you may grow that and escape from it.
22. This husband had not taken the place of those five husbands in the Samaritan. And where it does not take their place, the error dominates. In fact, when the soul acquires the ability to reason, one of the two: either it is guided by a wise mind or it is driven by error. The mistake, however, does not drive but leads to ruin. So that woman was still erring behind the five senses, and the mistake agitated her violently. That mistake, however, was not the legitimate husband, but an adulterer; therefore the Lord says unseeded to her: You have said well “I have no husband”; you had, in fact, five husbands. At first you were guided by the senses of the flesh; then you have reached the age at which reason must be used, and you have not reached wisdom, indeed you have fallen into error; therefore, after those five husbands, what you now have is not your husband. And if he wasn’t a husband, what was he but an adulterer? So, call, but not the adulterer, call your husband, so that with the intellect you can understand me, and the mistake doesn’t have to get you a false opinion of me. In fact, that woman still lived in error, aspiring to earthly water, after the Lord had already told her about the Holy Spirit. And why did she still live in error, if not because she was joined by an adulterer instead of her real husband? So, away, the adulterer who bribes you, and goes to call your husband. Call him, and come back here with him, and you’il understand me.
23. The woman tells him: Lord, I see that you are a prophet (Jn 4:19). Her husband’s starting to arrive, but he’s not quite there yet. He considered the Lord a prophet; and indeed, he was prophet; speaking of himself he had said: A prophet is despised only in his homeland (Mt 13:57; Lk 4, 24). And about him he had been told to Moses: I will raise them a prophet, in the midst of their brethren, similar to you (Dt 18:18). It is understood to be similar in terms of human nature, not in terms of the power of majesty. Let us therefore see that the Lord Jesus has been called a prophet. Therefore that woman is no longer so far from the truth: I see – she says – that you are a prophet. She began calling her husband and sending the adulterer away: I see you are a prophet. And she starts talking about what was a big problem for her. A lively discussion was taking place between the Samaritans and the Jews, about the fact that the Jews worshipped God in the temple built by Solomon, while the Samaritans, excluded, did not worship God in that temple. So the Jews thought they were better because they worshipped God in the temple. The Jews, in fact, are not on good terms with the Samaritans, who in turn said: How can you brag and consider yourself better than us, just because you have a temple and we do not? Did our fathers, who liked God, worship him in that temple? have they not worshipped him on this mountain where we live? So we are more righteous, that we pray to God on this mountain where our fathers prayed to him. One and the other contested with each other, deprived, of one and the other, of the knowledge of God because they had no husband: and swelled against each other, the Jews for the temple, the Samaritans for the mountain.
24. But what does the Lord teach the woman, now that her husband is beginning to be present? The woman says to him: Lord, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain and you say that the place where you must worship is in Jerusalem. Jesus tells her: Believe me, O woman… (Jn 4: 19-21). The Church will come, as has been said in the Song of Songs, she will come, and continue her journey, taking as her start from faith (Ct 4:8 – Seventy) [ 50 ]. He will come, to go further, and he can go no further than beginning with faith. And the woman, now present her husband, deserves to be told: Donna, believe me. There is now in you the one who is able to believe, because your husband is present. You began to be present with your intellect when you called me a prophet. Donna, believe me, because if you don’t believe, you won’t understand (Is 7: 9 – Seventy). So… woman, believe me, the time has come when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you don’t know, the others love what we know, because salvation comes from the Jews. But time comes … When’s he coming? and it’s now. What time? The one in which genuine worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; they will love it, not on this mountain, not in the temple, but in spirit and truth. The Father, in fact, wants his worshippers. Why does the Father look for those who love him, not on the mountain, not in the temple, but in spirit and truth? Because God is spirit. If God were body, it would have been necessary to worship him on the mountain, because the mountain is bodily; it would have been necessary to worship him in the temple, because the temple is material. Instead, God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:21-24). Offer yourself to God as a temple 25. It is clear what we have heard. We went outside, and we were brought back in. Oh if I could find, you said, a tall, lonely mountain! I believe, in fact, that God stands high, and he will be able to listen to me more easily if I pray to him on a mountain. And you really think you’re closer to God because you’re on a mountain, and that the sooner you can be fulfilled, as if you were calling for it up close? Of course, God dwells at the top; but look at the humble creatures (Ps 137:6). The Lord is near; but to whom? Maybe to those at the top? No: The Lord is close to those who have