Homily For The Third Sunday Of Lent Year A 2023
LIVING WATER FOR A THIRSTY SOUL: GIVE ME A DRINK
“Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” John 4:5–7.
Readings: Exodus 17:3-7. Romans 5:1-2, 5-8. John 4:5-42.
As we enter the third week of Lent, we choose the question, ‘What?’ as the focus for our reflections. On our forty-day pilgrimage, we are being haunted by the question that Jesus once asked two disciples: ‘What are you looking for?’ Deep down us we are looking for the water of life that will quench our thirst forever. Appropriately, our gospel reading today touches on both the literal and metaphorical thirst. In the lovely story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, we are invited to make a leap from ordinary water to living water, welling up in our hearts forever. The woman has ordinary water, Jesus does not have. Then Jesus invites the woman to make the leap to spiritual water. In this case, Jesus is the one who has the living water, and the woman, who represents each and every one of us, does not have.
On this Third Sunday of Lent, usually Catholic liturgies celebrate the first of three scrutinies of the adults preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation on the Easter Vigil. The word “scrutiny” comes from the Latin word scrutari which means an inquiry, a close examination or search of something. It originally referred to rummaging through rubbish so as to find something of value. In a sense, this is what God does with all of us. When we first turn to him, he sorts through the disorder of our fallen human nature and our sins, so as to point to the goodness and beauty of the child he created. The Right of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) states: “The scrutinies are meant to uncover, and then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out and then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good”. The Gospel story depicts this action beautifully. It is the long and inspiring story of the woman at the well.
Composition of place: Prayerfully imagine the scene. Jesus was all alone sitting next to Jacob’s well at around noon. Few women would come to the well at that time of the day due to the heat of the sun. So this woman came at this time because she knew others would not be around. She was a sinner, and many of the other women of the town knew it. In an attempt to avoid them and avoid feeling shame, she came at a time when she could avoid the other women. So the first thing to consider is the suffering this woman was enduring because of her shame and embarrassment over her sinful life.
As she approached the well, she was surprised to hear Jesus ask her for a drink. She was a Samaritan. Jews generally considered Samaritans as ritually unclean. For that reason, Jews would not drink from their vessels. But Jesus broke this unholy custom and looked at her as a daughter of God with innate dignity and value as he engaged her in conversation.
Within the heat of the day, Jesus spoke lovingly to this woman and said, “Give me a drink.” According to St Augustine, Jesus thirsted for her soul, for her salvation. He longed to give her the grace soon to be won through His Cross. Her willing reception of this gift would also bring satiation to the Heart of our Lord. Jesus didn’t dwell upon her past; He knew all about it. He could read her soul. All He wanted to do was to rummage through the sin and rubbish that was cluttering her soul so as to discover her dignity within. If she were to allow Jesus to offer her this mercy, not only would she receive true Living Water to quench her spiritual thirst, but that she would also satiate the spiritual thirst in the soul of our Lord that could only be satiated by the dispensing of his mercy.
Reflection: Ponder upon this woman at the well. She is a symbol of every person coming to faith in Christ and preparing for the Living Water of Baptism this Easter. But she is also a symbol of your own soul, to the extent that it has become cluttered with the rubbish of sin and disorder. Do not let shame, fear or a sense of unworthiness deter you from engaging in this same conversation with our Lord. Hear him say to you that he thirsts for you and longs to be satiated by the sacred act of the ongoing bestowal of his divine mercy, poured forth through the Living Water that was superabundantly given to you at baptism.
O Lord my God, look at me and see me through and through, peer deeply into my soul, see all the filth of sin and disorder and love me anyway. As you spoke to this woman at the well, so you also speak to me, asking me to satiate your thirst by being open to your mercy. I do open myself to you, dear Lord, and pray that your Living Water will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Amen
Rev Fr Francis Wambua, SJ