23Mar 23rd March. Third Sunday of Lent

23rd March. Third Sunday of Lent

1) Exodus 17:3-7

(God provides refreshment for his people on their way through the wilderness. He is never far from them.)

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

2) Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

(God has reconciled us through the life of Christ. Through the gift of the Spirit we are joined to him in love.)

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel: John 4:5-42

(Jesus offers living water, the gift of the Holy Spirit. True worship is taught by Jesus to the woman at the well.)

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, an the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jeusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He canno be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.”

(Kieran O’Mahony writes that “The third Sunday of Lent presents us the Gospel of the Samaritan woman. It has layers of meaning which could speak very directly to the needs of today. It is worthwhile getting to the deep meaning of the text rather than taking the short route of accommodated meanings. This text has often been abused as a moralising story, forgetting that in the Fourth Gospel there is no moral teaching whatsoever except that we love one another.”)

Slaking our thirst at the fountain of life

The thirsting soul: Our need to drink regularly is obvious; without water we would quickly die. Not so easily recognized is the soul’s thirst for meaning, for vision and purpose in life. We can be fully preoccupied with the surface of things, and quite neglect our spirit’s obscure longing for eternal life. Like the Israelites, we worry constantly about physical needs, but are often unmindful of God who supplies them. Today, Jesus offers us the refreshing water of eternal life, a power of faith and union-with-God which is our deepest need, and can satisfy the thirst of our soul. How the desert blossoms, when water is brought to it. (We may cite dramatic examples of successful irrigation in Israel, Egypt, California.) The same miracle of growth can take place in the parched soul, if God lets his Spirit flow over me. All the ravages of doubt, fear and sin will yield to the new life of grace.

A sacramental washing: Already in baptism, the sacramental washing with water by the Christian Church was a first contact with the grace of Christ. I was given a good start, planted well in the garden of God, with room to put down roots, and draw vital nourishment from the living spring of the Saviour. Yet, I need continuing help, to keep my spirit alive and pleasing to God as life goes on. Like the desert-wandering Jews, I suffer from thirst; I grow weary in confronting problems and temptations (sketch examples–) Jesus guarantees me the “living water” I need. His own Spirit is always at hand, as a force of encouragement and fidelity.

“To dwell in the house of the Lord”: Our deep desire remains, something not confined to Christians but shared by the mystic tradition in other religions: namely, the yearning to come into the presence of God, and be welcomed by God. All of us are called by him to drink of that “fountain of water, springing up to everlasting life.” In times of widespread religious scepticism, the hope of heaven as eternal life after death is often cast in doubt as wishful thinking. But we cling to this hope, relying on the word of Jesus. For Paul and the early Christians, the hope of eternal life breathed joy into all their efforts and sacrifices. Fidelity until death seemed well worthwhile, “for the weight of glory that will be revealed in us.” Our part to play is turning aside from sin, and trying to live by the gospel. God can be absolutely relied on to fulfil his promise, and will in time satisfy the deep thirst of our spirit.