by Marian O’Brien, MTh
This Complete-A-Project Bible Search is based on John 4:5-42, the account of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.
* At the beginning of this Gospel reading, Jesus is alone at Jacob’s well in a territory called Samaria. His disciples have gone to get food. A Samaritan woman comes to the well, and Jesus asks her for a drink.
* To understand this Gospel’s lesson, it is necessary to understand how shocking Jesus’ behavior was at that time. Jesus spoke to a woman in public; something that was not permitted. Jewish men could only speak to a woman if she was a relative: a wife, a mother, or a sister. Even Jesus’ disciples were amazed that he spoke with a woman. More shocking still, this woman was a Samaritan and so was considered “unclean.”
* The woman, too, was surprised. She asked Jesus how he could ask her for a drink. Jesus did not answer her question, though; instead, he told her that if she knew who he was, she would be asking him for “living water.” Jesus used the symbol of living water because in the Old Testament the expression indicated divine life and grace (see Jeremiah 2:13 and Zachariah 14:8). The woman did not understand.
* The exchange between Jesus and the woman continued until the woman realized that Jesus was the Messiah that had been foretold. She believed in him because he was able to tell her specific details about her life that a stranger could not have known.
* The woman ran to the town to tell the story of the man who “told me everything I have done.” She said, “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” Based on her witness, many in the town believed in Jesus. The Samaritans urged Jesus to stay with him, which he did. After listening to him, the Samaritans came to believe that “Jesus is the savior of the world.”
* Although the Samaritan woman might seem to be an unsuitable witness, her witness contributes to the conversion of an entire town. No matter how unlikely we might think we are, we can be witnesses for Jesus.
—Guide and activity sheet by Marian O’Brien, MTh.
* Copies of the activity sheet [CLICK HERE]
* Bibles (The Search is based on the New American Bible.)
* Pencils or pens
1. We might think that we will make poor witnesses to Jesus because we don’t know enough about the Catholic faith or because we’re too young (or too old) or because of our past behavior—like the Samaritan woman. In this Gospel, Jesus reveals that none of that matters. What truly matters is faith.
2. A popular quote, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, goes like this: “Preach the gospel constantly. Use words if necessary.” Share this quote with students and explain how they can be witnesses for Jesus just by doing the right thing—especially when doing the right thing is difficult.
3. Share Background information with students. Some of the questions on the activity sheet are based on this material.
4. Have a student read aloud the far left-hand panel on the activity sheet.
5. Tell students that Jesus chose a very unlikely person to be a witness for him. Explain that Jesus understood that the woman he chose had something special to contribute to his mission. He knew that she could bring others to believe in him. Explain to students that today’s Gospel reading shows us that Jesus calls everyone, even youngsters like themselves, to spread the Good News.
6. Have students open their Bibles to John 4:5-42. Ask someone to read the passage aloud, then ask these questions: Why did Jesus choose the Samaritan woman to help him spread the news to her town? Why didn’t he ask his disciples to do that? (Answers: Samaritans despised Jews, so chances are the disciples might get thrown out of town. The woman was someone the people in the town knew; they would listen to her.) Jesus told the woman that he could give her “living water.” What did Jesus mean by “living water”? (Answer: The Good News that he is the Messiah.) Because of the witness (testimony) of the Samaritan woman, the whole town came to faith. Name ways that a young person your age might witness to the Catholic faith. (Stand up for someone the way Alice did in the story. Invite someone to come to Mass with you. Explain to a friend who is not Catholic how important the Eucharist is to you.)
7. Have students close their Bibles, answer the questions on the activity sheet, check their answers against the answers provided, and read the conclusion at the end of the activity.
Copyright 2014, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, July 2014.
Image Credit: Shutter Stock 17453506