Third Sunday of Lent - 19th March, 2017
Liturgical ReflectionExodus 17: 3-7 Romans 5: 1-2 5-8 John 4: 5-42
Today’s Gospel presents us with a story about thirst. This may have a special resonance for us, living with drought and fire in this sunburnt country. Moreover, we know that millions of people in other places are thirsting for clean water just to keep themselves and their children alive.
So, two strangers meet at Jacob’s well, source of life-giving water to the ancestors of both. History, however has erected barriers between them, setting up cultural taboos related to gender, race, politics and religion. Jesus, weary and thirsty after a long journey on foot from Judea, ignores all the taboos, speaking to a woman of Samaria as to a friend whose help he needs. Disarmed by his approach, she enters into a conversation, reminding him of the barriers between them. Jesus takes the dialogue to a different level, suggesting that he has more to offer her than she can offer him.
Puzzled, she wonders aloud how he can draw water from a deep well without a bucket. Jesus coaxes her to think of water that will quench her thirst forever and takes the opportunity to teach her that the Father is to be worshipped not just in places sacred to her people or his; but in spirit and in truth. The woman first addressed him politely as ‘Sir’. Amazed when he reveals knowledge of her past, she thinks he must be a prophet. When she declares her faith in a Messiah who is to come to ‘explain everything’, she frees Jesus to admit that it is he who is talking with her.
Abandoning her water jar, the woman goes home to report her surprising experience at the well. The townspeople set out to hear this stranger for themselves; and respond to him in faith. It is worth noting that Jesus does not call this woman a sinner; and that he leaves her free to speak her mind. But this is not the end of the story.
Jesus’ thirst that day was not just for a drink of water; he thirsted for this woman’s salvation. Later, on the last day of the Festival of Booths, John tells us, he cried out to the assembled people: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water”.’
At that festival there were people who were plotting his death. For their salvation, too, he thirsted. In agony on the cross he said once more: ‘I am thirsty’, not for something to ease his pain but for the salvation of us all to eternal life with him in God.
Mary Britt OP