1 When, therefore, Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was making more disciples and baptizing more than John 2 (although Jesus did not himself baptize, but his disciples did), 3 he left Judea, and went again to Galilee. 4 He had, however, to pass through Samaria. 5 He came therefore to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the plot of land which Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 This was the site of Jacob’s well. Jesus, tired from his journey, rested there at the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the town to buy some food.) 9 So the Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me, a woman of Samaria, for a drink?” (Recall that the Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans.)
549 Having set forth the teaching of Christ on spiritual regeneration, and that Christ had given this grace of spiritual regeneration to the Jews, he now shows how Christ gave this grace to the Gentiles. Now the salutary grace of Christ had been dispensed in two ways to the Gentiles: through teaching and through miracles. “Going forth, they preached everywhere”: this is the teaching; “the Lord cooperated with them, and confirmed the word with signs”. These are the miracles (Mk 16:20).
First, he shows the future conversion of the Gentiles through teaching. Secondly, their future conversion through miracles (v 43). As to the first, he does two things. First, he sets down certain matters preliminary to the teaching. Secondly, he presents the teaching and its effect (v 10). As to the first, he sets down three preliminary facts. First, what relates to the one teaching. Secondly, something about the matter taught. Thirdly, something about who received the instruction (v 7). As to the person teaching, the preliminary remark is about his journey to the place where he taught. Here he does three things. First, he gives the place which he left, that is, from Judea. Secondly, the place where he was going, to Galilee. Thirdly, the place through which he passed, Samaria. As to the first, he does three things. First, he gives the reason for his leaving Judea. Secondly, he explains certain facts included in this reason. Thirdly, he describes Christ’s departure from Judea (v 3).
550 The Evangelist says, When, therefore, Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, because he wished to show that after the Baptist had calined the envy of his disciples, Jesus avoided the ill will of the Pharisees.
551 Since we read: “All things were known to the Lord God before they were created” (Sir 23:29), and “All things are naked and open to his eyes” (Heb 4:13), it seems that we should ask why Jesus is said to acquire new knowledge. We must answer that Jesus, in virtue of his divinity, knew from eternity all things, past, present and to come, as the scriptural passages cited above indicate. Nevertheless, as man, he did begin to know certain things through experiential knowledge. And it is this experiential knowledge that is indicated when it says here, When Jesus learned, after the news was brought to him, that the Pharisees had heard. And Christ willed to acquire this knowledge anew as a concession, to show the reality of his human nature, just as he willed to do and endure many other things characteristic of human nature.
552 Why does he say: the Pharisees had heard that he was making more disciples and baptizing more than John, when this would seem to be of no concern to them? For they persecuted John and did not believe in him: for as Matthew says (21:25), when the Lord questioned them about the source of John’s baptism, they said: “ ‘If we say from heaven, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” “ Thus they did not believe in John.
There are two answers to this. One is that those disciples of John who had spoken against Christ were either Pharisees or allies of the Pharisees. For we see in Matthew (9:11, 14), that the Pharisees along with the disciples of John raised questions against the disciples of Christ. And so according to this explanation, then, the Evangelist says that When, therefore, Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, that is, after he learned that John’s disciples, who were Pharisees or allied with the Pharisees, had raised questions and had been disturbed about his baptism and that of his disciples, he left Judea.
Or, we might say that the Pharisees were disturbed at John’s preaching due to their envy, and for this reason they persuaded Herod to arrest him. This is plain from Matthew (17:12), where Christ, speaking of John, says, “Elijah has already come ... and they did with him whatever they wanted,” and then he adds, “so also will the Son of Man suffer from them.” The Gloss comments on this that it was the Pharisees who incited Herod to arrest John and put him to death. Thus it seems probable that they felt the same way toward Christ because of what he was preaching. And this is what it says, that is, the envious Pharisees and persecutors of Christ had heard, with the intention of persecuting him, that he was making more disciples and baptizing more than John.
553 This kind of hearing is described by Job (28:22): “Death and destruction have said: We have heard of his deeds.” The good, on the other hand, hear in order to obey: “We have heard him in Ephrathah” (Ps 131:6), followed by, “We will adore at his footstool.”
The Pharisees heard two things. First, that Christ made more disciples than John. This was right and reasonable, for as we read above (3:30), Christ must increase and John must decrease. The second thing was that Christ baptized; and rightly so, because he cleanses: “Wash me from my injustice” (Ps 50:4), and again in Psalm (7:7): “Rise up, O Lord,” by baptizing, “in the command you have given,” concerning baptism, “and a congregation of people,” united through baptism, “will surrond you.”
554 Then when he says, although Jesus did not himself baptize, he explains what he has just said about Christ’s baptizing. Augustine says that there is an apparent inconsistency here: for he had stated that Jesus was baptizing, whereas now he says, as though correcting himself, Jesus did not himself baptize.
There are two ways to understand this. This first way is that of Chrysostom. What the Evangelist now says is true, i.e., that Christ did not baptize. When he said above that Jesus was baptizing, this was the report received by the Pharisees. For certain people came to the Pharisees and said: You are envious of John because he has disciples and is baptizing. But Jesus is making more disciples than John. and is also baptizing. Why do you put up with him? So the Evangelist is not himself saying that Jesus was baptizing, but only that the Pharisees heard that he was. It is with the intention of correcting this false rumor that the Evangelist says: It is true that the Pharisees heard that Christ was baptizing, but this is not true. So he adds: although Jesus did not himself baptize, but his disciples did. And so for Chrysostom, Christ did not baptize, because the Holy Spirit was not given at any time before the passion of Christ in the baptism of John and his disciples. The purpose of John’s baptism was to accustom men to the baptism of Christ and to gather people in order to instruct them, as he says. Moreover, it would not have been fitting for Christ to baptize if the Holy Spirit were not given in his baptism; but the Spirit was not given until after the passion of Christ, as we read below (7:39): “The Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
According to Augustine, however, one should say, and this is the preferable, way, that the disciples did baptize with the baptism of Christ, that is, in water and the Spirit, and the Spirit was given in this baptism, and also that Christ did and did not baptize. Christ did baptize because he performed the interior cleansing; but he did not baptize because he did not wash them externally with the water. It was the office of’ the disciples to wash the body, while Christ gave the Spirit which cleansed within. So in the proper sense Christ did baptize, according to: “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit,” as was said above (1:33).
With respect to the opinion of Chrysostorn that the Holy Spirit was not yet given and so on, we might say that the Spirit was not yet given in visible signs, as he was given to the disciples after the resurrection; nevertheless, the Spirit had been given and was being given to believers through an interior sanctification.
The fact that Christ was not always baptizing gives an example to us that the major prelates of the churches should not occupy themselves with things that can be performed by others, but should allow them to be done by those of lesser rank: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 1:17).
555 If someone should ask whether Christ’s disciples had been baptized, it could be said, as Augustine answered Stelentius, that they had been baptized with the baptism of John, because some of Christ’s disciples had been disciples of John. Or, which is more likely, they were baptized with the baptism of Christ, in order that Christ might have baptized servants through whom he would baptize others. This is the meaning of what is said below (13:10): “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except his feet,” and then follows, “and you are clean, but not all.”
556 He then mentions Christ’s going away, he left Judea. He left for three reasons. First, to get away from the envy of the Pharisees, who were disturbed because of what they had heard about Christ, and were preparing to harass him. By this he gives us the example that we should, with gentleness, yield ground to evil for a time: “Do not pile wood on his fire” (Sir 8:4). Another reason was to show us that it is not sinful to flee from persecution: “If they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt 10:23). The third reason was that the time of his passion had not yet come: “My time has not yet come” (above 2:4). And there is an additional reason, a mystical one: he indicated by his leaving that because of persecution the disciples were destined to abandon the Jews and go to the Gentiles.
557 Then when he says, and went again to Galilee, he shows where he was going. He says, again, because above (2:12) he had mentioned another time when Christ went to Galilee: when he went to Capernaum after the miracle at the wedding. Since the other three evangelists did not mention this first trip, the Evangelist says again to let us know that the other evangelists had mentioned none of the matters he mentions up to this point, and that he is now beginning to give his account contemporaneous with theirs. According to one interpretation, Galilee is understood to signify the Gentile world, to which Christ passed from the Jews; for Galilee means “passage.” According to another interpretation, Galilee signifies the glory of heaven, for Galilee also means “revelation.”
558 Then he describes the intermediate place through which Christ passed; first in a general way, then specifically.
559 On his way to Galilee, Christ passes through Samaria; hence he says, He had to pass through Samaria. He says, had to pass, lest he seem to be acting contrary to his own teaching, for Christ says in Matthew (10:5): “Do not go on the roads of the Gentiles.” Now since Samaria was Genthe territory, he shows that he went there of necessity and not by choice. Thus he says, had to pass, the reason being that Samaria was between Judea and Galilee.
It was Amri, the king of Israel, who bought the hill of Samaria from a certain Somer (1 Kgs 16:24); and it was there he built the city which he called Samaria, after the name of the person from whom he bought the land. After that, the kings of Israel used it as their royal city, and the entire region surrounding this city was called Samaria. When we read here that Christ had to pass through Samaria, we should understand the region rather than the city.
560 Describing it in more detail, he adds, He came therefore to a city of Samaria, i.e., of the region of Samaria, called Sychar. This Sychar is the same as Shechem. Genesis (33:18) says that Jacob camped near here and that two of his sons, enraged at the rape of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, by the son of the king of Shechem, killed all the males in that city. And so Jacob took possession of the city, and he lived there and dug many wells. Later, as he lay dying, he gave the land to his son Joseph: “I am giving you a portion more than your brothers” (Gn 48:22). And this is what he says: near the plot of land which Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
The Evangelist is so careful to record all these matters in order to show us that all the things which happened to the patriarchs were leading up to Christ, and that they pointed to Christ, and that he descended from them according to the flesh.
561 Then when he says, This was the site of Jacob’s well, the Evangelist gives the material setting for the spiritual doctrine about to be taught. And this was most fitting: for the doctrine about to be taught was about water and a spiritual font, and so he mentions the material well, thus giving rise to a discussion of the spiritual font, which is Christ: “For with you is the fountain of life” (Ps 35:10), namely, the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of life. Likewise, the well symbolizes baptism: “On that day a fountain will be open to the house of David, to cleanse the sinner and the unclean” (Zec 13:1).
He does three things here. First, he describes the well. Secondly, Christ’s rest at the well. Thirdly, the time.
562 He describes the water source saying, the site of Jacob’s well. Here one might object that further on (v 11) he says this source is deep; thus it did not gush water like a fountain. I answer, as does Augustine, that it was both a well and gushed water like a fountain. For every well is a fountain, although the converse is not true. For when water gushes from the earth we have a fountain; and if this happens just on the surface, the source is only a fountain. But if the water gushes both on the surface and below, we have a well; although it is also still called a fountain. It is called Jacob’s well because he had dug this well there due to a shortage of water, as we read in Genesis (c 34).
563 Jesus, tired from his journey, rested there at the well. Jesus reveals his weakness (even though his power was unlimited), not because of a lack of power, but to show us the reality of the [human] nature he assumed. According to Augustine, Jesus is strong, for “In the beginning was the Word” (above 1:1); but he is weak, for “the Word was made flesh” (above 1:14). And so Christ, wishing to show the truth of his human nature, allowed it to do and to endure things proper to men; and to show the truth of his divine nature, he worked and performed things proper to God. Hence when he checked the inflow of divine power to his body, he became hungry and tired; but w4en he let his divine power influence his body, he did not become hungry in spite of a lack of food, and he did not become tired in his labors. “He had fasted forty days and forty nights, and was hungry” (Mt 4:2).
564 Seeing Jesus becoming tired from his journey is an example to us not to shrink from our work for the salvation of others: “I am poor, and have labored since my youth” (Ps,87:16). We also have an example of poverty, as Jesus rested there, upon the bare earth.
In its mystical meaning, this resting [literally, a sitting] of Christ indicates the abasement of his passion: “You know when I sit down (i.e., the passion), and when I rise” (Ps 138:2). Also, it indicates the authority of his teaching, for he speaks as one having power; thus we read in Matthew (5:1) that Christ, “sitting down, taught them.”
565 He indicates the time, saying, It was about the sixth hour. There are both literal and mystical reasons for fixing the time. The literal reason was to show the cause of his tiredness: for men are more weary from work in the heat and at the sixth hour [at noon]. Again, it shows why Christ was resting: for men gladly rest near the water in the heat of the day.
