Third Sunday of Lent – Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman at the well (John 4:4-42).
The image is clear. It’s the heat of the day, Jesus had been traveling and sat down beside a well to rest, and a woman comes along to collect some water. Jesus puts all cultural barriers aside (He is a Jew; she is a Samaritan. He is a man; she is a woman, living in a culture were these differences don’t mix), and asks her for a drink. What unfolds is a dialog between Jesus and the Samaritan woman that leads her to believe in Him, and she brings almost everybody in her town to believe as well.
Backing up a bit, the scene of Jesus asking the woman for a drink, stays with me.
“Give me a drink.”
Jesus’ thirst can be looked at on a different levels: physically, he was walking, it was midday, and he needed water to quench his thirst. The woman complied.
But his thirst goes out to the soul of the woman, too.
She comes to the well at the hottest time of the day, when others won’t be around, which suggests she is excluded from the ordinary life of the community. Reading on in the Gospel narrative, Jesus offers her something she doesn’t expect: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” Jesus explains, “but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“Give me this water,” she asks, her mind is still thinking of the physical reality of needing to come and draw water day after day, “so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus leads her beyond her physical need for water to a deeper level of understanding. He reads her heart back to her, revealing the complexity of her relationships. She is a woman with five former husbands, and currently is with a man who is not her husband.
What is she thirsty for? Her thirst is for relationship – for love.
This is what Jesus is striving toward; to help her realize her true thirst – a true love to be found in God alone:
“The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship to Father in Spirit and truth: and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”
His words remind her of the coming of the Messiah, “the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus replies, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
At that, she leaves her water jar behind and goes into the village to tell the people about Jesus, “Could he possibly be the Messiah?”
She had gone to to the well thirsty for water. Following her encounter with Jesus, she left her old ways of doing things there with her water jar. Her thirst had changed; she now desired to share what she found with those of the town who held her in no esteem. The fact that they listened to her is a sign that she was transformed, and through Jesus, was again part of the community. More importantly, she had a taste of the Living Water that is found only in a relationship with God.
The application of this Gospel leads us to ask, “And us? What do we thirst for?”
It is easy to confuse our true needs with imagined ones. Just as the woman sought love through her numerous relationships, it is all too easy to seek to take care of our needs with things that only satisfy us superficially. Think about it. What do you long for? What occupies your thoughts? What are you working towards? Is it a longing for the Eternal good, for ‘Living Water’, or for the Temporal?
Jesus waits at the well for us too, thirsty to speak to our hearts, that we might leave our jars of self-made longing behind, and desire instead that which God alone offers us.
Mass Readings for Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A:
Pope Benedict: “God sent Jesus to quench man’s thirst for eternal life”
Bible Study: St Thomas the Apostle Parish: Third Sunday of Lent
Per i miei amici italiani: Maranatha.it