3/16/2017 9:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH Leave the water jar behind
BY SISTER ANNA MARIE MCGUAN, RSM
FROM A READING FOR MARCH 19, THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
'The Lord said to Moses..."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....' -- Ex 17:5-6
Jesus' dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:5-42) is the longest one-on-one conversation recorded in any of the four Gospels. It demonstrates Jesus' desire to save every single person from sin and death.
It also shows, through the story of this woman, our need for this salvation. Her thirst for living water and Jesus' thirst for her salvation meet at the well.
The scene begins with Jesus wearied from His journey and sitting beside Jacob's well in Sychar. A woman comes to draw water. A conversation ensues. Jesus initiates it by asking her for a drink; the woman is taken aback. During that time period, men did not converse with women in public, and Jews did not associate with Samaritans.
Jesus, however, recognizes a need in the woman and responds to it. He tells her, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
She admits she is longing for this miraculous water. Before she can receive it, however, Jesus points out that her lifestyle lacks integrity. He tells her to call her husband. After she states that she has no husband, He replies, "You have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband."
Within Jesus' blunt assessment is a call to conversion and wholeness. The woman is startled, but deep down she knows He is right and that the gift He is offering is worth changing for.
As the woman races back to the village to announce that the Messiah has come, John points out that she leaves her water jar behind. This detail is not incidental. It symbolizes that she is leaving her old patterns of desire and pleasure-seeking to accept the free gift of living water which only Jesus can give.v
The themes of thirst and water connect the Gospel with the first reading (Ex 17:3-7), in which the sons of Israel murmur against Moses because they are thirsting in the desert.
Need to drink
There is a fundamental need for all people to drink in order to survive. At the same time, we all experience a more profound need and desire for eternal peace and happiness, a thirst for eternity with God. The water Jesus gives slakes that thirst. We know that He can do this, so we must activate the gift of faith we have received, not dabble in murmuring and mistrust.
St. Paul fleshes out Jesus' gift of peace in Sunday's second reading (Rom 5:1-2,5-8). When we believe in Jesus and live the life of faith such belief entails, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is only in God that we will have peace and no longer thirst for love.
St. Paul further says the hope we have in Christ and the peace we enjoy in God come to us through "God's love [being] poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the living water we long for is the actual gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, "'welling up to eternal life' in the heart that prays." Leave your water jar behind and ask the Lord for living water, the Holy Spirit. Be ready to receive Him.