There are three mystical reasons for mentioning the time. First, because Christ assumed flesh and came into the world in the sixth age of the world. Another is that man was made on the sixth day, and Christ was conceived in the sixth month. Third, at the sixth hour the sun is at its highest, and there is nothing left for it but to decline. In this context, the “sun” signifies temporal prosperity, as suggested by Job (31:26): “If I had looked at the sun when it shone, etc.” Therefore Christ came when the prosperity of the world was at its highest, that is, it flourished through love in the hearts of men; but because of him natural love was bound to decline.
566 Next, we have a preliminary remark concerning the one who listens to Christ. First, we are introduced to the person who is taught. Secondly, we are given her preparation for his teaching.
567 The teaching is given to a Samaritan woman; so he says, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. This woman signifies the Church, not yet justified, of the Gentiles. It was then involved in idolatry, but was destined to be justified by Christ. She came from foreigners, i.e., from the Samaritans, who were foreigners, even though they lived in the neighboring territory: because the Church of the Gentiles, foreign to the Jewish race, would come to Christ: “Many will come from the East and the West, and will sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven,” as we find in Matthew (8:11).
568 Christ prepares this woman for his teaching when he says, Give me a drink. First, we have the occasion for his asking her. Secondly, the Evangelist suggests why it was opportune to make this request (v 8).
569 The occasion and the preparation of the woman was the request of Christ; thus he says, Give me a drink. He asks for a drink both because he was thirsty for water on account of the heat of the day, and because he thirsted for the salvation of man on account of his love. Accordingly, while hanging on the cross he cried out: “I thirst.”
570 Christ had the opportunity to ask this of the woman because his disciples, whom he would have asked for the water, were not there, thus the Evangelist says, His disciples had gone to the town.
Here we might notice three things about Christ. First, his humility, because he was left alone. This is an example to his disciples that they should suppress all pride. Someone might ask what need there was to train the disciples in humility, seeing that they had been but lowly fishermen and tentmakers. Those who say such things should remember that these very fishermen were suddenly made more deserving of respect than any king, more eloquent than philosophers and orators, and were the intimate companions of the Lord of creation. Persons of this kind, when they are suddenly promoted, ordinarily become proud, not being accustomed to such great honor.
Secondly, note Christ’s temperance: for he was so little concerned about food that he did not bring anything to eat. Thirdly, note that he was also left alone on the cross: “I have trodden the wine press alone, and no one of the people was with me” (Is 63:3).
571 Our Lord prepared the woman to receive his spiritual teaching by giving her an occasion to question him. First, her question is given. Secondly, her reason for asking it (v 9).
572 Here we should point out that our Lord, when asking the woman for a drink, had in mind more a spiritual drink than a merely physical one. But the woman, not yet understanding about such a spiritual drink, though only of a physical drink. So she responds: How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me, a woman of Samaria, for a drink? For Christ was a Jew, because it was promised that he would be from Judah: “The scepter will not be taken away from Judah ... until he who is to be sent comes” (Gn 49:10); and he was born from Judah: “It is evident that our Lord came from Judah” (Heb 7:14). The woman knew that Christ was Jewish from the way he dressed: for as Numbers (15:37) says, the Lord commanded the Jews to wear tassels on the comers of their garments, and put a violet cord on each tassel, so that they could be distinguished from other people.
573 Then the reason for this question is given: either by the Evangelist, as the Gloss says, or by the woman herself, as Chrysostom says; the reason being, the Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans.
Apropos of this, we should note that, as mentioned in 2 Kings, it was on account of their sins that the people of Israel, i.e., of the ten tribes, who were worshipping idols, were captured by the king of the Assyrians, and led as captives into Babylonia. Then, so that Samaria would not remain unpopulated, the king gathered people from various nations and forced them to live there. While they were there, the Lord sent lions and other wild beasts to trouble them; he did this to show that he let the Jews be captured because of their sins, and not because of any lack in his own power. When news of their trouble reached the Assyrian king and he was informed that this was happening because these people were not observing the rites of the God of that territory, he sent them a priest of the Jews who would teach them God’s law as found in the law of Moses. This is why, although these people were not Jewish, they came to observe the Mosaic law. However, along with their worship of the true God, they also worshipped idols, paid no attention to the prophets, and referred to themselves as Samaritans, from the city of Samaria which was built on a hill called Somer (1 Kgs 16:24). After the Jews returned to Jerusalem from their captivity, the Samaritans were a constant source of trouble, and as we read in Ezra, interfered with their building of the temple and the city. Although the Jews did not mix with other people, they especially avoided these Samaritans and would have nothing to do with them. And this is what we read: Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans. He does not say that the Samaritans do not associate with Jews, for they would have gladly done so and have cooperated with them. But the Jews rebuffed them in keeping with what is said in Deuteronomy (7:2): “Do not make agreements with them.”
574 If it was not lawful for the Jews to associate with Samaritans, why did God ask a Samaritan woman for a drink? One might answer, as Chrysostorn does, that the Lord asked her because he knew that she would not give him the drink. But this is not an adequate answer, because one who asks what is not lawful is not free from sin—not to mention the scandal—even though what he asks for is not given to him. So we should say, as we find in Matthew (12:8): “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath.” Thus, as Lord of the law, he was able to use or not use the law and its observances and legalities as it seemed suitable to him. And because the time was near when the nations would be called to the faith, he associated with those nations.
10 Jesus replied and said:
“If you knew the gift of God,
and realized who it is who says to you,
‘Give me a drink,’
You perhaps would have asked him
that he give you living water.”
11 The woman challenged him: “You, sir, have no bucket, and the well is deep. How then could you have living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it with his sons and his flocks?” 13 Jesus replied and said:
“Whoever drinks this water
will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water that I give,
will never be thirsty again.
14 The water that I give
will become a fountain within him,
leaping up to provide eternal life.”
15 “Lord,” the woman said, “Give me this water so that I shall not grow thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her: “Go, call your husband, and then come back here.” 17 “1 have no husband,” replied the woman. Jesus said, “You are right in saying you have no husband, 18 for you have had five, and the man you are living with now is not your husband. What you said is true.” 19 “Sir,” said the woman, “I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people claim that Jerusalem is the place where men must worship God.” 21 Jesus said to her:
“Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
22 You people worship what
you do not understand,
while we understand what we worship,
since salvation is from the Jews.
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father
in spirit and in truth.
Indeed, it is just such worshipers the Father seeks.
24 God is spirit,
and those who worship him
ought to worship in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said to him: “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called Christ; when he comes he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus replied:
“I who speak to you am he.”
575 Now (v 10), the Evangelist gives us Christ’s spiritual teaching. First, he gives the teaching itself. Secondly, the effect it had (v 27). As to the first, he does two things. First, a summary of the entire instruction is given. Secondly, he unfolds it part by part (v 11).
576 He said therefore: You are amazed that I, a Jew, should ask you, a Samaritan woman, for water; but you should not be amazed, because I have come to give drink, even to the Gentiles. Thus he says: If you knew the gift of God, and realized who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you perhaps would have asked him.
577 We may begin with what is last, and we should know first what is to be understood by water. And we should say that water signifies the grace of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this grace is called fire, and at other times water, to show that it is neither one of these in its nature, but like them in the way it acts. It is called fire because it lifts up our hearts by its ardor and heat: “ardent in Spirit” (Rom 12:11), and because it burns up sins: “Its light is fire and flame” (Sg 8:6). Grace is called water because it cleanses: “I will pour clean water upon you, and you will be cleansed from all your uncleanness” (Ez 36:25), and because it brings a refreshing relief from the heat of temptations: “Water quenches a flaming fire” (Sir 3:33), and also because it satisfies our desires, in contrast to our thirst for earthly things and all temporal things whatever: “Come to the waters, all you who thirst” (Is 5 5:1 ).
Now water is of two kinds: living and non-living. Non-living water is water which is not connected or united with the source from which it springs, but is collected from the rain or in other ways into ponds and cisterns, and there it stands, separated from its source. But living water is connected with its source and flows from it. So according to this understanding, the grace of the Holy Spirit is correctly called living water, because the grace of the Holy Spirit is given to man in such a way that the source itself of the grace is also given, that is, the Holy Spirit. Indeed, grace is given by the Holy Spirit: “The love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). For theHoly Spirit is the unfailing fountain from whom all gifts of grace flow”One and the same Spirit does all these things” (1 Cor 1251,1.). And so, if anyone has a gift of the Holy Spirit without having the Spirit, the water is not united with its source, and so is not living but dead: “Faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:20).
578 Then we are shown that in the case of adults, living water, i.e., grace, is obtained by desiring it, i.e., by asking. “The Lord has heard the desire of the poor” (Ps. 9:17), for grace is not given to anyone without their asking and desiring it. Thus we say that in the justification of a sinner an act of free will is necessary to detest sin and to desire grace, according to Matthew (7:7): “Ask and you will receive.” In fact, desire is so important that even the Son himself is told to ask: “Ask me, and I will give to you” (Ps 2:8). Therefore, no one who resists grace receives it, unless he first desires it; this is clear is the case of Paul who, before he received grace, desired it, saying: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Thus it is significant that he says, you perhaps would have asked him. He says perhaps on account of free will, with which a person sometimes desires and asks for grace, and sometimes does not.
579 There are two things which lead a person to desire and ask for grace: a knowledge of the good to be desired and a knowledge of the giver. So, Christ offers these two to her. First of all, a knowledge of the gift itself; hence he says, If you knew the gift of God, which is every desirable good which comes from the Holy Spirit: “I know that I cannot control myself unless God grants it to me” (Wis 8:2 1). And this is a gift of God, and so forth. Secondly, he mentions the giver; and he says, and realized who it is who says to you, i.e., if you knew the one who can give it, namely, that it is I: “When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth ... he will bear witness to me” (below 15:26); “You have given gifts to men” (Ps 67:19).
Accordingly, this teaching concerns three things: the gift of living water, asking for this gift, and the giver himself.
580 When he says, The woman challenged him, he treats these three things explicitly. First, the gift; secondly, asking for the gift (v 19); and thirdly, the giver (v 25). He does two things about the first. First, he explains the gift by showing its power. Secondly, he considers the perfection of the gift (v 15). About the first he does two things. First, he gives the woman’s request. Secondly, Christ’s answer (v 13).
581 We should note, with respect to the first, that this Samaritan woman, because she was sensual, understood in a worldly sense what the Lord understood in a spiritual sense: “The sensual man does not perceive those things that pertain to the Spirit of God” ( 1 Cor 2:14). Consequently, she tried to reject what our Lord said as unreasonable and impossible with the following argument: You promise me living water; and it must come either from this well or from another one. But it cannot come from this well because You, sir, have no bucket, and the well is deep; and it does not seem probable that you can get if from some other well, because you are not greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well.
582 Let us first examine what she says, You, sir, have no bucket, i.e., no pail to use to draw water from the well, and the well is deep, so you cannot reach the water by hand without a bucket.
The depth of the well signifies the depth of Sacred Scripture and of divine wisdom: “It has great depth. Who can find it out?” (Ecc 7:25). The bucket with which the water of wisdom is drawn out is prayer: “If any of you lack wisdom, ask God” (Jas 1:5).
583 The second point is given at, Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well? As if to say: Have you better water to give us than Jacob? She calls Jacob her father not because the Samaritans were descendants of the Jews, as is clear from what was said before, but because the Samaritans had the Mosaic law, and because they occupied the land promised to the descendants of Jacob.
The woman praised this well on three counts. First, on the authority of the one who gave it; so she says: our father Jacob, who gave us this well. Secondly, on account of the freshness of its water, saying: Jacob drank from it with his sons: for they would not drink it if it were not fresh, but only give it to their cattle. Thirdly, she praises its abundance, saying, and his flocks: for since the water was fresh, they would not have given it to their flocks unless it were also abundant.
So, too, Sacred Scripture has great authority: for it was given by the Holy Spirit. It is delightfully fresh: “How sweet are your words to my palate” (Ps 118:103). Finally, it is exceedingly abundant, for it is given not only to the wise, but also to the unwise.
584 Then when he says, Jesus replied and said, he sets down the Lord’s response, in which he explains the power of his doctrine. First, with respect to the fact that he had called it water. Secondly, with respect to the fact that he called it living water (v 14).