a contrite heart (Ps 33:19). That’s admirable! He dwells at the top, and approaches the humble: he is about the humble, and from afar he knows the superb. He sees the superb from afar, much less approaching them the more they consider themselves tall. And you were looking for a mountain? Descend, if you want to reach God. But if you want to ascend, ascend; just don’t look for a mountain. There is a psalm that speaks of ascents in the heart, in the valley of weeping (Ps 83:6-7). The valley is at the bottom. Try to gather inside you. And if you want to find a tall place, a holy place, offer yourself to God as a temple in your intimate. Holy, in fact, is the temple of God, which is you (1 Cor 3:17). Do you want to pray in the temple? pray within you; but first seek to be a temple of God, so that he may grant those who pray in his temple (Cfr. Psalms Displays 41, 17; 49, 21). 26. The hour comes, and it is now, when genuine worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The others love what we know, you worship what you do not know; because salvation comes from the Jews. The Jews are certainly privileged; but that doesn’t mean the Samaritans are reprobs. Consider those as the wall to which another one has been added, so that, pacified in the cornerstone that is Christ, they may be united together. The first is the Jews; the other, the Gentiles. They were far from each other, these walls, until they were gathered in the cornerstone. Foreigners, of course, were guests, and were strangers to God’s covenant (Cfr. Ef 2, 12-22). It is in this sense that Jesus says: We others love what we know. He says this by referring to the Jews as a people; he does not say this referring to all Jews, to the reprobi Jews; he says this referring to the people of the Jews of which the Apostles, prophets, and all those saints who sold their goods and laid their proceeds at the feet of the Apostles (Cfr. At 4, 34-35). God, in fact, did not reject his people, which he himself elected in advance (Rm 11:2). 27. Upon hearing this, the woman intervenes. He had already recognized the Lord as a prophet; but his interlocutor’s statements are more than a prophet. And notice what he’s answering. The woman tells him: I know that the Messiah, who is called Christ, must come; when he comes he will announce all these things to us (Jn 4:25). What things? Now the Jews are still fighting for the temple and us for the mountain; when the Messiah comes, he will repudiate the mountain and destroy the temple, and he will truly teach us to worship in spirit and truth. She knew who could train her, but she still did not realize that the master was already there with her. However, by now it was worthy of him to reveal himself to her. Messiah means ao4; aoted in Greek is Christ, and in Hebrew Messiah; and in the Punic language, ‘Messe’ means ‘ungi’. These three languages, Hebrew, Punic and Syrian, have many affinities between them. 28. So the woman says to him: I know that the Messiah, who is called Christ, must come; when he comes he will announce all these things to us. Jesus tells her: It is I, I who speak to you. The Samaritan called her husband, her husband became head of the woman, Christ became head of man (cf. 1 Cor 11:3). Faith has now restored order in women, and guidance to a worthy life. To this statement: It is I, I who speak to you, who could add this woman to whom Christ the Lord had wished to manifest himself by saying to her: Do you believe me? 29. Meanwhile, his disciples came and they were surprised that he spoke to a woman. They marveled that he was looking for one who was lost, he who had come to seek what was lost. They marveled at a good thing, they didn’t think badly. No one, however, said: What are you looking for? o: Why are you talking to her? (Jn 4:27). 30. The woman, therefore, left her amphora. After hearing: It is I, I who speak to you and after welcoming Christ the Lord into his heart, what else could he have done but abandon the amphora and rush to proclaim the good news? He threw away the greed and ran to announce the truth. Learn those who want to proclaim the Gospel: cast their idria into the well. Remember what I told you earlier about idria? It was a container to draw water; in Greek it is called idria because in Greek water is said as if we were saying: aquaio. The woman, therefore, threw away the idria that she no longer needed, indeed she had become a burden: she was now eager to queer only that water. Freed himself of the bulky weight, to proclaim Christ ran into the city to say to people: Come and see a man who told me everything I did! Discreetly, so as not to provoke anger and indignation, and perhaps persecution. Come and see a man who has told me everything I have done; won’t he be the Messiah? People then left the city and headed for him (Jn 4:28-30). 