INTRODUCTION The journey of life is a pilgrimage to the eternal homeland. It isn’t an easy road. There are many thorns on the way. Sometimes one meets “mountains and hills and deserts” that deter the journey, consume energy and cause dehydration. In the first reading the Hebrews were on this road (a promise land which prefigures heaven) and suddenly grew thirsty. Moses struck the rock and they got water to drink. But it wasn’t a spring of life since their stubbornness could not afford it. The Gospel opens a scene of the Samaritan woman (image of the sinful humanity) that continues to drink from the insatiable “Old Well of Jacob.” Jesus offers a “New Well” of the Spirit that refreshes those on the journey to heaven. Just as Moses struck the rock and water flowed, Jesus the rock of the New Covenant was struck on the Cross from where flowed life (gift of baptism and the eucharist). In the second reading, Paul reechoes the message of the Gospel and affirmed that the living spring which Christ promises is God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rm 5:5).
FIRST READING: Exodus 17:3-7 Last Sunday the first reading showed how Abraham left for the distant land the Lord promised to give him and all his descendants. Most certainly it did not take Abraham much stress to locate his destination simply because he was obedient to the voice that told him to move. Today these descendants of Abraham are on their journey to this promised land. Unlike their father Abraham, it is going to be for them a tough journey of many years (40 years) characterized by impatience, complaints, lack of faith, stubbornness, disobedience, idolatry, punishment with death and so on. Isn’t it surprising to note that the same people who witnessed the marvel of the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of their enemies in Exodus 14: 6-31 and even intoned a song of praise to the Lord immediately (Ex. 15: 1-21), were also raining complaints shortly after the praises (Ex. 15:22-25)? From complaining about lack of water, they complained about the insensitivity of God and Moses for starving them when they should have allowed them to remain in Egypt where they were used to sitting around flesh pots and eat to their satisfaction (Ex. 16:1-3). The Lord heard their cry and provided Manna for them (Ex. 16:4-36). And in a little time still, they cried out about the Manna reminding Moses how they used to eat meat, fish, cucumbers melons, leeks, onions and garlic freely in Egypt (Nb. 11:4-6). And without counting on their lack of faith, God heard their cry and still provided for them (Nb. 11:31-33). But for some, it is going to be a meat of destruction (v.33-34). Meanwhile, in today’s reading, we are presented with another scene of complaint for lack of water and the Lord did not hesitate to provide for them (Ex. 17:3-7). I purposely traced these moments in the life of the wandering people of God to demonstrate the attitude of man towards his God: man who is never satisfied even when he possesses the whole world, and man who often remembers God when he faces difficulties, and yet easily forgets Him when life appears to be smooth. On the other side, these moments reveal to us the true image of God as a Father who does not joke with the tears of His people, and who always loves and provides for them even when they do not merit it. A man easily gets tired of the worries from his fellow man (Moses got tired of the complaints and almost gave up Nb. 11:10-15) but God is never tired of the complaint of His people. And the good thing about the complaints of the Hebrews is that they were always directed to God through Moses. We must learn to direct our worries to God no matter what they are. But unlike the Hebrews, our complaints must be faith-filled; and God will hear us. Unfortunately, we often run to friends and colleagues for “first aid help” and later remember God especially when these people fail us. God should never be an option in our daily lives. He should be a necessity; “A cannot do without.”
SECOND READING: Romans 5:1-2.5-8 Paul’s theology gave birth to what we have in the Church as the “Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.” In the reading of today Paul exalts these virtues to outweigh the old conception about the Law. He insists that the Law does not justify rather the Faith in Christ Jesus. However, this Faith is made possible through grace poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Paul, this Faith is not empty. It is a Faith carried on the wing of Hope which enables us to look forward to an eternal inheritance made possible through the death of Christ: a death which is a product of the unconditional love the Father lavished on us while we were still sinners.