585 He shows that his doctrine is the best water because it has the effect of water, that is, it takes away thirst much more than does that natural water. He shows by this that he is greater than Jacob. So he says, Jesus replied and said, as if to say: You say that Jacob gave you a well; but I will give you better water, because whoever drinks this water, that is, natural water, or the water of sensual desire and concupiscence, although it may satisfy his appetite for a while, will be thirsty again, because the desire for pleasure is insatiable: “When will I wake up and find wine again?” (Prv 23:35). But whoever drinks the water, that is, spiritual water, that I give, will never be thirsty again. “My servants will drink, and you will be thirsty,” as said in Isaiah (65:13).
586 Since we read in Sirach (24:29): “Those who drink me will still thirst,” how is it possible that we will never be thirsty if we drink this water of divine wisdom, since this Wisdom itself says we will still thirst? I answer that both are true: because he who drinks the water that Christ gives still thirsts and does not thirst. But whoever drinks natural water will become thirsty again for two reasons. First, because material and natural water is not eternal, and it does not have an eternal cause, but an impermanent one; therefore its effects must also cease: “All these things have passed away like a shadow” (Wis 5:9). But spiritual water has an eternal cause, that is, the Holy Spirit, who is the unfailing fountain of life. Accordingly, he who drinks of this will never thirst; just as someone who had within himself a fountain of living water would never thirst.
The other reason is that there is a difference between a spiritual and a temporal thing. For although each produces a thirst, they do so in different ways. When a temporal thing is possessed it causes us to be thirsty, not for the thing itself, but for something else; while a spiritual thing when possessed takes away the thirst for other things, and causes us to thirst for it. The reason for this is that before temporal things are possessed, they are highly regarded and thought satisfying; but after they are possessed, they are found to be neither so great as thought nor sufficient to satisfy our desires, and so our desires are not satisfied but move on to something else. On the other hand, a spiritual thing in not known unless it is possessed: “No one knows but he who receives it” (Rv 2:17). So, when it is not possessed, it does not produce a desire; but once it is possessed and known, then it brings pleasure and produces desire, but not to possess something else. Yet, because it is imperfectly known on account of the deficiency of the one receiving it, it produces a desire in us to possiss it perfectly. We read of this thirst: “My soul thirsted for God, the living fountain” (Ps 41:2). This thirst is not completely taken away in this world because in this life we cannot understand spiritual things; consequently, one who drinks this water will still thirst for its completion. But he will not always be thirsty, as though the water will run out, for we read (Ps 35:9): “They will be intoxicated from the richness of your house.” In the life of glory, where the blessed drink perfectly the water of divine grace, they will never be thirsty again: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for what is right,” that is, in this world, “for they will be satisfied,” in the life of glory” (Mt 5:6).
587 Then when he says, The water that I give will become a fountain within him, leaping up to provide eternal life, he shows from the movement of the water that his doctrine is living water; thus he says that it is a leaping fountain: “The streams of the river bring joy to the city of God” (Ps 45:4).
The course of material water is downward, and this is different from the course of spiritual water, which is upward. Thus he says: I say that material water is such that it does not slake your thirst; but the water that I give not only quenches your thirst, but it is a living water because it is united with its source. Hence he says that this water will become a fountain within one: a fountain leading, through good works, to eternal life. So he says, leaping up, that is, making us leap up, to eternal life, where there is no thirst: “He who believes in me, out of his heart there will flow rivers “ that is, of good desires, “of living water” (below 7:38); “With you is the fountain of life” (Ps 3 5:10).
588 Then when he says, The woman said, he states her request for the gift. First, her understanding of the gift is noted. Secondly, the woman is found guilty (v 17). As was said, the way to obtain this gift is by prayer and request. And so first, we have the woman’s request. Secondly, Christ’s answer (v 16).
589 We should note with respect to the first that at the beginning of this conversation the woman did not refer to Christ as “Lord,” but simply as a Jew, for she said: “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me, a woman of Samaria, for a drink?” But now as soon as she hears that he can be of use to her and give her water, she calls him “Lord”: Lord, give me this water. For she was thinking of natural water, and was subject to the two natural necessities of thirst and labor, that is, of going to the well and of carrying the water. So she mentions these two things when asking for the water: saying in reference to the first, so that I shall not grow thirsty; and in reference to the second, and have to keep coming here to draw water, for man naturally shrinks from labor: “They do not labor as other men” (Ps 72:5).
590 Then (v 16), the answer of Jesus is given. Here we should note that our Lord answered her in a spiritual way, but she understood in a sensual way. Accordingly, this can be explained in two ways. One way is that of Chrysostom, who says that our Lord intended to give the water of spiritual instruction not only to her, but especially to her husband, for as is said, “Man is the head of woman” (1 Cor 11:3), so that Christ wanted God’s precepts to reach women through men, and “If the wife wishes to learn anything, let her ask her husband at home” (1 Cor 14:35). So he says, Go, call your husband, and then come back here; and then I will give it to you with him and through him.
Augustine explains it another way, mystically. For as Christ spoke symbolically of water, he did the same of her husband. Her husband, according to Augustine, is the intellect: for the will brings forth and conceives because of the cognitive power that moves it; thus the will is like a woman, while the reason, which moves the will, is like her husband. Here the woman, i.e., the will, was ready to receive, but was not moved by the intellect and reason to a correct understanding, but was still detained on the level of sense. For this reason the Lord said to her, Go, you who are still sensual, call your husband, call in the reasoning intellect so you can understand in a spiritual and intellectual way what you now perceive in a sensual way; and then come back here, by understanding under the guidance of reason.
591 Here (v 17), the woman is found guilty by Christ. First, her answer is set down. Secondly, the encounter in which she is found guilty by Christ.
592 As to the first, we should note that the woman, desiring to hide her wrongdoing, and regarding Christ as only a mere man, did answer Christ truthfully, although she keep silent about her sin, for as we read, “A fornicating woman will be walked on like dung in the road” (Sir 9:10). She said, I have no husband. This was true; for although she previously had a number of husbands, five of them, she did not now have a lawful husband, but was just living with a man; and it is for this that the Lord judges her.
593 Then the Evangelist reports that Jesus said to her: You are right in saying you have no husband, a legitimate husband; for you have had five, before this one, and the man you are living with now, using as a husband, is not your husband. What you said is true, because you do not have a husband. The reason our Lord spoke to her about these things he had not learned from her and which were her secrets, was to bring her to a spiritual understanding so that she might believe there was something divine about Christ.
594 In the mystical sense, her five husbands are the five books of Moses: for, as was said, the Samaritans accepted these. And so Christ says, you have had five, and then follows [understanding Christ’s words in a slightly different sense, as meaning:] and he whom you now have, i.e., he to whom you are now listening, i.e., Christ, is not your husband, because you do not believe.
This explanation, as Augustine says, is not very good. For this woman came to her present “husband” after having left the other five, whereas those who come to Christ do not put aside the five books of Moses. We should rather say, you have had five, i.e., the five senses, which you have used up to this time; but the man you are living with now, i.e., an erring reason, with which you still understand spiritual things in a sensual way, is not your lawful husband, but an adulterer who is corrupting you. Call your husband, i.e., your intellect, so that you may really understand me.
595 Now the Evangelist treats of the request by which the gift is obtained, which is prayer. First there is the woman’s inquiry about prayer. Secondly, Christ’s answer (v 21). Concerning the first the woman does two things. First, she admits that Christ is qualified to answer her question. Secondly, she asks the question (v 20).
596 And so this woman, hearing what Christ had told her about things that were secret, admits that the one who up to now she believed was a mere man, is a prophet, and capable of settling her doubts. For it is characteristic of prophets to reveal what is not present, and hidden: “He who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer” (I Sin 9:9). And so she says, Sir, I see that you are a prophet. As if to say: You show that you are a prophet by revealing hidden things to me. It is clear from this, as Augustine says, that her husband was beginning to return to her. But he did not return completely because she regarded Christ as a prophet: for although he was a prophet—“A prophet is not without honor except in his own country” (Mt 13:57)—he was more than a prophet, because he produces prophets: “Wisdom produces friends of God and prophets” (Wis 7:27)
597 Then she asks her question about prayer, saying: Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people claim that Jerusalern is the place where men must worship God. Here we should admire the woman’s diligence and attention: for women are considered curious and unproductive, and not only unproductive, but also lovers of ease (1 Tim 5), whereas she did not ask Christ about worldly affairs, or about the future, but about the things of God, in keeping with the advice, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Mt 6:33)
She first asks a question about a matter frequently discussed in her country, that is, about the place to pray; this was the subject of argument between Jews and Samaritans. She says, Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people say. We should mention that the Samaritans, worshiping God according to the precepts of the law, built a temple in which to adore him; and they did not go to Jerusalem where the Jews interfered with them. They built their temple on Mount Gerizim, while the Jews built their temple on Mount Sion. The question they debated was which of these places was the more fitting place of prayer; and each presented reasons for its own side. The Samaritans said that Mount Gerizim was more fitting, because their ancestors worshiped the Lord there. So she says, Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain.
598 How can this woman say, our ancestors, since the Samaritans were not descended from lsrael? The answer, according to Chrysostom, is that some claim that Abraham offered his son on that mountain; but others claim that is was on Mount Zion. Or, we could say that our ancestors means Jacob and his sons, who as stated in Genesis (33) and as mentioned before, lived in Shechem, which is near Mount Gerizim, and who probably worshiped the Lord there on that mountain. Or it could be said that the children of Israel worshiped on this mountain when Moses ordered them to ascend Mount Gerizim that he might bless those who observed God’s precepts, as recorded in Deuteronorny (6). And she calls them her ancestors either because the Samaritains observed the law given to the children of Israel, or because the Samaritans were now living in the land of Israel, as said before.
The Jews said that the place to worship was in Jerusalem, by command of the Lord, who, had said: “Take care not to offer your holocausts in every place, but offer them in the place the Lord will choose” (Dt 12:13). At first, this place of prayer was in Shiloh, and then after, on the authority of Solomon and the prophet Nathan, the arc was taken from Shiloh to Jerusalem, and it was there the temple was built: so we read: “He left the tabernacle in Shiloh,” and a few verses later, “But he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved” (Ps 77:60). Thus the Samaritans appealed to the authority of the patriarchs, and the Jews appealed to the authority of the prophets, whom the Samaritans did not accept. This is the issue the woman raises. It is not surprising that she was taught about this, for it often happens in places where there are differences in beliefs that even the simple people are instructed about them. Because the Samaritans were continually arguing with the Jews over this, it came to the knowledge of the women and ordinary people.
599 Christ’s answer is now set down (v 21). First he distinguishes three types of prayer. Secondly, he compares them to each other (v 22).
600 As to the first, he first of all gains the woman’s attention, to indicate that he was about to say something important, saying, Believe me, and have faith, for faith is always necessary: “To come to God, one must believe” (Heb 11:6); “If you do not believe, you will not understand” (Is 7:9).
Secondly, he mentions the three kinds of worship: two of these were already being practiced, and the third was to come. Of the two that were current, one was practiced by the Samaritans, who worshiped on Mount Gerizini-, he refers to this when he says, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain, of Gerizim. The other way was that of the Jews, who prayed on Mount Zion; and he refers to this when he says, nor in Jerusalem.
The third type of worship was to come, and it was different from the other two. Christ alludes to this by excluding the other two: for if the hour is coming when they will no longer worship on Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem, then clearly the third type to which Christ refers will be a worship that does away with the other two. For if someone wishes to unite two people, it is necessary to eliminate that over which they disagree, and give them something in common on which they will agree. And so Christ, wishing to unite the Jews and Gentiles, eliminated the observances of the Jews and the idolatry of the Gentiles; for these two were like a wall separating the peoples. And he made the two people one: “He is our peace, he who has made the two of us one” (Eph 2:14). Thus the ritual observances [of the Jews] and the idolatry of the Gentiles were abolished, and the true worship of God established by Christ.
601 As for the mystical sense, and according to Origen, the three types of worship are three kinds of participation in divine wisdom. Some participate in it under a dark cloud of error, and these adore on the mountain: for every error springs from pride: “I am against you, destroying mountain” (Jer 51:25). Others participate in divine wisdom without error, but in an imperfect way, because they see in a mirror and in an obscure way; and these worship in Jerusalem, which signifies the present Church: “The Lord is building Jerusalem” (Ps 146:2). But the blessed and the saints participate in divine wisdom without error in a perfect way, for they see God as he is, as said in 1 John (3:2). And so Christ says, the hour is coming, i.e., is waited for, when you will participate in divine wisdom neither in error nor in a mirror in an obscure way, but as it is.