31. Meanwhile, the disciples prayed to him saying: Rabbi, eat. In fact, they had gone to buy supplies, and they had returned. But he said to them: I have food to eat that you do not know. The disciples, then, wondered: That someone brought him food? Is it any wonder that woman had not yet understood the meaning of water, since the disciples still do not understand the meaning of food? The Lord, who had seen their thoughts, as a teacher instructs them, and not with circumlocutions, as he had done with the woman who still had to call her husband, but openly: My food – she said – is to do the will of the one who sent me (Jn 4:31-34). Even towards that woman, his drink was to do the will of the one who sent him. For this reason he had told her: I am thirsty, give me a drink, with the intention of eliciting faith in her and drinking that faith and thus being able to assimilate it to her body: to her body that is the Church. This is therefore, he said, my food: to do the will of the one who sent me. 32. Don’t you say: Four more months and then comes the harvest? He was all unworked about his work, and he was already thinking about sending the workers. You calculate four months for harvesting, and I’il show you another harvest that’s already white-white and ready for harvest. Well, I say to you: look up and contemplate the fields: they are already white-whiten for harvesting. Then, he was preparing to send the reapers. In this case, the proverb comes true: ‘The sower is another and another is the reaper’, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. I have sent you to reap what you have not struggled for; others have struggled and you have taken over the fruit of their work (Jn 4:35-38). What does that mean? Did you send the reapers and not the seeders? Where did you send the reapers? In the field where others had already worked. In fact, where work had already been done, it had certainly sown; and what had been sown, was now ripe and waited only for the sickle and the trebbiatrice. Where was the reapers to be sent, then? Where the prophets had previously preached: in fact, they were the sowers. If they had not been the sowers, how could the news come to that woman: I know that the Messiah must come? Already this woman was a ripe fruit, and the messi were whiteding and waiting for the sickle. So, I sent you: Where? To reap what you have not sown; others have sown, and you have taken over the fruit of their work. Who were the ones who worked? They were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Read the account of their labours: in all their labours there is a prophecy of Christ; that’s why they were sowers. And Moses and the other Patriarchs and all the Prophets, how much they had to suffer by sowing in the cold! Now, in Judea the harvest was ripe. And a sure sign that the harvest was ripe was that so many thousands of men brought the proceeds of their sold goods and laid it at the feet of the Apostles (Cfr. At 4: 34-35), freeing himself from the weights of the world, and they set out to follow Christ the Lord. Really convincing proof that the harvest was ripe! And what followed? Of that harvest few grains were thrown and with them the whole earth was sown, and another harvest is rising that will be harvested at the end of the world. Of this mass it is said: Those who sow in tears, will meete in the gaudium (Ps 125:5). For this harvest will be sent as reapers, not the Apostles but the angels: The reapers – says the Gospel – are the angels (Mt 13:39). This harvest grows between the weeds, and waits for the end of time to be separated. But that other harvest, to which the disciples were first sent, to which the prophets had worked, was already ripe. And yet, o brothers, notice what has been said: Rejoice together the sower and the reaper. Distinguished over time was their effort, but the same joy unites them, waiting to receive together, as a reward, eternal life. Friendship as a vehicle for the Gospel 33. Many Samaritans in that city believed in him for what the woman had said, which attested: She told me everything I did. When the Samaritans went to him, they begged him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed in her word, and to the woman they said: It is no longer for what you have said that we believe; we have listened to him ourselves and we know that he is truly the Saviour of the world (Jn 4:39-42). Let’s dwell for a moment on this particular, since the song is finished. At first it was the woman who made the announcement, and the Samaritans believed in the woman’s testimony and begged the Lord to stay with them. The Lord held back two days, and many more believed; and after believing they said to the woman: It is no longer for what you have said that we believe; we have listened to him ourselves and we know that he is truly the Saviour of the world. That is, first they believed in him for what they had heard, then for what they had seen with their own eyes. This is still the case today to those outside the Church, and are not yet Christians: first Christ is announced to them through christian friends [ 51 ]; how it was proclaimed through that woman, who was a figure of the Church; come to Christ, they believe through this announcement; he stays with them two days, that is, he gives them the two precepts of charity; and then, much more firmly and more numerous believe in him as the true saviour of the world.
[ 47 ] Jesus’ “weariness” prelude to his passion where the work of our redemption will be carried out, which Augustine invites us to deepen. The Church takes up her words: Iam incipiunt mysteria every year in the run-up to Easter, when we are preparing to celebrate the highest mysteries of our salvation.
[ 48 ] It is an image dear to Augustine (Cf. Exhibitions on Psalms 58, 10). In First Christian Catechesis (10:15), he states: “Let us remember the hen: with slight wings he covers his births, and pigolanti recalls them with his nail voice”.
[ 49 ] It is Ambrose’s interpretation in Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke 14 and 20.
[ 50 ] Augustine cites the Greek version of the Seventy. The song presents many difficulties for translation, given the uncertainty of the Hebrew text, where it seems to indicate the distant and mysterious origin of the bride.
[ 51 ] The importance of friendship as a vehicle for faith is emphasized.