Here in Australia we live in a land of extremes!!! Droughts, floods, cyclones, thundering surf, gentle breezes, blue skies and warm sunshine! A sun burnt country surrounded by jewel seas! The Holy Land in lots of ways is somewhat like our own. When one is thirsty, there is nothing more that matters…..’I want some water’! In the first reading today, we hear of God’s people grumbling, because they were thirsty, and I guess that even though they were experiencing liberation from slavery in Egypt, the consuming need to drink, engulfed all their thoughts and desires. The desire to be refreshed caused a haze within their corporate minds, which blurred their memory of the saving activity of a loving God among them.
READINGS: I have selected the alternative Readings for this Sunday, with its particular thread: The Water of life! Year A.
Exodus 17:3-7. Psalm 94. Romans 5:1-2;5-8.
In the midst of their questions and grumbling, God once again hears the cry and appeal from His people, and comes to their aid. The water gushing from the rock at Meribah was more than just a free drink! It had a far deeper spiritual significance; it was an outward sign of God’s life within his people, and enabling them to respond to Him in fidelity, and loving commitment. Moreover, the gushing water was a definite sign of God’s absolute never ending covenant love, with His people.
This theme is taken up in today’s Gospel, where Jesus enters into a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Adding to the depth and meaning of this story, is the fact that Jews and Samaritans had a terrible dislike for each other, and it was improper for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan, and the same went for the Samaritans towards Jews. This means nothing to Jesus: he initiates a dialogue, which has far deeper implications than just the breaking with local customs! Through the discussion with the Samaritan woman, we see that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law; the Torah, (the first five Books of the Bible) and he in fact is the in fleshed Word of God offering new life, and salvation for all. Let’s not miss the number of Husband’s that the Samaritan Woman had had; five! Jesus is the Bridegroom par excellence, and we are the Bride! In short, the Gospel Community who put together this extract today, were very keen to express underlying meanings in some of the expressions used. The Kingdom of God does not depend upon certain places or spaces of worship; but it is an inner conversion which opens one up to see in Jesus the saving hand of God at work. In short, the water from Jacob’s well reminds us of the bottomless reservoir of God’s love and life, offered to us and everyone all the time……but it is up to us to want it!
The Sacrament of Baptism is the beginning step for us as we journey towards full incorporation into the body of Christ. The fact that we have candidates in our midst who are preparing for entrance into our community at Easter, is a reminder to all of us, that the life which our God offers us is not solely to quench our personal thirst for His love, but as the Lord’s Prayer reminds us, it is ‘Our Father’ to whom we pray, and that companionship which we share in and through the Eucharist, urges us in love to reach out to one another, as Jesus did to the Samaritan. It is a challenge to break through the social so called ‘correctness’ to know that God’s Household is for all! May this time of Lent invite us to recognize the Lord in those, who unexpectedly, may offer us the life giving waters of love and compassion. May we in turn be sensitively alert to welcome those who come and sit at the well with us in daily life, and may we realize, like the Samaritan woman, that we are not alone, our God never abandons us!
I would like to include an Examination of Conscience which I have often used on the Third Sunday of Lent, because we are nearly half way through this season of Spiritual Training. Now, in this Reflection there are a number of women who come to the well…please note that the depositions that these women bring with them, are similar to what us blokes bring to the well. See what you think of this…. THE WOMEN AT THE WELL.
A woman named SAD-OF HEART met Jesus at the well. Sighing with relief she placed the burden of her leaden heart at his feet. “No one cares”, She cried to him. He turned her face to him and held it in his strong hands. He just loved her.
A woman named BURNED-OUT CASE found Jesus at the well. “I’m too tired to go on. No one really understands. I feel used up, nothing more to give. I want to quit, but I don’t know how” she sobbed as she held out the worn out pieces of her life, faded, frayed, and fragile. Jesus offered her his arm and said, “Come to me and I will refresh you and restore you to wholeness”.
A woman named ANGRY discovered Jesus at the well. “Why isn’t anyone willing to listen to me?” she shouted. “What do I do that turns away my chances of being heard? Must I be a first class story teller just to get a hearing?” Jesus took her anger as one receives a gift and said, “Speak to me. My heart is ready, my heart is ready.”
A woman named RESENTMENT approached Jesus at the well. Her face could not hide her feelings. “No matter how much I do, it never seems enough,” she complained. “I resent that my performance is measured against someone else’s accomplishments. I can only be who I am.” Laying his hand on her head, Jesus whispered into her ear: “you are my chosen, holy and beloved.”
A woman named WANTING-TO FALL-IN-LOVE-AGAIN sought Jesus at the well. The light in her eyes spoke the questions in her heart. “How can I fall in love all over again? What will it look like when I do and how will I know I have?” Radiant with joy, Jesus smiled at her and said, “if only you recognised God’s Gift…the desire to love is already loving…!”
A woman named NEEDING-FORGIVENESS came to Jesus at the well. Tears of repentance like gentle rain washed over her face and fell on his sandalled feet. “Forgive me, for I have sinned, and my sin is always before me. Do not cast me away from your presence”. Holding her to his heart, Jesus promised, “With great love I take you back, my love. I will never leave you and my covenant of peace shall not be shaken. As far as the east is from the west, so far have I cast your sins from you.”
A woman named WAITING-IN-STILLNESS sat with Jesus at the well. She looked at his face. She said nothing. She held her heart in readiness. ‘Give me your heart.” Jesus said, ‘I want to fill the emptiness. I want to mend the brokenness. I want to give it the shape of my own.”
A woman named CONFUSED-OF-HEART dragged her feet in the dust as she approached Jesus at the well. She couldn’t raise her eyes to him. “I don’t know what I want or how I feel. I have volcanoes and tidal waves inside me and I’m so afraid they will destroy me and those I care about.” Jesus called her to the rim of the well: “See how deep it is, probably so full. But we can only draw up one bucket at a time.” He dropped the bucket over the ledge, filled it a brought it to the top. “Take it slowly,” Jesus urged, “One bucket, one feeling at a time. The well of you is so deep, but I will help you draw yourself into light.”
A woman named APOSTLE raced to Jesus at the well. “Hurry,” she cried, “There’s so much to do! I’m busy, I’m tired, but come on, let’s get moving!” Jesus replied: “Let me stay with you awhile. You are bread for the world, but let me take you, bless you, break you open. Let ME give you to others…”