602 Then (v 22), he compares the different kinds of worship to each other. First, he compares the second to the first, Secondly, the third to the first and second (v 23). As to the first he does three things. First, he shows the shortcomings of the first type of worship. Secondly, the truth of the second (v 22b). Thirdly, the reason for each statement.
603 As to the first he says, You people worship what you do not understand.
Some might think that the Lord should have explained the truth of the matter and solve the woman’s problem. But the Lord does not bother to do so because each of these kinds of worship was due to end.
As to his saying, You people worship, and so on, it should be pointed out that, as the Philosopher says, knowledge of complex things is different than knowledge of simple things. For something can be known about complex things in such a way that something else about them remains unknown; thus there can be false knowledge about them. For example, if someone has true knowledge of an animal as to its substance, he might be in error touching the knowledge of one of its accidents, such as whether it is black or white; or of a difference, such as whether it has wings or is four-footed. But there cannot be false knowledge of simple things: because they are either perfectly known inasmuch as their quiddity is known; or they are not known at all, if one cannot attain to a knowledge of them. Therefore, since God is absolutely simple, there cannot be false knowledge of him in the sense that something might be known about him and something remain unknown, but only in the sense that knowledge of him is not attained. Accordingly, anyone who believes that God is something that he is not, for example, a body, or something like that, does not adore God but something else, because he does not know him, but something else.
Now the Samaritans had a false idea of God in two ways. First of all, because they thought he was corporeal, so that they believed that he should be adored in only one definite corporeal place. Further, because they did not believe that he transcended all things, but was equal to certain creatures, they adored along with him certain idols, as if they were equal to him. Consequently, they did not know him, because they did not attain to a true knowledge of him. So the Lord says, You people worship what you do not understand, i.e., you do not adore God because you do not know him, but only soipe imaginary being you think is God, “as the Gentiles do, with their foolish ideas” (Eph 4:17).
604 As to the second, i.e., the truth of the worship of the Jews, he says, we understand what we worship. He includes himself among the Jews, because he was a Jew by race, and because the woman thought he was a prophet and a Jew. We understand what we worship, because through the law and the prophets the Jews acquired a true knowledge or opinion of God, in that they did not believe that he was corporeal nor in one definite place, as though his greatness could be enclosed in a place: “If the heavens, and the heavens of the heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built” (1 Kgs 8:27). And neither did they worship idols: “God is known in Judah” (Ps 75:2).
605 He gives the reason for this when he says, since salvation is from the Jews. As if to say: The true knowledge of God was possessed exclusively by the Jews, for it had been determined that salvation would come from them. And as the source of health should itself be healthy, so the source of salvation, which is acquired by the true knowledge and the true worship of God, should possess the true knowledge of God. Thus, since the source of salvation and its cause, i.e., Christ, was to come from them, according to the promise in Genesis (22:18): “All the nations will be blessed in your descendents,” it was fitting that God be known in Judah.
606 Salvation comes from the Jews in three ways. First in their teaching of the truth, for all other peoples were in error, while the Jews held fast to the truth, according to Romans (3:2): “What advantage do Jews have? First, they were entrusted with the words of God.” Secondly, in their spiritual gifts: for prophecy and the other gifts of the Spirit were given to them first, and from them they reached others: “You,” i.e., the Gentiles, “a wild olive branch, are ingrafted on them,” i.e., on the Jews (Rom 11:17); “If the Gentiles have become sharers in their (i.e., the Jews’) spiritual goods, they ought to help the Jews as to earthly goods” (Rom 15:27). Thirdly, since the very author of salvation is from the Jews, since “Christ came from then in the flesh” (Rom 9:5).
607 Now (v 23), he compares the third kind of worship to the first two. First, he mentions its superiority to the others. Secondly, how appropriate this kind of worship is (v 23b).
608 As to the first point, we should note, as Origen says, that when speaking above of the third kind of worship, the Lord said, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem; but he did not then add, and is now here. But now, in speaking of it, he does say, the hour is coming, and is now here. The reason is because the first time he was speaking of the worship found in heaven, when we will participate in the perfect knowledge of God, which is not possessed by those still living in this mortal life. But now he is speaking of the worship of this life, and which has now come through Christ.
609 So he says, But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
We can understand this, as Chrysostom does, as showing the superiority of this worship to that of the Jews. So that the sense is: Just as the worship of the Jews is superior to that of the Samaritans, so the worship of the Christians is superior to that of the Jews. It is superior in two respects. First, because the worship of the Jews is in bodily rites: “Rites for the body, imposed only until the time they are reformed” (Heb 9:10); while the worship of the Christians is in spirit. Secondly, because the worship of the Jews is in symbols: for the Lord was not pleascd with their sacrificial victims insofar as they were things; so we read, “Shall I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” (Ps 49:13), and again, “You would not be pleased with a holocaust” (Ps 50:18), that is, as a particular thing; but such a sacrificial victim would be pleasing to the Lord as a symbol of the true victim and of the true sacrifice: “The law has only a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb 10:1). But the worship of the Christians is in truth, because it is pleasing to God in itself: “grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ,” as we saw above (1:17). So he is saying here that true worshipers will worship in spirit, not in bodily rites, and in truth, not in symbols.
610 This passage can in interpreted in a second way, by saying that when our Lord says, in spirit and in truth, he wants to show the difference between the third kind of worship and not just that of the Jews, but also that of the Samaritans. In this case, in truth, refers to the Jews: for the Samaritans, as was said, were in error, because they worshiped what they did not understand. But the Jews worshiped with a true knowledge of God.
611 In spirit and in truth can be understood in a third way, as indicating the characteristics of true worship. For two things are necessary for a true worship: one is that the worship be spiritual; so he says, in spirit, i.e., with fervor of spirit: “I will pray with spirit, and I will pray with my mind” (1 Cor 14:15); “Singing to the Lord in your hearts” (Eph 5:19). Secondly, the worship should be in truth. First, in the truth of faith, because no fervent spiritual desire is meritorious unless united to the truth of faith, “Ask with faith, without any doubting” (Jas 1:6). Secondly, in truth, i.e., without pretense or hypocrisy; against such attitudes we read: “They like to pray at street cofners, so people can see them” (Mt 6:5).
This prayer, then, requires three things: first, the fervor of love; secondly, the truth of faith; and thirdly, a correct intention.
He says, the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, because under the law, worship was not given to the Father, but to the Lord. We worship in love, as sons; whereas they worshiped in fear, as slaves.
612 He says true worshipers, in opposition to three things mentioned in the above interpretations. First, in opposition to the false worship of the Samaritans: “Put aside what is not true, and speak the truth” (Eph 4:25). Secondly, in opposition to the fruitless and transitory character of bodily rites: “Why do you love what is without profit, and seek after lies” (Ps 4:3). Thirdly, it is opposed to what is symbolic: “Grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ” (above 1:17).
613 Then when he says, Indeed, it is just such worshipers the Father seeks, he shows that this third kind of worship is appropriate for two reasons. First, because the One worshiped wills and accepts this worship. Secondly, because of the nature of the One worshiped (v 24).
614 Concerning the first, we should note that for a man to merit receiving what he asks, he should ask for things which are not in opposition to the will of the giver, and also ask for them in a way which is acceptable to the giver. And so when we pray to God, we ought to be such as God seeks. But God seeks those who will worship him in spirit and in truth, in the fervor of love and in the truth of faith; “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God want from you, but that you fear the Lord your God, and walk in his ways, and love him, and serve the Lord your God with all your heart” (Dt 10:12); and in Micah (6:8): “1 will show you, man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: to do what is right, and to love mercy, and to walk attentively with your God.”
615 Then he shows that the third type of worship is appropriate from the very nature of God, saying, God is spirit. As is said in Sirach (13:19), “Every animal loves its like”; and so God loves us insofar as we are like him. But we are not like him by our body, because he is incorporeal, but in what is spiritual in us, for God is spirit: “Be renewed in the spirit,” of your mind (Eph 4:23).
In saying, God is spirit, he means that God is incorporeal: “A spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Lk 24:39); and also that he is a life-giver, because our entire life is from God, as its creative source. God is also truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (below 14:6). Therefore, we should worship him in spirit and in truth.
616 When he says, The woman said to him, he mentions the one who gives the gift; and this corresponds to what our Lord said before, If you knew the gift of God, and realized who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you perhaps would have asked him. First, we have the woman’s profession. Secondly, the teaching of Christ (v 26). As to the first, he does two things. First, the woman professes her faith in the Christ to come. Secondly, in the fulness of his teaching, he will tell us everything.
617 The woman, wearied by the profound nature of what Christ was saying, was confused and unable to understand all this. She says: I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called Christ. As if to say: I do not understand what you are saying, but a time will come when the Messiah will arrive, and then we will understand all these things. For “Messiah” in Hebrew means the same as “Anointed One” in Latin, and “Christ” in Greek. She knew that the Messiah was coming because she had been taught by the books of Moses, which foretell the coming of Christ: “The scepter will not be taken away from Judah ... until he who is to be sent comes” (Gn 49:10). As Augustine says, this is the first time the woman mentions the name “Christ”: and we see by this that she is now beginning to return to her lawful husband.
618 When this Messiah comes, he will give us a complete teaching. Hence she says, when he comes he will tell us everything. This was foretold by Moses: “I will raise up a prophet for them, from among their own brothers, like them; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them all I command him” (Dt 18:18). Because this woman had now called her husband, i.e., intellect and reason, the Lord now offers her the water of spiritual teaching by revealing himself to her in a most excellent way.
619 And so Jesus says: I who speak to you am he, i.e., I am the Christ: “Wisdom goes to meet those who desire her, so she may first reveal herself to them” (Wis 6:14), and below (14:21): “I will love him, and reveal myself to him.”
Our Lord did not reveal himself to this woman at once because it might have seemed to her that he was speaking out of vainglory. But now, having brought her step by step to a knowledge of himself, Christ revealed himself at the appropriate time: “Words appropriately spoken are like apples of gold on beds of silver” (Prv 25:11). In contrast, when he was asked by the Pharisees whether he was the Christ, “If you are the Christ, tell us clearly” (below 10:24), he did not reveal himself to them clearly, because they did not ask to learn but to test him. But this woman is speaking in all simplicity.
27 His disciples, returning at this point, were amazed that Jesus was speaking with a woman. But no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman then left her water jar and went off to the town. And she said to the people: 29 “Come, and see the man who told me everything that I have done. Could he not be the Christ?” 30 At that they set out from the town to meet him. 31 Meanwhile, his disciples asked him saying, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
33 At this the disciples said to one another, “Do you suppose that someone has brought him something to eat?”
620 After presenting the teaching on spiritual water, the Evangelist now deals with the effect of this teaching. First, he sets down the effect itself. Secondly, he elaborates on it (v 3 1). The effect of this teaching is its fruit for those who believe. And first we have its fruit which relates to the disciples, who were surprised at Christ’s conduct. Secondly, its fruit in relation to the woman, who proclaimed Christ’s power (v 28).
621 We are told three things about the disciples. First, their return to Christ: he says, His disciples, returning at this point. As Chrysostorn reminds us, it was very convenient that the disciples returned after Christ had revealed himself to the woman, since this shows us that all events are regulated by divine providence: “He made the small and the great, and takes care for all alike” (Wis 6:8); “There is a time and fitness for everything” (Ecc 8:6).
622 Secondly, we see their surprise at what Christ was doing; he says, they were amazed that Jesus was speaking with a woman. They were amazed at what was good; and as Augustine says, they did not suspect any evil. They were amazed at two things. First, at the extraordinary gentleness and humility of Christ: for the Lord of the world stooped to speak with a poor woman, and for a long time, giving us an example of humility: “Be friendly to the poor” (Sir 4:7). Secondly, they were amazed that he was speaking with a Samaritan and a foreigner, for they did not know the mystery by which this woman was a symbol of the Church of the Gentiles; and Christ sought the Gentiles, for he came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk 19:10).
