Third Sunday of Lent Exodus 7:3-7; Romans 5:1-22, 5-8; John 4:5-42
IN THE SCRIPTURES, water and thirst are images describing our journey to God. For all of us there is a thirst that only God can satisfy. Without God we grow stale and weary. Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so we long for God (cf. Psalms 42 & 63).
Today's readings set before us a thirst which remains unsatisfied until we are rooted in the presence of God. Within us all there is a craving, an unquenched thirst Such a longing can seek satisfaction in the passing moment, or it can lead us into the presence of Christ The woman of Samaria encountered Christ as the living water at Jacob's well. We encountered the same Christ in the waters of our baptism. The Spirit moving within us enables us to identify the superficialities which can never satisfy our thirst. That same Spirit opens our eyes to Christ offered as the living water. During Lent we become one with the Samaritan woman, asking afresh that Christ become our inner spring, welling up to eternal life.
The Exodus reading reflects our own experience against the backdrop of Israel's history. The call from slavery to freedom announced by Moses had been embraced with great enthusiasm. The deprivations of the journey proved less palatable. Although they had escaped from Egypt this people were far from free. They were the prisoners of the gnawing thirst. They demanded water forgetful of God's generosity. God had freed the spirit of a nation. Rather than giving thanks they complained. Nothing confines and degrades the human spirit more than the destructive murmuring to which we so easily descend. God's graciousness proved greater than the grumbling of his people. At the command of Moses water flowed from the rock, the grace of God breaking into a wilderness of self pity. The incident would always be remembered as an act of selfish rebellion (cf 1 Cor 10: lff).
In St John's Gospel Christ is the living water. His presence creates new life in the wasteland of sinful hearts. "Whoever drinks this water will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life." The Samaritan woman to whom these words were spoken lived on the margins of society, shunned both for her background and the looseness of her life. As Christ speaks to her, he speaks to a sinful world. He addresses the burden of guilt and insecurity which relegates us to the margins of God's presence. He shares the thirst of broken lives and leads us to Himself.
Having encountered the presence of God in Christ, the Samaritan woman was anxious not to lose it. Her Samaritan background sought God's presence on Mount Gerizim, whereas the Jews turned to the temple of Jerusalem. She was asking the most basic question. Where is God to be found? The answer for her and us lies within ourselves. In Christ the Spirit of God so touches our being that already we are in communion with God.
"..the hour is coming in fact it is already here when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth."