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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

An Open Letter to the Woman at the Well

(I wrote today’s reflection for Give Us This Day, March 2023 issue, published by Liturgical Press. The reflection is based on this past Sunday’s gospel of Jesus encountering the woman at the well [John 4:5-42]).

(Photo by Ganta Srinuvis – Pexels)

Dear Sister,

Thank you! Thank you for coming to the well that day to perform a routine boring chore: drawing water. Woman’s work. You remind me that I too can encounter Divinity in the ordinary tasks of daily life…

Thank you for not running away that day. For daring to speak with this stranger—a man and a Jew, no less! Your gutsiness encourages me to risk speaking with individuals very different from myself…

Thank you for giving in to your curiosity. I sometimes think only the big virtues matter in life: faith, hope, and love. But even little curiosities can sneak into my life and set me up for an encounter with God…

(photo be Frans van Heerden – Pexels)

Thank you for your messy life. Out of shame (I’m guessing) you tried to hide your five husbands (plus your current lover) from Jesus. But Jesus’ response to you tells me that I don’t need a perfectly ordered life to engage with him…

Thank you for leaving your water jar at the well and running into town to share the news of this stranger. That left-behind jar is a sure sign that your encounter with Jesus has altered your priorities…

Thank you for your enthusiasm. The fact that so many townspeople came to meet Jesus—simply because of your witness—underscores the importance of enthusiasm in my own life of faith…

And finally, I sense that Jesus was irresistibly drawn to your openness, genuineness, and spunk. Well, so am I! And so I say again: thank you, sister, thank you!

(Photo by Fatma Topcu – Pexels)

Reflection questions:

Have you ever encountered Divinity in the ordinary tasks of daily life? If so, when and how?

Do you ever risk speaking with individuals very different from yourself? If so, with whom and when? What was the experience like for you?

Has your curiosity ever led you to an experience of God? If so, explain.

Has the messiness of your life ever prevented you from going to God in prayer or engaging in religious endeavors?

Do you live your faith with enthusiasm? Why or why not?

Do you really believe that God, that Jesus, is “irresistibly drawn to you”?

And finally, is there anything else YOU would like to say to the woman at the well?

P.S. A BIG thank you to the parishioners at St. Ladislas in Westlake, OH for welcoming me to their church Sunday evening. As part of their Lenten Mission I gave a talk entitled “Mary: Woman of Hope and One of Us!” I especially want to thank their pastor, Father Don, and his staff for inviting me. And thank you to Diane for taking care of so many of the details for the evening. What a beautiful parish community they are!

Here’s an intriguing song about the woman at the well. It is written and sung by Olivia Lane. And it raises the question: Can you identify in any way with this woman at the well? Does her story resonate with your own story or with the stories of other people you know?

I hope a few of you might share below one of your answers to one of the reflection questions. I always welcome your comments!

14 Responses

  1. And I say Thank You Melannie for reminding us that we are all a bit of the Samaritan Woman!
    What a blessing to read this.
    May Ann Flanneyt,SC

  2. During the time I spent working in the emergency room at a local hospital, I met and spoke with many remarkable people with whom I met Jesus:

    The one-legged man praising God openly with endearment and longing, though seemingly, with reverence so as not to be showy and attract attention to himself.
    The World War II veteran, the last living member of his regime, who sat with his wife of over sixty-five years who was admitted for stroke symptoms.
    The ten year old in obvious, extreme pain who kept it hidden because his mom was racked with anxiety and fear.
    The senior citizen caregiver who patiently and lovingly called his mother “Mommy” knowing her dementia let her believe he was still her little child.

    Grace is everywhere. We only need to pay attention in order to receive it.

    1. Annemarie, What touching examples of your second last sentence: “Grace is everywhere.” Thank you for sharing these with us! I was especially moved by the man who lovingly called his mother “Mommy” because his mother believed he was still her little child…”Melannie

  3. Hi Melannie,

    “…I don’t need a perfectly ordered life to engage with him.” That’s exactly it! Yes, our lives can be so “messy,” and Jesus sees through it all! Thank you!

    1. John, You highlighted one of my favorite lines from the reflection. I tend to be an “orderly” person. But over the years I realized an exaggerated need for neatness can get in the way of relating to others–including God! Thanks for your comment! Melannie

  4. This reading, “the Woman at the well” from last Sunday’s Liturgy was so engaging. We don’t know her name but she was so open to Our Lord’s dialogue with her. She could have drawn water and left but she didn’t. She was searching and found new life in Christ that day and had to tell the whole community! God’s grace is in every “ordinary” task we do. Thank you for this beautiful reflection!!!

    1. Nancy, Thanks for reminding us that this woman could have drawn her water and left. But her staying shows she was a SEARCHING woman. How important it is for us to reflect on this question: what am I REALLY seeking in my life? And how earnest is my seeking? Thanks for writing, Nancy. Melannie

  5. Melannie, your friend, Nancy Frederico, did an awesome message for us today. I am putting this message at the top of my book I write in every day. God bless you!

    1. Celeste, How nice of you to let Nancy know how much her words meant to you! We never know the full impact our simple words can have on others. Thanks again for continuing to read my blog all these years! And for commenting! Melannie

  6. Dear Sister, yes, God meets us in unexpected places and people! A few weeks ago, out of curiosity I went to a women’s retreat. Usually I feel out of place and lost at things like that, but there was supposed to be praise and worship along with a healing service. It turned out to be absolutely amazing! The love of Abba our Father was so strong there. It was an encounter with the Lord I will always remember. And thank you for finding such a great song!

    1. Vicki, Thank you for sharing this beautiful example of experiencing our loving God at that retreat. You show us that we can go to things or do things hesitatingly or even leerily–and God can have a special surprise for us–and “show up!” Thanks for your words. Melannie

  7. Sr. Melannie, I read this reflection in “Give Us This Day” and was so blessed by it! I’ve been learning about St. Clare’s visual prayer and this seemed like such a perfect example of it. I typed it up and sent it to many of my friends as I felt they would also benefit from it.

    I currently live in a very different setting from that in which I was raised and spent most of my life. I find that by “risking” to engage in conversation with new people always breaks down barriers and lets us both see the similarities in our lives. I wish that countries in the world could learn from this, maybe by asking, “What sort of future do we wish for our children?”

    I would also add that I thank this sister at the well for her persistence! She no doubt experienced discomfort as she found herself face to face with a strange man who had spoken to her, who knew all about her, who claimed to be the Messiah. But she stayed and asked questions and persisted in her own discomfort, much to the benefit of us all! Thank you sister!

    1. Sandra, Your comment is filled with wisdom and grace! Yes, we must risk engaging with new people in order to break down barriers… And your question is right on: “What sort of future do we wish for our children?” That’s a great question to begin with! And I also appreciate this woman’s persistence. Jesus always seems intrigued by persistence. Remember the Syro-Phoenician woman’s persistence? I wrote a blog on her. She wouldn’t take “no” for an answer… I hope you write again! Melannie

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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