623 Thirdly, we see the disciples’ reverence for Christ, shown by their silence. For we show our reverence for God when we do not presume to discuss his affairs: “It is to the glory of God to conceal things; and to the glory of kings to search things out” (Prv 25:2). So the Evangelist says that although his disciples were surprised, none of them said, What do you want? or asked him, Why are you talking to her? “Listen in silence” (Sir 32:9). Yet the disciples had been so trained to observe order, because of their reverence and filial fear toward Christ, that now and then they would question him about matters that concerned themselves, i.e., when Christ said things relating to them, but which were beyond their understanding: “Young men, speak if you have to” (Sir 3 2:10). At other times they did not question him; in those matters that were not their business, as here.
624 Then (v 28), we have the fruit which relates to the woman; by what she said to her people, she was taking on the role of an apostle. From what she says and does, we can learn three things. First, her affective devotion; secondly, her way of preaching; thirdly the effect her preaching had (v 30).
625 Her affection is revealed in two ways. First, because her devotion was so great that she forgot why she had come to the well, and left without the water and her water jar. So he says, the woman then left her water jar and went off to the town, to tell of the wonderful things Christ had done; and she was not now concerned for her own bodily comfort but for the welfare of others. In this respect she was like the apostles, who “leaving their nets, followed the Lord” (Mt 4:20). The water jar is a symbol of worldly desires, by which men draw out pleasures from the depths of darkness—symbolized by the well—i.e., from a worldly manner of life. Accordingly, those who abandon worldly desires for the sake of God leave their water jars: “No soldier of God becomes entangled in the business of this world” (2 Tim 2:4). Secondly, we see her affection from the great number of those to whom she brings the news: not to just one or two, but to the entire town; we read that she went off to the town. This signifies the duty Christ gave to the apostles: “Go, teach all nations” (Mt 28:19); and “I have chosen you to go and bring forth fruit” (below 15:16).
626 Next we see her manner of preaching (v 29). She first invites them to see Christ, saying, Come and see the man. Although she had heard Christ say that he was the Christ, she did not at once tell the people that they should come to the Christ, or believe, so as not to give them a reason for scoffing. So at first she mentions things that were believable and evident about Christ, as that he was a man: “made in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). Neither did she say, “believe,” but Come, and see; for she was convinced that if they were to taste from that well by seeing him, they would be affected in the same way she was: “Come, and I will tell you the great things he has done for me” (Ps 65:16). In this she is imitating the example of a true preacher, not calling men to himself, but to Christ: “What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:5).
627 Secondly, she mentions a clue to Christ’s divinity, saying, who told me everything that I have done, that is, how many husbands she had had. For it is the function and sign of the divinity to disclose hidden things and the secrets of hearts. Although the things she had done would cause her shame, she is still not ashamed to mention them; for as Chrysostom says: “When the soul is on fire with the divine fire, it no longer pays attention to earthly things, neither to glory nor to shame, but only to that flame that holds it fast.”
628 Thirdly, she infers the greatness of Christ, saying, Could he not be the Christ? She did not dare to say that he was the Christ, lest she seem to be trying to teach them; they could have become angry at this and refuse to go with her. Yet she was not entirely silent on this point, but submitting it to their judgment, set it forth in the form of a question, saying, Could he not be the Christ? For this is an easier way to persuade someone.
629 This insignificant woman signifies the condition of the apostles, who were sent out to preach: “Not many of you are learned in the worldly sense, not many powerful ... But God chose the simple ones of the world to embarrass the wise” (1 Cor 1:26). Thus in Proverbs (9:3) the apostles are called handmaids: “She,” divine wisdom, i.e., the Son of God, “sent out her handmaids,” the apostles, “to summon to the tower.”
630 The fruit of her preaching is given when he says, At that they set out from the town, to where she had returned, to meet him, Christ. We see by this that if we desire to come to Christ, we must set out from the town, i.e., leave behind our carnal desires: “Let us go out to him outside the camp, bearing the abuse he took,” as we read in Hebrews (13:13).
631 Now the effect of this spiritual teaching is elaborated. First, by what Christ said to his disciples; secondly, by the effect of all this on the Samaritans (v 39). Concerning the first he does two things. First, we have the situation in which Christ speaks to his disciples; secondly, what he said (v 32).
632 The situation is the insistence of the apostles that Christ eat. He says, Meanwhile, i.e., between the time that Christ and the woman spoke and the Samaritans came, his disciples asked him, that is, Christ, Rabbi, eat something: for they thought that then was a good time to eat, before the crowds came from the town. For the disciples did not usually offer Christ food in the presence of strangers: so we read in Mark (6:3 1), that so many people came to him that he did not even have time to eat.
633 After presenting the situation, he gives its fruit. First, it is given in figurative language. Secondly, we see the disciples are slow in understanding this. Thirdly, the Lord explains what he meant (v 34).
634 The fruit of his spiritual teaching is proposed under the symbols of’ food and nourishment, so the Lord says, I have food to eat. We Should note that just as bodily nourishment is incomplete miless there is both food and drink, so also both Should be found in spirittial notirishment: “The Lord fed him with the bread of life and understanding,” this is the food, “and gave him a drink of the water of saving wisdom,” and this is the drink (Sir 15:3). So it was appropriate for Christ to speak of food after having given drink to the Samaritan woman. And just as water is a symbol for saving wisdom, so food is a symbol of good works.
The food that Christ had to eat is the salvation of men; this was what he desired. When he says that he has food to eat, he shows how great a desire he has for our salvation. For just as we desire to eat when we are hungry, so he desires to save us: “My delight is to be with the children of men” (Prv 8:3 1). So he says, I have food to eat, i.e., the conversion of the nations, of which you do not know; for they had no way of knowing beforehand about this conversion of the nations.
635 Origen explains this in a different way, as follows. Spiritual food is like bodily food. The same amount of bodily food is not enough for everyone; some need more, others less. Again, what is good for one is harmful to another. The same thing happens in spiritual nourishment: for the same kind and amount should not be given to everyone, but adjusted to what is appropriate to the disposition and capacity of each. “Like newborn babes, desire spiritual milk” (1 Pt 2:2). Solid food is for the perfect; thus Origen says that the man who understands the loftier doctrine, and who has charge of others in spiritual matters, can teach this doctrine to those who are weaker and have less understanding. Accordingly, the Apostle says in 1 Corinthians (3:2): “Being little ones in Christ, I gave you milk, not solid food.” And Jesus could say this with much more truth: I have food to eat; and “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now” (below 16:12).
636 The slowness of the disciples to understand these matters is implied by the fact that what our Lord said about spiritual food, they understood as referring to bodily food. For even they were still without understanding, as we see from Matthew (15:16). It is not surprising that this Samaritan woman did not understand about spiritual water, for even the Jewish disciples did not understand about spiritual food.
In their saying to each other, Do you suppose that someone has brought him something to eat? we should note that it was customary for Christ to accept food from others; but not because he needs our goods: “He does not need our goods” (Ps 15:2), nor our food, because it is he who gives food to every living thing.
637 Then why did he desire and accept goods from others? For two reasons. First, so that those who give him these things might acquire merit. Secondly, in order to give us an example. that those engrossed in spiritual matters should not be ashamed of their poverty, nor regard it burdensome to be supported by others. For it is fitting that teachers have others provide their food so that, being free from such concerns, they may carefully pay attention to the ministry of the word, as Chrysostorn says, and as we find in the Gloss. “Let the elders who rule well be regarded as worthy of a double compensation; especially those concerned with preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17).
34 Jesus explained to them,
“My food is to do the will of him
who sent me, to accomplish his work.
35 Do you not have a saying:
‘There are still four months, and it will be harvest time’?
So I say to you: Lift up your eyes,
look at the fields, because they are
already white for the harvest!
36 He who reaps receives his wages
and gathers fruit for eternal life,
so that the sower can rejoice
at the same time as the reaper.
37 For here the saying is verified:
‘One man sows, another reaps.’
38 I have sent you to reap
what you have not worked for.
Others have done the work,
and you have entered into their labors.”
638 Since the disciples were slow to understand the Lord’s figure of speech, the Lord now explains it. First, we have its explanatiot; secondly, its application (v 35).
639 As to the first, we should note that just as Christ explained to the Samaritan woman what he had told her in figurative language about water, so he explains to his apostles what he told them in figurative language about food. But he does not do so in the same way in both cases. Since the apostles were able to understand these matters more easily, he explains to them at once and in few words; but to the Samaritan woman, since she Could not understand as well, our Lord leads her to the truth with a longer explanation.
640 It is perfectly reasonable for Christ to say, My food is to do the will of him who sent me, to accomplish his work. For as bodily food sustains a man and brings him to perfection, the spiritual food of the soul and of the rational creature is that by which he is sustained and perfected; and this consists in being joined to his end and following a higher rule. David, understanding this, said: “For me, to adhere to God is good” (Ps 72:28). Accordingly, Christ, as man, fittingly says that his food is to do the will of God, to accomplish his work.
641 These two expressions can be understood as meaning the same thing, in the sense that the second is explaining the first. Or, they can be understood in different ways.
If we understand them as meaning the same, the sense is this: My food is, i.e., in this is my strength and nourishment, to do the will of him who sent me; according to, “My God, I desired to do your will, and your law is in my heart” (Ps 39:9), and, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (below 6:38). But because “to do the will” (facere voluntatem) of another can be understood in two ways—one, by making him will it, and second, by fulfilling what I know he wills—therefore, explaining what it means to do the will of him who sent him, the Lord says, to accomplish his work, that is, that I might complete the work I know he wants: “I must do the works of him who sent me while it is day” (below 9:4).
If these two expressions are understood as different, then we should point out that Christ did two things in this world. First, he taught the truth, in inviting and calling us to the faith; and by this he fulfilled the will of the Father: “This is the will of my Father, who sent me: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (below 6:40). Secondly, he accomplished the truth by opening in us, by his passion, the gate of life, and by giving us the power to arrive at complete truth: “I have accomplished the work which you gave me to do” (below 17:4). Thus he is saying: My food is to do the will of him who sent me, by calling men to the faith, to accomplish his work, by leading them to what is perfect.
642 Another interpretation, given by Origen, is that every man who does good works should direct his intention to two things: the honor of God and the good of his neighbor: for as it is said: “The end of the commandment is love” (1 Tim 1:5), and this love embraces both God and our neighbor. And so, when we do something for God’s sake, the end of the commandment is God; but when it is for our neighbor’s good, the end of the commandment is our neighbor. With this in mind, Christ is saying, My food is to do the will of him who sent me, God, i.e., to direct md regulate my intention to those matters that concern the honor of God, to accomplish his work, i.e., to do things for the benefit and perfection of man.
643 On the other hand, since the works of God are perfect, it does not seem proper to speak of accomplishing or completing them. I answer that among lower creatures, man is the special work of God, who made him to his own image and likeness (Gn 1:26). And in the beginning God made this a perfect work, because as we read in Ecclesiastes (7:30): “God made man upright.” But later, man lost this perfection by sin, and abandoned what was right. And so, this work of the Lord needed to be repaired in order to become right again; and this was accomplished by Christ, for “Just as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many will be made just” (Rom 5:19). Thus Christ says, to accomplish his work, i.e., to bring man back to what is perfect.
644 Then when he says, Do you not have a saying: There are still four months, and it will be harvest time? he makes use of a simile. Note that when Christ asked the Samaritan woman for a drink, “Give me a drink,” he made use of a simile concerning water. But here, the the disciples are urging the Lord to eat, and now he makes use of a simile concerning spiritual food.
There are some persons whom God asks for a drink, as this Samaritan woman; and there are some who offer a drink to God. But no one offers food to God unless God first asks him for it: for we offer spiritual food to God when we ask him for our salvation, that is, when we ask, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). We cannot obtain salvation of ourselves, unless we are pre-moved by “prevenient grace,” according to the statement in Lamentations (5:21): “Make us come back to you, O Lord, and we will come back” (Lam 5:21). The Lord himself, therefore, first asks for that which makes us ask through “prevenient grace.”
In this simile, we have first, the harvest. Secondly, those who reap the harvest (v 36). He does two things concerning the first. First, he states the simile concerning the natural harvest; secondly, concerning the spiritual harvest (v 35b).
645 Do you not have a saying: There are still four months, and it will be harvest time? We can see from this that, as stated in Matthew (4:12), Christ left Judea and traveled through Samaria right after John was arrested, and that all this happened during the winter. So, because the harvests ripen there more according to the season, there were four months froin that time till the harvest. Thus he says, Do you not have a saying, ahow the natural harvest, There are still four months that must pass, and it will be harvest time? i.e., the time for gathering up the harvest. So I say to you, speaking of the spiritual harvest, Lift up your eyes, look at the fields, because they are already white for the harvest.
