Monday, 21 March 2011

3rd Sunday of Lent - Year A

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

In today’s readings everybody is thirsty.
  • The Chosen People in the desert are thirsty.
  • Jesus is thirsty.
  • The woman at the well is thirsty.
  • Even God is thirsty.
How about you? Are you thirsty? And what are you thirsting for? What would you like to drink? Think carefully before you answer; it may be all you’ll get.

The People in the desert were thirsty; their throats were dry. They wanted water. They were so thirsty, in fact, that they were tormented by thirst. They complained against Moses and were on the point of stoning him. Actually, they were grumbling against God; putting him to the test. Of course they didn’t realise that God was putting them to the test too.

The great thirst of the People was simply for water. In the face of this tormenting thirst everything was of no importance. They lost sight of what God had done for them by leading them out of slavery in Egypt by the hand of Moses, they forgot the great signs God had worked to strengthen their faith in him, they forgot all his promises of freedom in their own land. All they wanted was a drink of water – now! – because if they didn’t get it they would die.

I met a woman in hospital once who told me she needed to have her baby aborted or she would die. She told me she ‘had no choice’.

In the desert of Sinai God had brought his Chosen People to place and a moment of choice, or rather, to a place and a moment where it once again became apparent to them that a choice was possible.

It was actually the same moment in which Jesus found himself in another wilderness forty days after his baptism. After fasting for forty days and nights Jesus was naturally very hungry: and the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves'. But he replied, 'Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'.

So we see that the People of God actually found themselves confronted by a very challenging question: ‘Do you want to live, or do you want God?’ Do you trust God or do you want to take the decision about your life into your own hands; in other words, do you want to be your own God?

Esau sold his birthright for a plate of stew; it can also be sold for a glass of water, or even the life of a babe in the womb.

So, the question I asked earlier on, ‘What are you thirsting for?’, and, of course, it is a question directed to me as well, is one that goes to the heart of a true relationship with God.

When King David was in the wilderness of Judah he wrote a Psalm:

O God, you are my God, for you I long;For you my soul is thirsting.My body pines for youLike a dry, weary land without water (Ps 63:2).

See how he begins, you are my God? Not only did David affirm this, he lived it. There were a number of occasions King David could have saved his life, for example, by killing King Saul who was pursuing him, but David chose to trust and obey God.

What we are dealing with today is the profound question of what constitutes true discipleship. Do we thirst more for earthly life or for eternal life? Do we trust our own judgment or do we trust God?

Worldly people will say: I may follow the dictates of my own heart and still lack nothing; much water drives away thirst. (Deut 29:19) but those who believe will remember Jesus’ words: For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mtt 16:25)

After killing the Philistines Samson was very thirsty: he called on God and said, 'You yourself have worked this great victory by the hand of your servant; and now must I die of thirst … Then God opened a hollow in the ground, the hollow there is at Lehi, and water gushed out of it. (Judges 15:18-19)

We must all die. Samson’s prayer for water was heard but it was entirely possible that his story could have ended there at Lehi, with Samson dying of thirst.

On the Cross of Calvary Jesus cried ‘I thirst’ but he refused water. His thirst was the thirst of God for the salvation of his children. Yes, God, too, thirsts.

And is this not the same power God will use to fulfil his promise to those who put their hope in him? As the last book of the Bible says: the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them, because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Rev 7:17-19)

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