The woman we hear of today in the gospel (John 4.5-42) seems to me to be an admirable woman. We don’t know her name. She is a nameless woman. She is simply: ‘The Samaritan woman.’ This is a reminder of how women have so often been overlooked in history, taken for granted. Always there, enabling others, making life possible, holding families together. Quietly getting on with the job in hand.
She is a person of resilience. Take the fact, on the surface scandalous, that she has partnered five men in succession. But is this scandal? In the world of that time, it was difficult for a woman to survive own her own, especially if there were children to be fed. So in this case, we may surmise that a husband might have died. Men might have abused her and abandoned her. She has to find a partner and move on. She seems like a plucky woman. And when Jesus addresses her, she is sparky and yet respectful, able to converse confidently.
Look closely and you will see that she is a woman of faith. She knows its teachings. She knows about the Temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritan Temple on Mt Gerazim. She knows about Jacob and the patriarchs. Her faith is not only in teachings from the past, but she is open to God speaking her here and now, wondering if this stranger with all his insight might be the Christ.
Finally, this woman becomes an evangelist. She speaks to others about Jesus, tells them how amazing he is, invites them to come and listen to him themselves. In fact, many people in the town come to believe in Christ on the strength of her testimony, others come to believe because they take her at her word and go and listen to Jesus.
It’s quite a turn-around. As so often in the gospels, it is somebody on the margins who hears and understands God’s message.