646 Here we should point out that harvest time is the time when the fruit is gathered; and so whenever fruit is gathered can be regarded as a harvest time. Now fruit is gathered at two times: for both in temporal and in spiritual matters there is nothing to prevent what is fruit in relation to an earlier state from being seed in relation to something later. For example, good works are the fruit of spiritual instruction, as is faith and other such things; but these in turn are seeds of eternal life, because eternal life is acquired through them. So Sirach (24:23) says: “My blossoms,” in relation to the fruit to follow, “bear the fruit of of honor and riches,” in relation to what preceded.
With this in mind, there is a certain gathering of a spiritual harvest; and this concerns an eternal fruit, i.e., the gathering of the faithful into eternal life, of which we read: “The harvest is the end of the world” (Mt 13:39). We are not here concerned with this harvest. Another spiritual harvest is gathered in the present; and this is understood in two ways. In the first, the gathering of the fruit is the converting of the faithful to be assembled in the Church; in the second, the gathering is the very knowing of the truth, by which a person gathers the fruit of truth into his soul. And we are concerned with these two gatherings of the harvest, depending on the different expositions.
647 Augustine and Chrysostom understand the gathering of the harvest in the first way, as follows. You say that it is not yet the time for the natural harvest; but this is not true of the spiritual harvest. Indeed, I say to you: Lift up your eyes, i.e., the eyes of your mind, by thinking, or even your physical eyes, look at the fields, because they are already white for the harvest: because the entire countryside was full of Samaritans coming to Christ.
The statement that the fields are already white is metaphorical: for when sown fields are white, it is a sign that they are ready for harvest. And so he only means to say by this that the people were ready for salvation and to hear the word. He says, look at the fields, because not only the Jews, but the Gentiles as well, were ready for the faith: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Mt 9:37). And just as harvests are made white by the presence of the burning heat of the summer sun, so by the coming of the Sun of justice, i.e., Christ, and his preaching and power, men are made ready for salvation. Malachi (4:2) says: “The sun of justice will rise on you who fear my name.” Thus it is that the time of Christ’s coming is called the time of plenitude or fulness: “When the fulness of time had come, God sent his Son” (Gal 4:4).
648 Origen deals with the second gathering of the harvest, i.e., the gathering of truth in the soul. He says that one gathers as much of the fruit of truth in the harvest as the truths he knows. And he says that everything said here (v 35) was presented as a parable. In this interpretation, the Lord does two things. First, he mentions a false doctrine held by some. Secondly, he rejects it, I say to you.
Some thought that man could not acquire any truth about anything. This opinion gave rise to the heresy of the Academicians, who maintained that nothing can be known as certain in this life; about which we read: “I tested all things by wisdom. I said: ‘I will acquire wisdom,’ and it became further from me” (Ecc 7:24). Our Lord mentions this opinion when he says, Do you not have a saying: There are still four months and it will be harvest time? i.e., this whole present life, in which man serves under the four elements, must end, so that after it truth may be gathered in another life.
Our Lord rejects this opinion when he says: This is not true, I say to you: Lift up your eyes. Sacred Scripture usually uses this expression when something subtle and profound is being presented; as, “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things” (Is 40:26). For when our eyes are not lifted away from earthly things or from the desires of the flesh, they are not fit to know spiritual fruit. For sometimes they are prevented from considering divine things because they have stooped to earthly things: “They have fixed their eyes on the earth” (Ps 16:11); sometimes they are blinded by concupiscence: “They have averted their eyes so as not to look at heaven or remember the judgments of God” (Dn 13:9).
649 So he says, Lift up your eyes, look at the fields, because they are already white for the harvest, i.e., they are such that the truth can be learned from them: for by the “fields” we specifically understand all those things from which truth can be acquired, especially the Scriptures: “Search the Scriptures ... they bear witness to me” (below 5:39). Indeed, these fields existed in the Old Testament, but they were not white for the harvest because men were not able to pick spiritual fruit from them until Christ came, who made them white by opening their understanding: “He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24.45). Again, creatures are harvests from which the fruit of truth is gathered: “The invisible things of God are clearly known by the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). None the less, the Gentiles who pursued a knowledge of these things gathered the fruits of error rather than of truth from them, because as we read, “they served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). So the harvests were not yet white; but they were made white for the harvest when Christ came.
650 Next (v 36), he deals with the reapers. First, he gives their reward. Secondly, he mentions a proverb. And thirdly, he explains it, i.e., applies it (v 38).
651 Concerning the first, we should note that when the Lord was explaining earlier about spiritual water, he mentioned the way in which spiritual water differs from natural water: a person who drinks natural water will become thirsty again, but one who drinks spiritual water will never be thirsty again. Here, too, in explaining about the harvest, he points out the difference between a natural and a spiritual harvest. Three things are mentioned.
First, the way in which the two harvests are similar: namely, in that the person who reaps either harvest receives a wage. But the one who reaps spiritually is the one who gathers the faithful into the Church, or who gathers the fruit of truth into his soul. Each of these will receive a wage, according to: “Each one will receive his own wage according to his work” (1 Cor 3:8).
The two other points he mentions concern the ways the two harvests are unlike each other. First, the fruit gathered from a natural harvest concerns the life of the body; but the fruit gathered by one who reaps a spiritual harvest concerns eternal life. So he says, he who reaps, i.e., he who reaps spiritually, gathers fruit for eternal life, that is, the faithful, who will obtain eternal life: “Your fruit is sanctification, your end is eternal life” (Rom 6:22). Or, this fruit is the very knowing and explaining of the truth by which man acquires eternal life: “Those who explain me will have eternal life,” as we read in Sirach (24:3 1). Secondly, the two harvests are unlike because in a natural harvest it is considered a misfortune that one should sow and another reap; hence he who sows is saddened when another reaps. But it is not this way when the seed is spiritual, for the sower can rejoice at the same time as the reaper.
According to Chrysostom and Augustine, the ones who sow spiritual seed are the fathers and prophets of the Old Testament, for “The seed is the word of God” (Lk 8:11), which Moses and the prophets sowed in the land of Judah. But the apostles were the reapers, because the former were not able to accomplish what they wanted to do, i.e., to bring men to Christ; this was done by the apostles. And so both the apostles and the prophets rejoice together, in one mansion of glory, over the conversion of the faithful: “Joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the voice of praise” (Is 51:3). This refutes the heresy of the Manicheans who condemn the fathers of the Old Testament; for as the Lord says here, they will rejoice with the apostles.
According to Origen, however, the “sowers” in any faculty [of the soul] are those who confer the very first principles of that faculty; but the reapers are those who proceed from these principles to further truths. And this is all the more true of the science of all the sciences. The prophets are sowers, because they handed down many things concerning divine matters; but the apostles are the reapers, because in preaching and teaching they revealed many things which the prophets did not make known: “which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles” (Eph 3:5).
652 Then when he says, For here the saying is verified, we are given a proverb. As if to say: For here, i.e., in this fact, the saying is verified, i.e., the proverb in current use among the Jews is fulfilled: One man sows, another reaps. This proverb seems to have grown out of a statement in Leviticus (26:16): “You will sow your seed in vain for it will be devoured by your enemies.” As a result, the Jews used this proverb when one person labored on something, but another received the pleasure from it. This then is what our Lord says: The proverb is verified here because it was the prophets who sowed and labored, while you are the ones to reap and rejoice.
Another interpretation would be this. For here the saying is verified, i.e. what I am saying to you, One man sows, another reaps, because you will reap the fruits of the labor of the prophets. Now the prophets and the apostles are different, but not in faith, for they both had faith: “But now the justice of God has been manifested outside the law; the law and the prophets bore witness to it” (Rom 3:21). They are different in their manner of life, for the prophets lived under the ceremonies of the law, from which the apostles and Christians have been freed: “When we were children, we were slaves under the elements of this world. But when the fulness of time came, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we could receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:3). And although the apostles and prophets labor at different times, nevertheless they will rejoice equally and receive wages for eternal life, so that the sower can rejoice at the same time as the reaper. This was prefigured in the transfiguration of Christ, where all had their own glory, both the fathers of the Old Testament, that is, Moses and Elijah, and the fathers of the New Testament, that is, Peter, John and James. We see from this that the just of the New and of the Old Testaments will rejoice together in the glory to come.
653 Then (v 38), he applies the proverb. First, he calls the apostles reapers. Secondly, he says they are laborers (v 38b).
654 he says concerning the first: I say that it is one who reaps, because you are reapers, and another who sows, for I have sent you to reap what you have not worked for. He does not say, “I will send you,” but I have sent you. He says this because he sent them twice. One time was before his passion, when he sent them to the Jews, saying: “Do not go on the roads of the Gentiles ... but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:5). In this case, they were sent to reap that on which they did not work, that is, to convert the Jews, among whom the prophets worked. After the resurrection, Christ sent them to the Gentiles, saying: “Go to the whole world, and preach the good news to every creature,” as we find in Mark (16:15). This time they were sent to sow for the first time; for as the Apostle says: “I have preached the good news, but not where Christ was already known, so as not to build on another’s foundation. But as it is written: ‘They to whom he was not proclaimed will see, and they who have not heard will understand.’” (Rom 15:20). And so Christ says, I have sent you, referring to the first time they were sent. This is the way, then, the apostles are reapers, and others, the prophets, are the sowers.
655 Accordingly, he says, Others have done the work, by sowing the beginnings of the doctrine of Christ, and you have entered into their labors, to collect the fruit: “The fruit of good labors is glorious” (Wis 3:15). The prophets labored, I say, to bring men to Christ: “If you believed Moses, you would perhaps believe me, for he wrote of me” (below 5:46). If you do not believe his written words, how will you believe my spoken words? But the prophets did not reap the fruit; so Isaiah said with this in mind: “I have labored for nothing and without reason; in vain I have exhausted my strength” (Is 49:4).
39 Many Samaritans of that town believed in him on the testimony of the woman who said, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them awhile. So he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed in him because of his own words. 42 And they said to the woman, “Now we believe not just because of your story, but because we have heard him ourselves, and we know that.here is truly the Savior of the world.”
656 Above, the Lord foretold to the apostles the fruit to be produced among the Samaritans by the woman’s witness. Now the Evangelist deals with this fruit. First, the fruit of the woman’s witness is given. Secondly, the growth of this fruit produced by Christ (v 41). The fruit of the woman’s witness is shown in three ways.
657 First, by the faith of the Samaritans, for they believed in Christ. Thus he says, Many Samaritans of that town, to which the woman had returned, believed in him, and this, on the testimony of the woman, from whom Christ asked for a drink of water, who said, He told me everything I ever did: for this testimony was sufficient inducement to believe Christ. For since Christ had disclosed her failures, she would not have mentioned them if she had not been brought to believe. And so the Samaritans believed as soon as they heard her. This indicates that faith comes by hearing.
658 Secondly, the fruit of her witness is shown in their coming to Christ: for faith gives rise to a desire for the thing believed. Accordingly, after they believed, they came to Christ, to be perfected by him. So he says, So when the Samaritans came to him. “Come to him, and be enlightened” (Ps 33:6); “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you” (Mt 11:28).
659 Thirdly, the fruit of her witness is shown in their desire: for a believer must not only come to Christ, but desire that Christ remain with him. So he says, they begged him to stay with them awhile. So he stayed there two days.
The Lord remains with us through charity: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (below 14:23), and further on he adds, “and we will make our abode with him.” The Lord remains for two days because there are two precepts of charity: the love of God and the love of our neighbor, “On these two commandments all the law and the prophets depend” (Mt 22:40). But the third day is the day of glory: “He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up” (Hos 6:3). Christ did not remain there for that day because the Samaritans were not yet capable of glory.
660 Then (v 41), the Evangelist says that the fruit resulting from the witness of the woman was increased by the presence of Christ; and this in three ways. First, in the number of those who believed. Secondly, in their reason for believing. Thirdly, in the truth they believed.
661 The fruit was increased as to the number of those who believed because while many believed in Christ on account of the woman, many more believed in him because of his own words, i.e., Christ’s own words. This signifies that although many believed becatise of the prophets, many more were converted to the faith after Christ came, according to the Psalm (7:7): “Rise up, O Lord, in the command you have given, and a congregation of people will surround you.”
