Biblical Reflection on Water
1. Select two people from your group to read the two versions of the Genesis reading.
2. On the front side of Water: a sacred gift for all read the first reflection under
3. Discuss question #1 on the back side of the page.
4. Select two people from your group to read the two versions of the Gospel of John
5. On the front side of Water: a sacred gift for all read the reflection under Today and
the second reflection under Yesterday.
6. Discuss question #2 on the back side of the page.
Genesis 29:1-8 (NRSV)
Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. 2As he looked, he saw a
well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The
stone on the wells mouth was large, 3and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the
stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the
Jacob said to them, My brothers, where do you come from? They said, We are from Haran. 5He said to
them, Do you know Laban son of Nahor? They said, We do. 6He said to them, Is it well with him? Yes,
they replied, and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep. 7He said, Look, it is still broad
daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them. 8But they
said, We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well;
then we water the sheep.
Genesis 29:1-8 (MSG)
Jacob set out again on his way to the people of the east. 2He noticed a well out in an open field with three
flocks of sheep bedded down around it. This was the common well from which the flocks were watered. The
stone over the mouth of the well was huge. 3When all the flocks were gathered, the shepherds would roll the
stone from the well and water the sheep; then they would return the stone, covering the well.
Jacob said, Hello friends. Where are you from?
They said, Were from Haran.
Jacob asked, Do you know Laban son of Nahor?
Are things well with him? Jacob continued.
Very well, they said. And here is his daughter Rachel coming with the flock.
Jacob said, Theres a lot of daylight still left; it isnt time to round up the sheep yet, is it? So why not water
the flocks and go back to grazing?
We cant, they said. Not until all the shepherds get here. It takes all of us to roll the stone from the well.
Not until then can we water the flocks.
John 4:1-15 (NRSV)
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than
John 2although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized3he left Judea and started back to
Galilee. 4But he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of
ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacobs well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was
sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, Give me a drink. 8(His disciples had gone
to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a
woman of Samaria? (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, If you
knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he
would have given you living water. 11The woman said to him, Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep.
Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with
his sons and his flocks drank from it? 13Jesus said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty
again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give
will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. 15The woman said to him, Sir, give me this
water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.
John 4:1-15 (MSG)
Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed 2(although
his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him
and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. 3So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.
To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. 5He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the
field Jacob had given his son Joseph. 6Jacobs well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the
well. It was noon.
A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, Would you give me a drink of water? 8(His
disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a
drink? (Jews in those days wouldnt be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
Jesus answered, If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and
I would give you fresh, living water.
The woman said, Sir, you dont even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you
going to get this living water? 12Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank
from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?
Jesus said, Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. 14Anyone who drinks the water
I give will never thirstnot ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of
The woman said, Sir, give me this water so I wont ever get thirsty, wont ever have to come back to this
Water: A sacred gift for all Reflection 3
the women face. There is an issue of
What does democracy have
The Old Testament tells us that
sharing. When the herdsmen arrive to to do with faith?
problems of access, management and
use of water were a reality for water their animals, they empty the
Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. well and deprive not only these women Many people of faith, including
but also the whole village of water, a Christians, seek to defend the
Genesis 29:1-8 tells us of Jacob’s arrival resource supposedly available to all
human kind. environment and ensure fair and
at a well in the midst of the desert
where there were three flocks of sheep democratic community access to
waiting to be watered. Jacob Today as in Biblical days, the need for
water for all. Water is more
suggested that the people from Haran true community control over water
water their flock right away. But they access is vital. than a national or local issue; it
replied, “We cannot until all the flocks
are gathered together, and the stone is Yesterday is part of the common heritage
of not only humanity but all
rolled away from the mouth of the John 4:1-15 tells us the well-known
well.” story in which Jesus meets a Samaritan creation. Water is God’s sacred
woman at “Jacob’s well”. He breaks gift to all beings.
