Third Sunday of Lent Year A
Readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42
Thirst and water, spiritual dehydration and self-scrutiny, are the metaphors that focus on the central message of this Sunday. If you are thirsting for spiritual nourishment, there is good news for you this Sunday. The readings focus on the symbolism of thirst and water, leading us to self-scrutiny and our need for spiritual nourishment. The readings help to connect with the first of three Scrutinies celebrated this Sunday with those elected for Baptism on the First Sunday of Lent. The Scrutinies are a time of soul-searching and repentance during which the candidates for Baptism and us too seek to uncover all that is weak, defective or sinful in our lives. They also provide an occasion to strengthen our positive qualities. The symbolism of thirst and water is very central in all three readings. In the Exodus story, the Israelites are in the open desert. They are too thirsty and begin to complain to Moses who is instructed by God to strike a rock in order to get water for them to drink. If you have ever experienced dehydration, you know how deadly it can be. Almost 300 people in the US die annually of dehydration. 2.2 million children die of dehydration annually in the world. Body drought that causes "brain fog" is the strongest type of stress and depression. Spiritual dehydration is similarly fatal. Without spiritual nourishment we simply deteriorate from weakness to weakness until we die of sin spiritually.
In the Gospel, Jesus is at Jacob's well seated there in the mid-day sun and he is thirsty. A Samaritan woman arrives to draw water. Jesus who sees her spiritual drought asks the woman for some water to drink, but his intention is to use water to lead her to discover her own spiritual thirst; her need for conversion; her need for new life in Christ, the water of life. She is spiritually dehydrated. Jesus knows that she has quite a reputation in her village, having been married five times and living with a sixth man! In the course of an interesting dialogue, Jesus who is thirsty for her conversion gradually leads her to scrutinize herself, but goes further to tell her about her secret life. Though embarrassed at Jesus’ scrutiny and insight into her life, she is led gradually first to confess that she knows that the Messiah – the Christ is coming, and when he comes he will tell us everything. At that point, Jesus reveals his true identity to her. “I who am speaking to you... I am he”. She is first surprised and then becomes completely converted and accepts the water of life that Jesus offers to quench her spiritual thirst. This woman who first came for a jug of water, now puts the jug down and becomes a disciple, an apostle sent to her village where she tells her people: “Come and see”, come and see the person who has changed my life! So she goes home not only transformed but also refreshed after drinking the life-giving water that only Jesus can give. As we celebrate the first of three Scrutinies with the candidates for Baptism, the readings invite us too to scrutinize ourselves and so discover our spiritual thirst for the water of life before we become spiritually dehydrated. The message we take home this Sunday is threefold: 1) Like the Samaritan woman, this too is our day of Scrutiny, conversion and change. 2) Like the Samaritan woman we are led to discover our spiritual thirst; that we may be spiritually dehydrated. We are transformed with the nourishment from the Water of Life. 3) At the end of the Mass today, we too like the Samaritan woman are sent to invite others to “Come and see” someone who has transformed our lives.
©2014 John S. Mbinda