Wednesday, 20 February 2008

3rd Sunday of Lent - Year A

Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2.5-8; John 4:5-42

Today the curtains open on a well, a particularly good well, full of cool, clear, drinkable water - Jacob’s well.

Stage left – enter: Jesus. Tired by the journey he sits straight down by the well. It was about noon.

Stage right – enter: A Samaritan woman. She has come to draw water.

First let’s look at Jesus for a bit: A man in his thirties, long hair, beard. He is hot and sweaty, tired from the journey, that’s why he sits straight down by the well. He is alone because his disciples have gone into town to buy food.

How wonderful to look at him, to watch him – the Master! He is exhausted but recollected, focussed and peaceful. Is he thirsty? He must be. We are told it was about the sixth hour, that is, about noon, the thirsty time of the day.

There was only ever one other time he admitted to being thirsty – that was on the Cross – when he moaned, I thirst! – but he wouldn’t drink. He was thirsting for more than water. He was thirsting for souls.

A few years before her death Mother Teresa reminded her followers: Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all what you can imagine … Not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy …

It is this Jesus who now sits by the well, the one who thirsts more for human hearts and their salvation than for water.

Now let’s look at the Samaritan woman who has come to draw water. Not old, attractive, perhaps a little brazen. She has had five husbands and was living with a sixth man. Obviously she has been drawing from a different well altogether, searching for something, maybe the perfect man. Little does she realise he is now sitting opposite her – deeply in love with her, thirsting for her.

This woman makes one realise once again that sin is only the search for true happiness, true peace, true love, true fulfilment – but in the wrong place and in the wrong way – and we should be very slow, to judge anyone. The soul of this woman, too, is thirsting for the truth.

Jesus doesn’t ask, he tells her: Give me a drink. If only she had realised that she herself was the ‘drink’ Jesus was looking for.

The woman is taken aback. ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans.

Poor woman, like so many others she has no idea who Jesus is!
  • How can this man forgive sins?
  • How come his disciples don’t fast?
  • Where does your authority come from?
  • Are you a king?
Jesus makes no sense at all if you don’t know who he is.

So he replies: If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink …

At the mention of living water the woman is all ears but not yet on his wavelength. It takes us all a while to ‘tune in’ to Jesus – we must be patient – with ourselves and with others.

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’

We smile at the woman’s simplicity but Jesus is not put off.

Mother Teresa used to say: People are so hungry for God.

How true this is in my experience also! Most people, the overwhelming majority, have a hunger for God deep within their hearts, even when they loudly refuse to admit this is true. Then they are like the man with clenched fist and white knuckles who loudly protests: I am not angry. All one can say - quietly, reverently, firmly is – Yes you are!

Jesus can see the need within the Samaritan woman as well as her basic honesty.

Go and call your husband. – I have no husband.

The Lord fills in the details, showing the woman her life is known to him, and compliments her on her honesty: You are right … you spoke the truth … .

A moment later he reveals to her that he is the Messiah.

It seems Jesus didn’t get the drink he asked for, or did he? Although the woman is not yet fully convinced of his identity - I wonder if he is the Christ? – she has clearly set out on the path to faith and manages to bring the whole town to the Lord. He must have been pleased. We may rightly hope that God’s grace, and her basic love for truth and her thirst for fulfilment, would eventually bring her conversion to full maturity.

The Gospel leaves us pondering deep questions - God’s insatiable love for us, the maturity of our love for God. Do we have, metaphorically speaking, ‘five husbands’ in our lives, holding us back from full discipleship? Lent, above all, is a time for discovering their names, and sending them on their way. Only then will the ‘living water’ of God’s love flow into our lives.

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