What was this all about? A huge stone the social rules of his day by asking her
had been placed over the well, a stone for a drink—a daring act for a Jewish
that could only be man addressing a woman of a different Why are we concerned about
moved if all of the religious and cultural tradition. His act
shepherds helped democratically-managed water
is all the more shocking because the
out. Until all were woman is at the well alone in the heat services? Privatization of water is
present, none was of midday, which tells us that she was not an ethical response to a
able to draw of such low social status that she was
water. It was an not permitted to draw water in the growing crisis about water
ingenious device cool of the early morning with the help access and pollution. This is not
for community of the rest of the women.
control that a solution that respects the
ensured equal Discrimination blocked this woman’s integrity of creation; nor does it
access and a fair access to water, and this remains an all
recognize water as a basic
sharing among all too-common situation today. Women,
the herds. This poor communities, and Indigenous human right. It comes down to
passage in the Book of Genesis people are among the world’s people who is responsible for life. It is
illustrates how one group of people who face an especially difficult struggle
were able to ensure that their well for fair and equal access to drinking everyone’s responsibility to
would not be exhausted by some to water. Too often they are denied a ensure that water is accessed,
the detriment of others. voice in how water is used, protected,
and made accessible to all. The managed and used
Today Samaritan woman likely experienced democratically.
this on a daily basis.
The women in a desert area of
Senegal, Western Africa, also have Yet, Jesus ignores her supposed
access to a well. Here again they must inferiority, and goes a step further by
all go together, not only because the freely offering the woman “living
older women count on the younger water”. He does so while sitting next
women’s help to fill their containers to a well that symbolized Israel’s
but because there is no pump. The connections to her ancestors. As in the
well is so deep that at least three days of those ancestors, access to a
women are needed to pull up the long secure water source and the right to
rope that reaches the water. However, use it when needed was crucial to
access is not the most difficult problem survival in Jesus’ time.
With reflections and research by Renaude Grégoire, the staff person of the Réseau
œcuménique justice et paix, a Québec-based ecumenical partnership
that includes CCODP and KAIROS among its 40 members.
accessible and lasting solutions as an meaning of good governance and
alternative to privatized water services. water. These include:
Often run by women, these
committees were elected by the ◗ Participation in decision-making
community. In 2002, more than 150 ◗ Transparency
public fountains were installed. These ◗ Flexibility
are now run by local, democratic ◗ Consensus in reconciling
“For lack of water committees. More than 100,000 interests that might compete
democracy, we are denied individuals come to these water with each other
sources. Unfortunately, challenges ◗ Equity, effectiveness and
a democratic life.” remain: this number represents only efficiency to satisfy needs
Indian activist and writer Vandana Shiva meeting 3% of the 3 million Dhaka citizens ◗ The responsibilities of decision-
with representatives of the local government of who do not have access to clean makers and civil society
Hardwar, India, asking them to stop damming the
Ganges River. water. interveners
◗ A strategic vision of sustainable
In this desert land, water was and is a
life and death matter. Then as now,
there is no substitute for water. Jesus’ management By linking these principles to our faith
offer of living water, which is open to
the whole community and can be
of water understanding of water as God’s gift
reached without a bucket or even a resources to all creation, we can move towards
participatory democracy and not limit
well, is a powerful promise of equal
United Nations principles on ourselves to simply being “informed”
access to new life. If we understand
governance can help us reflect on the or “consulted.”
water to be a sacred gift on which all
Fall 2005 / Graphic Design: Caroline Léger / Photos: Julie Perreault and Thierry Vogler. / Disponible en français
life depends, Jesus could not have
chosen a more powerful image. And
he makes it clear that this gift is for all
Questions From Reflection to Action
About one third of the people living in Use the following suggested questions 3 The Canadian churches are involved
Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, live in and to guide yourself or a small group in a campaign for access to clean
around huge slums which have no through a discussion. water for all. Reflecting on Jesus’
water service as these areas are promise of a “spring of living water
“illegally”occupied. Over a number of 1 Reflecting on the Genesis story: what gushing up to eternal life”, discuss:
years, pressure on the city’s municipal can the Biblical way of ensuring fair
council to privatize water services water distribution teach us about ◗ What gifts can people of faith
intensified. The city’s workers formed a community water management offer to democratic and
cooperative and were able to take over today? community-based decision-
the management of the water services
making on water?
by demonstrating better results than
2 In the John passage, the Samaritan
the private sector. This cooperative
showed itself to be very open to the woman is blocked from fair access to ◗ What can your faith community
initiatives of popular organizations. In water by discrimination. What are contribute to the struggle for
the poor areas of the city, several local some modern-day equivalents for access to clean water for all?
committees developed participatory, your area? For our world?
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