662 Secondly, this fruit was increased because of the way in which they believed: for they say to the woman: Now we believe not just because of your story.
Here we should note that three things are necessary for the perfection of faith; and they are given here in order. First, faith should be right; secondly, it should be prompt; and thirdly, it should be certain.
Now faith is right when it obeys the truth not for some alien reason, but for the truth itself; and as to this he says that they said to the woman, Now we believe, the truth, not just because of your story, but because of the truth itself. Three things lead us to believe in Christ. First of all, natural reason: “Since the creation of the world the invisible things of God are clearly known by the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Secondly, the testimony of the law and the prophets: “But now justification from God has been manifested outside the law; the law and the prophets bore witness to it” (Rom 3:21). Thirdly, the preaching of the apostles and others: “How will they believe without someone to preach to them?” as Romans (10:14) says. Yet when a person, having been thus instructed, believes, he can then say that it is not for any of these reasons that he believes: i.e., neither on account of natural reason, nor the testimony of the law, nor the preaching of others, but solely on account of the truth itself: “Abram believed God, who regarded this as his justification” (Gn 15:6).
Faith is prompt if it believes quickly; and this was verified in these Samaritans because they were converted to God by merely hearing him; so they say: we have heard him ourselves, and believe in him, and we know that here is truly the Savior of the world, without seeing miracles, as the Jews saw. And although to believe men quickly is an indication of thoughtlessness, according to Sirach (19:4): “He who believes easily is frivolous,” yet to believe God quickly is more praisworthy: “When they heard me, they obeyed me” (Ps 17:45).
Faith should be certain, because one who doubts in the faith is an unbeliever: “Ask with faith, without any doubting” (Jas 1:6). And so their faith was certain; thus they say, and we know. Sometimes, one who believes is said to know (scire), as here, because scientia [science, knowledge in a more perfect state] and faith agree in that both are certain. For just as scientia is certain, so is faith; indeed, the latter is much more so, because the certainty of scientia rests on human reason, which can be decieved, while the certainty of faith rests on divine reason, which cannot be contradicted. However they differ in mode: because faith possesses its certainty due to a divinely infused light, while scientia possesses its certainty due to a natural light. For as the certitude of scientia rests on first principles naturally known, so the principles of faith are known from a light divinely infused: “You are saved by grace, through faith; and this is not due to yourselves, for it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).
663 Thirdly, the fruit was increased in the truth believed; so they say, here is truly the Savior of the world. Here they are affirming that Christ is the unique, true and universal Savior.
He is the unique Savior for they assert that he is different from others when they say, here is, i.e., here he alone is who has come to save: “Truly, you are a hidden God, the God of Israel, the Savior” (Is 45:15); “There is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we are saved” (Acts 4:12).
They affirm that Christ is the true Savior when they say, truly. For since salvation, as Dionysius says, is deliverance from evil and preservation in good, there are two kinds of salvation: one is true, and the other is not true. Salvation is true when we are freed from true evils and preserved in true goods. In the Old Testament, however, although certain saviors had been sent, they did not truly bring salvation, for they set men free from temporal evils, which are not truly evils, nor true goods, because they do not last. But Christ is truly the Savior, because he frees men from true evils, that is, sins: “He will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21), and he preserves them in true goods, that is, spiritual goods.
They affirm that he is the universal Savior because he is not just for some, i.e., for the Jews alone, but is the Savior of the world. “God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (above 3:17).
43 After two days he left that place and went to Galilee. 44 Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 When however he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, because they had seen all the things he had done in Jerusalem on the festive day, where they too had gone. 46a He therefore went to Cana in Galilee once more, where he had made the water wine.
664 Having described the conversion of the Gentiles due to teaching, their conversion due to miracles is now given. The Evangelist mentions a miracle performed by Christ: first, giving the place; secondly, describing the miracle; and thirdly, its effect (v 53). He does two things about the first. First, he gives the general location of the miracle, that is, Christ’s own homeland. Secondly, the specific place (v 46). With respect to the first he does two things. First, he mentions the general place. Secondly, he tells how Christ was received there (v 45). Concerning the first he does two things. First, he indicates the general place. Secondly, he gives a certain reason, at (v 44).
665 He says first of all: I say that Jesus remained with these Samaritans for two days, and after two days he left that place, i.e., Samaria, and went to Galilee, where he had been raised. This signifies that at the end of the world, when the Gentiles have been confirmed in the faith and in the truth, a return will be made to convert the Jews, according to: “until the full number of the Gentiles enters, and so all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:2 5).
666 Then he gives a certain reason, saying: Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. There are two questions here: one is about the literal meaning; and the other about the continuity of this passage with the first.
The problem about the literal meaning is that it does not seem to be true, as stated here, that a prophet has no honor in his own country: for we read that other prophets were honored in their own land. Chrysostom answers this by saying that the Lord is speaking here about the majority of cases. So, although there might be an exception in some individual cases, what is said here should not be considered false: for in matters concerning nature and morals, that rule is true which is verified in most cases; and if a few cases are otherwise, the rule is not considered to be false.
Now what the Lord says was true with respect to most of the prophets, because in the Old Testament it is hard to find any prophet who did not suffer persecution, as stated in Acts (7:52): “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?”; and in Matthew (23:37): “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you.” Further, this statement of our Lord holds true not only in the case of the prophets among the Jews, but also, as Origen says, with many among the Gentiles, because they were held in contempt by their fellow citizens and put to death: for living with men in the usual way, and too much familiarity, lessen respect and breed contempt. So it is that those with whom we are more familiar we come to reverence less, and those with whom we cannot become acquainted we regard more highly.
However, the opposite happens with God: lor the more intimate we become with God through love and contemplation, realizing how superior he is, the more we respect him and the less do we esteem ourselves. “I have heard you, but now I see you, and so I reprove myself, and do penance in dust and ashes” (Jb 42:5). The reason for this is that man’s nature is weak and fragile; and when one lives with another for a long time, he notices certain weaknesses in him, and this results in a loss of respect for him. But since God is infinitely perfect, the more a person knows him the more he admires his superior perfection, and as a result the more he respects him.
667 But was Christ a prophet? At first glance it seems not, because prophecy involves an obscure knowledge: “If there is a prophet of the Lord among you, I will appear to him in a vision” (Nm 12:6). Christ’s knowledge, however, was not obscure. Yet he was a prophet, as is clear from, “The Lord your God will raise up a prophet for you, from your nation and your brothers; he will be like me. You will listen to him” (Dt 18:15). This text is referred to Christ.
I answer that a prophet has a twofold function. First, that of seeing: “He who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer” (I Sm 9:9). Secondly, he makes known, announces; Christ was a prophet in this sense for he made known the truth about God: “For this was I born, and for this I came into the world: to testify to the truth” (below 18:37). As for the seeing function of a prophet, we should note that Christ was at once both a “wayfarer” and a “comprehensor,” or blessed. He was a wayfarer in the sufferings of his human nature and in all the things that relate to this. He was a blessed in his union with the divinity, by which he enjoyed God in the most perfect way. There are two things in the vision or seeing of a prophet. First, the intellectual light of his mind; and as regards this Christ was not a prophet, because his light was not at all deficient; his light was that of the blessed. Secondly, an imaginary vision is also involved; and with respect to this Christ did have a likeness to the prophets insofar as he was a wayfarer and was able to form various images with his imagination.
668 Secondly, there is the problem about continuity. For the Evangelist does not seem to be right in connecting the fact that After two days he left that place and went to Galilee, with the statement of Jesus that a prophet has no honor in his own country. It would seem that the Evangelist should have said that Christ did not go into Galilee, for if he was not honored there, that would be a reason for not going there.
Augustine answers this by suggesting that the Evangelist said this to answer a question that could have been raised, namely: Why did Christ return to Galilee since he had lived there for a long time, and the Galileans were still not converted to him; while the Samaritans were converted in two days? It is the same as saying: Even though the Galileans had not been converted, still Jesus went there, for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.
Chrysostom explains this in a different way: After two days he left, not for Capernaum, which was his homeland because of his continuous residence there, nor for Bethlehem, where he was born, nor for Nazareth, where he was educated. Thus he did not go to Capernaum; hence in Matthew (11:23) he upbraids them, saying: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will descend even to hell.” He went rather to Cana in Galilee. And he gives the reason here [for not going to Capernaum] : because they were ill-disposed toward him. This is what he says: Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.
669 Was Christ seeking glory from men? It seems not, for he says: “I do not seek my own glory” (below 8:50). 1 answer that it is only God who seeks his own glory without sin. A man should not seek his own glory from men, but rather the glory of God. Christ, however, as God, fittingly sought his own glory, and as man, he sought the glory of God in himself.
670 Then he shows that Christ was received by the Galileans more respectfully than before, saying, When however he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, respectfully. The reason behind this was because they had seen all the things he had done in Jerusalem on the festive day, where they too had gone, as the law commanded.
This seems to conflict with the fact that we did not read above of any miracles being performed by Christ at Jerusalem. I answer, with the opinion of Origen, that the Jews thought it a great miracle that Christ drove the traders from the temple with such authority (above 2:14). Or, we could say that Christ performed many miracles which were not written down, according to, “Jesus did many other signs ... which are not written down in this book” (below 20:30).
671 In its mystical sense, this gives us an example that if we wish to receive Jesus Christ within ourselves, we should go up to Jerusalem on a festive day, that is, we should seek tranquility of mind, and examine everything which Jesus does there: “Look upon Zion, the city of our festive days” (Is 33:20); “1 have meditated on all Your works” (Ps 142:5).
672 Note that as men were lesser in dignity, they were better with respect to God. The Judeans were superior in dignity to the Galileans: “Look at the Scriptures and see that the Prophet will not come from Galilee” (below 7:52); and the Galileans were superior in dignity to the Samaritans: “The Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans” (above 4:9). On the other hand, the Samaritans were better than the Galileans because more of them believed in Christ in two days without any miracles than the Galileans did in a long period of time and even with the miracle of the wine: for none of them believed in him except his disciples. Finally, the Judeans were worse than the Galileans, because none of them believed in Jesus, except perhaps Nicodemus.
673 Then he says, He therefore went to Cana in Galilee. According to Chrysostom, this is given as a conclusion from what went before; it is as though he were saying: Christ did not go to Capemaurn because he was not held in honor there. But he was under an obligation to go to Cana in Galilee: for on the first occasion he had been invited to the wedding, and now he goes again without being invited. The two trips to Cana are mentioned by the Evangelist to show their hardness of heart: for at the first miracle of the wine, only his disciples believed in Christ; and at the second miracle, only the official and his household believed. On the other hand, the Samaritans believed on Christ’s words alone.
674 In the mystical sense, the two visits to Cana signify the effect of God’s words on our minds. First of all they cause delight, because they who hear the word “receive the word with joy” (Mt 13:20). This is signified in the miracle of the wine, which as the Psalm (103:15) says, “gladdens the heart of man.” Secondly, the word of God heals: “It was neither a herb nor a poultice that healed them, but your word, O Lord, which heals all things” (Wis 16:12). And this is signified by the curing of the sick son.
Further, these two visits to Cana indicate the two comings of the Son of God. The first coming was in all gentleness to bring joy: “Rejoice and give praise, people of Zion, for he is great who is in your midst, the Holy One of Israel” (Is 12:6). So the angel said to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy ... this day a Savior has been born to you” (Lk 2:10). This is signified by the wine. His second coming into the world will be in majesty, when he will come to take away our weaknesses and our punishments, and to make us like his radiant body. And this is signified in the cure of the sick son.
46b There happened to be a certain official, whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come to Galilee from Judea, he went to him, and begged him to come down and heal his son, who was at the point of death. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you do not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Lord, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus told him, “Go, your son lives.” The man took Jesus at his word, and started for home. 51 While he was on his way down, his servants ran up to meet him with word’ that his son was going to live. 52 He asked them at what time his boy got better. And they told him that yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 The father then realized that it was at that very hour when Jesus told him, “Your son lives.” He and his whole household became believers. 54 This was the second sign Jesus had performed on returning from Judea to Galilee.
675 Having told us the place of this miracle, the Evangelist now describes the miracle itself: telling us of the person who was ill; the one who interceded for him; and the one who healed him. The one who was ill was the son of the official; his father interceded for him; and it was Christ who was to heal him.
676 About the person who was ill, he first tells us of his status, a son of an official; secondly, where he was, at Capernaum; thirdly, his illness, a fever.