GOSPEL: John 4:5-42 During the reign of the Assyrians over the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria capital), they imposed the worship of their gods (Succoth-Benoth, Nergal, Ashima, Nibhaz, Tartak, Adrammelech and Anammelech) upon them such that Yahweh was partially worshipped among his people (2 Kgs 17:1-41). This disconnection of the people from Yahweh is perceived in the concept of divorce and promiscuous living depicted in the image of the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of today who had married five men and yet still living with one who was not her husband (Jn 4:16-18). The evangelist John is unique with the use of the imagery of marriage to describe the relationship that exists between God and his people: John 2:1-11—the marriage at Cana. Jesus who restores the joy of his bride in the symbol of fresh wine. John 3:29—the relationship between Jesus and the new people of God as of that of Groom and the bride. Rev.19:6-9—the marriage feast of the Lamb and her bride, the Church in the apocalyptic vision of John. And the Gospel today (John 4:5-42) is another nuptial encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan: a way in which God in Jesus has come to seal a definitive union with a promiscuous humanity (in the image of the Samaritans). This explains why John was interested in “Go and call your husband…and come back here” (v.16). Jesus knew she had none. So “…come back her” would simply mean, ‘You have gotten one. He is right here in front of you saying, will you marry me?’ Yes, this woman had been engaged with six men, and the number six in the bible among others is a symbol of imperfection, sin and evil. That is to say the life of the Samaritan was incomplete (humanity empty without her God). Hence Jesus proposed with these words, “the water I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life” (a permanent union of God with his people). This nuptial union was sealed at the moment the Samaritan said “sir give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty again or come here again to draw water” (It means ‘I am ready for the new life. I don’t want to go back to the old life again’). Jesus concludes this new union in these words, “you have been worshipping what you do not know (oh my people left the Temple of their God in Jerusalem and embraced the gods of the Assyrians on this mount Gerizim) but from now on you are meant to worship God in truth and in spirit.”
LIFE MESSAGE: 1. THE ABSENCE OF THE DISCIPLES The Gospel tells us that the disciples of Jesus went into town to buy food at the time He met this woman. Yes, God needs to meet us personally. Sometimes the crowd can be an obstacle that prevents us from hearing his voice. Lent calls us to make out time to stay with Jesus in the quietude of our hearts. We need some sacred hours to talk with Jesus who is willing to keep us away from the old Well that has kept us in the bondage of sin.
2. SHE DROPPED HER BUCKET AND WENT HOME After the woman received Jesus, the old Well of Jacob was no longer important. She abandoned her bucket at the feet of Jesus who offered her a new bucket that is, a new heart carrying the well-spring of the Spirit. Many of us are still carrying our old bucket (the old heart of sin) even after saying Yes to God. Jesus tells us today, “please give me your sins. Just drop it here and I will give you a new heart.”
3. COME AND SEE Immediately she received Jesus, she went into the town to spread him like ‘virus’ and the whole town trooped to Jesus who alone had the vaccine. Our personal experience of Jesus should be able to ‘contaminate’ others. How often do we tell people to come and see Jesus? Many of us are ashamed of the Gospel and our identity as Christians and as Catholics. This is why the faith is dying down because we have hidden it in our pockets without letting people know about it. Through baptism we have all become missionaries.
4. WE ARE ALL THIRSTY “Sir give me some of that water, so that I may never be thirsty again or come here again to draw water” is a request that can only be made by an ‘arid soul’ that yearns for the Lord. What type of Well have we been drinking from which has continually kept us away from the Well of the Lord? Are we not tired of drinking from the Well of unholy indulgences of food, drinks, drugs, gambling, promiscuity and all forms of addiction? Jesus tells us today that the ‘old well of Jacob’ that world offers is still full of water and looks enticing but it can never offer us the satisfaction we need. Only Jesus can quench our thirst!
PRAYER: In the dry wildernesses of our lives, give us living water o Lord. In these days of heat and thirst, we need you to quench our thirst o Lord. In our world plagued by the viral epidemic of Covid-19, give us healing spring o Lord. Our stubbornness, our infidelity and our negligence of your importance in our lives has caused us much pain; please for the sake of the wounded faces, the cry of the innocent, do not abandon us o Lord. MARY REFUGE OF SINNERS…PRAYER FOR US! MARY HEALTH OF THE SICK….PRAY FOR US! PAX VOBIS!