3RD SUNDAY OF LENT – A
“Of all our planet’s forces, perhaps none has greater power than water. It is the most magical force on earth; the presence of water shapes, renews, nourishes our planet. It is our planet’s life-blood that flows continuously which is an ingredient for life. Water makes earth alive.” (Prof. Iain Stewart, BBC: How Earth Made Us?) We know that water is essential to life! It is the cradle of life! Science tells us that the first life form on earth was born in water. All the major ancient civilizations built their cities and empires in places where there was water.
In today’s gospel, Jesus revealed himself to the Samaritan woman as the spring of water welling up to eternal life.
The encounter happened in Samaria on a very unholy hour which was about 12noon (sixth hour) and with a Samaritan woman. It was in these very unlikely setting that Jesus would reveal himself and something spectacular in the dialogue between him and the woman. The well did not just provide water but a place of social interaction for people who usually went there early in the morning to avoid the burning sun. Jesus sat on the well, exhausted from his journey, to meet the Samaritan woman who was avoiding any company. The well symbolized spring yet to be revealed; sitting on the well symbolized the weakness and humility of Jesus as a man being thirsty; the Samaritan woman symbolized the emerging Church from the Gentiles in the process of conversion. On that very ground, Jesus came so that the Samaritans, who claimed to be the inheritors of Jacob (Israel), might recognize him as the Christ and the legal heir of their ancestors. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans who, after their return from exile, were considered as impure, aliens and enemies.
Jesus being thirsty initiated the conversation by asking the Samaritan woman for a drink but the water Jesus was asking was not the one she thought to be. By asking for a drink, He wished to satisfy the thirst of the woman by giving her the living water which she still misunderstood as coming from the well. When he told her that whoever drank the living water he gave would never be thirsty again, the woman understood now the spiritual meaning and begged him for that living water. At this point, Jesus asked her to call her husband in which she said she had none. He knew she had had five husbands and the one she had now was not her husband. The five husbands represented the five senses that led her to error and her husband at the moment made her an adulterer. The woman who was not offended by Jesus’ revelation, raised her admiration of him by acknowledging him as a prophet. Jesus’s invitation was to leave her sinful past in order to marry a lawful husband who was the Word of truth, Jesus Himself. Jesus was leading the Samaritan woman now as an emerging Church-bride into a fuller understanding of him as the bridegroom. Jesus, addressing himself to her as Church, proclaimed that one day true worshippers would worship the Father not in that mountain nor in Jerusalem but in spirit and in truth. Then Jesus revealed himself to her as the Messiah. When the disciples came, the woman left her water jar which represented her earthly desires, prejudices and old self and went to the city as an apostle telling everyone about her encounter with the Christ. The Samaritans believed and proclaimed Jesus as the Saviour of the world.
If water is the “soul of the earth” that shapes, nourishes and renews creation, Jesus is the spring who gives living water which is the Holy Spirit to those who thirst for truth. The Lord continues to seek the Samaritan woman who is the emerging Church amongst the wells of other cultures and religions offering them truth. The Lord also continues to seek the Samaritan woman who is us in the present time offering us continuous conversion and fullness of life. Like the Samaritan woman, after we encounter the Lord and experience conversion, we become channels of grace which is the life-blood that flows generously to the world.