He says about the first, There happened to be a certain official, whose son lay sick. Now one can be called an official for a variety of reasons. For example, if one is in charge of a small territory. This is not its meaning here for at this time there was no king in Judea: “We have no king but Caesar” (below 19:15). One is also called an official, as Chrysostom says, because he is from a royal family; and this is also not its meaning here. In a third way, an official is some officer of a king or ruler; and this is its meaning here.
Some think, as Chrysostom reports, that this official is the same as the centurion mentioned by Matthew (8:5). This is not so, for they differ in four ways. First, because the illness was not the same in each. The centurion was concerned with a paralytic, “My servant is lying paralyzed at home” (Mt 8:6); while this official’s son is suffering from a fever, yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. Secondly, those who are sick are not the same. In the first case, it was a servant, “my servant”; but now we have a son, as it says, whose son. Thirdly, what is requested is different. For when Christ wanted to go to the home of the centurion, the centurion discouraged him, and said: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8). But this official asked Christ to come to his house, Lord, come down before my child dies. Fourthly, the places are different. For the first healing took place at Capernaum, while this one is at Cana in Galilee. So this official is not the same as the centurion, but was from the household of Herod the Tetrarch, or some kind of a herald, or an official of the Emperor.
677 In its allegorical sense, this official is Abraham or one of the fathers of the Old Testament, in so far as he adheres by faith to the king, that is, to Christ, about which we read, “I was made king by him over Zion” (Ps 2:6). Abraham adhered to him, for as is said below (8:56): “Abraham, your father, rejoiced that he might see my day.” The son of this official is the Jewish people: “We are the descendants of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any one” (below 8:33). But they are sick from evil pleasures and incorrect doctrines. They are sick at Capernaum, i.e., in the abundance of goods which caused them to leave their God, according to, “The beloved grew fat and rebellious ... he deserted the God who made him, and left God his Savior” (Dt 32:15).
678 In the moral sense, in the kingdom of the soul, the king is reason itself: “The king, who sits on his throne of judgment” (Prv 20:8). But why is reason called the king? Because man’s entire body is ruled by it: his affections are directed and informed by it, and the other powers of the soul follow it. But sometimes it is called an official [not the king], that is, when its knowledge is obscured, with the result that it follows inordinate passions and does not resist them: “They live with their foolish ideas, their understanding obscured by darkness” (Eph 4:17). Consequently, the son of this official, i.e., the affections, are sick, that is, they deviate from good and decline to what is evil. If reason were the king, that is, strong, its son would not be sick; but being only an official, its son is sick. This happens at Capernaum because a great many temporal goods are the cause of spiritual sickness: “This was the crime of your sister Sodom: richness, satiety in food, and idleness” (Ez 16:49).
679 Now we see the person making his request (v 47). First, we have the incentive for making his request. Secondly, the request itself. Thirdly, the need for the request.
680 The incentive for making the request was the arrival of Christ. So he says, When he, the official, heard that Jesus had come to Galilee from Judea, he went to him. For as long as the coming of Christ was delayed, men’s hope of being healed from their sins was that much fainter; but when it is reported that his coming is near, our hope of being healed rises, and then we go to him. For he came into this world to save sinners: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk 19:22). Further, as Sirach says (18:23), we should prepare our soul by prayer, and we do this by going to God through our desires. And this is what the official did, as we read, he went to him. Amos (4:12) says, “Be prepared to meet your God, O Israel.”
681 The request of the official was that Christ heal his son. So the Evangelist says that he begged him to come down, out of compassion: “O that you would rend the heavens, and come down” (Is 64:1), and heal his son. We, too, ought to ask to be healed from our sins: “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you” (Ps 40:5). For no one of himself can return to the state of justice; rather, he has to be healed by God: “I cannot help myself” (Jb 6:13). The fathers of the Old Testament interceded for the people of Israel in the same way; for as we read of one: “He loves his brothers, because he prays much for the holy city and for the people of Israel, Jeremiah, the prophet of God” (2 Me 15:14).
682 The need for this request was urgent, for the son was at the point of death. When a person is tempted, he is beginning to become sick; and as the temptation grows stronger and takes the upper hand, inclining him to consent, he is near death. But when he has consented, he is at the point of death and beginning to die. Finally, when he completes his sin, he dies; for as we read: “Sin, when it is completed, brings forth death” (Jas 1:15). The Psalm (33:22) says about this: “The death of sinners is the worst,” because it begins here and continues into the future without end.
683 Now he deals with the request for Christ to heal the son of the official. First, our Lord’s criticism is given. Secondly, the official’s request. Thirdly, the granting of the request.
684 Our Lord criticizes him for his lack of faith, saying, Unless you see signs and wonders, you do not believe. This raises a question, for it does not seem right to say this to this official, for unless he had believed that Christ was the Savior, he would not have asked him to heal his son.
The answer to this is that this official did not yet believe perfectly; indeed, there were two defects in his faith. The first was that although he believed that Christ was a true man, he did not believe that he had divine power; otherwise he would have believed that Christ could heal one even while absent, since God is everywhere, as Jeremiah (23:24) says: “I fill heaven and earth.” And so he would not have asked Christ to come down to his house, but simply give his command. The second defect in his faith, according to Chrysostom, was that he was not sure that Christ could heal his son: for had he been sure, he would not have waited for Christ to return to his homeland, but would have gone to Judea himself. But now, despairing of his son’s health, and not wishing to overlook any possibility, he went to Christ like those parents who in their despair for the health of their children consult even unskilled doctors.
685 In the second place, it does not seem that he should have been criticized for looking for signs, for faith is proved by signs. The answer to this is that unbelievers are drawn to Christ in one way, and believers in another way. For unbelievers cannot be drawn to Christ or convinced by the authority of Sacred Scripture, because they do not believe it; neither can they be drawn by natural reason, because faith is above reason. Consequently, they must be led by miracles: “Signs are given to unbelievers, not to believers” (1 Cor 14:22). Believers, on the other hand, should be led and directed to faith by the authority of Scripture, to which they are bound to assent. This is why the official is criticized: although he had been brought up among the Jews and instructed in the law, he wanted to believe through signs, and not by the authority of the Scripture. So the Lord reproaches him, saying, Unless you see signs and wonders, i.e., miracles, which sometimes are signs insofar as they bear witness to divine truth. Or wonders (prodigia), either because they indicate with utmost certitude, so that a prodigy is taken to be a “portent” or some “sure indication”; or because they portend something in the future, as if something were called a wonder as if showing at a great distance some future effect.
686 Now we see the official’s persistence, for he does not give up after the Lord’s criticism, but insists, saying. Lord, come down before my child dies: “We should pray always, and not lose heart” (Lk 18:1). This shows an improvement in his faith in one respect, that is, in that he calls him “Lord.” But there is not a total improvement, for he still thought that Christ had to be physically present to heal his son; so he asked Christ to come.
687 His request is granted by the Lord, for persevering prayer is answered. Jesus said to him: Go, your son lives. Here we have first, the statement by Christ, who cured the boy, that the boy was cured. Secondly, we ire told of the persons who witnessed the cure (v 51 ). Two things are mentioned concerning the first: the command of the Lord and the obedience of the official (v 50b).
688 As to the first, the Lord does two things. First, he orders; secondly, he affirms. He orders the official to go: hence he says, Go, i.e., prepare to receive grace by a movement of your free will toward God: “Turn to me, and you will be saved” (Is 45:22); and by a movement of your free will against sin. For four things are required for the justification of an adult sinner: the infusion of grace, the remission of guilt, a movement of the free will toward God, which is faith, and a movement of the free will against sin, which is contrition.
Then the Lord says that his son is healed, which was the request of the official: Your son lives.
689 One may ask why Christ refused to go down to the home of this official as asked, while he promised to go see the servant of the centurion. There are two reasons for this. One, according to Gregory, is to blunt our pride; the pride of us who offer our services to great men, but refuse to help the insignificant: since the Lord of all offered to go to the servant of the centurion, but refused to go to the son of an official: “Be well-disposed to the poor” (Sir 4:7). The other reason, as Chrysostom says, was that the centurion was already confirmed in the faith of Christ, and believed that he could heal even while not present; and so our Lord promised to go to show approval of his faith and devotion. But this official was still imperfect, and did not yet clearly know that Christ could heal even while absent. And so our Lord does not go, in order that he may realize his imperfection.
690 The obedience of this official is pointed out in two ways. First, because he believed what Christ said; so he says, The man took Jesus at his word, that is, Your son lives. Secondly, because he did obey the order of Christ; so he says, he started for home, progressing in faith, although not yet fully or soundly, as Origen says. This signifies that we must be justified by faith: “Justified by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). We also must go and start out by making progress: because he who stands still runs the risk of being unable to preserve the life of grace. For, along the road to God, if we do not go forward we fall back.
691 Next we see the servants bringing news of the healing. First, the news of the healing is given. Secondly, there is an inquiry about the time of the healing (v 52).
692 He says, While he was on his way down, from Cana of Galilee to his own home, his servants ran up to meet him—which shows that this official was wealthy and had many servants—with word that his son was going to live: and they did this because they thought that Christ was coming, and his presence was no longer necessary as the boy was already cured.
693 In the mystical sense, the servants of the official, i.e., of reason, are a man’s works, because man is master of his own acts and of the affections of his sense powers, for they obey the command and direction of reason. Now these servants announce that the son of the official, that is, of reason, lives, when a man’s good works shine out, and his lower powers obey reason, according to: “A man’s dress, and laughter, and his walk, show what he is” (Sir 19:27).
694 Because this official did not yet believe either fully or soundly, he still wanted to know whether his son had been cured by chance or by the command of Christ. Accordingly, he asks about the time of the cure. He asked them, the servants, at what time his boy got better. And he found that his son was cured at exactly the same hour that our Lord said, Go, your son lives. And no wonder, because Christ is the Word, through whom heaven and earth were made: “He spoke and they were made; he commanded and they were. created” (Ps. 148:5).
695 And they, his servants, told him that yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. In the mystical sense, the seventh hour, when the boy is cured of his fever, signifies the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, through whom sins are forgiven, according to: “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive, are forgiven” (below 20:22), and through whom spiritual life is produced in the soul: “It is the Spirit that gives life” (below 6:64). Again, the seventh hour signifies the appropriate time for.rest, for the Lord rested from all his work on the seventh day. This indicates that the spiritual life of man consists in spiritual rest or quiet, according to: “If you remain at rest, you will be saved” (Is 30:15). But of the evil we read: “The heart of the wicked is like the raging sea, which cannot rest” (Is 57:20).
696 Next, we are given the effect of this miracle (v 53). First, its fruit is mentioned. Secondly, this miracle is linked with another one (v 54).
697 He says, The father then realized, by comparing the hour mentioned by the servants with the hour of Christ’s affirmation, that it was at that very hour when Jesus told him, Your son lives. Because of this he was converted to Christ, realizing that it was by his power that the miracle was accomplished. He and his whole household became believers, that is, his servants and his aides, because the attitude of servants depends on the condition, whether good or wicked, of their masters: “As the judge of the people is himself, so also are his ministers” (Sir 10:2); and in Genesis (18:19) we read: “I know that he will direct his sons.”
This also shows that the faith of the official was constantly growing: for at the beginning, when he pleaded for his sick son, it was weak; then it began to grow more firm, when he called Jesus “Lord” then when he believed what the Lord said and started for home, it was more perfect, but not completely so, because he still doubted. But here, clearly realizing God’s power in Christ, his faith is made perfect, for as Proverbs (4:18) says: “The way of the just goes forward like a shining light, increasing to the full light of day.”
698 Finally, this miracle is linked with the previous one, This was the second sign Jesus had performed on returning from Judea to Galilee. We can understand this in two ways. In one way, that our Lord performed two miracles during this one trip from Judea to Galilee; but the first of these was not recorded, only the second. In the other way, we could say that Jesus worked two signs in Galilee at different times: the one of the wine, and this second one about the son of this official after he returned again to Galilee from Judea.
We also see from this that the Galileans were worse than the Samaritans. For the Samaritans expected no sign from the Lord, and many believed in his word alone; but as a result of this miracle, only this official and his whole household believed: for the Jews were converted to the faith little by little on account of their hardness, according to: “I have become as one who harvests in the summer time, like a gleaner at the vintage: not one cluster to eat, not one of the early figs I desire” (Mi 7:1).