We all experience two kinds of thirst in life. The first kind of thirst is horizontal, our desire for things on earth: food, drink, companionship, fun, entertainment, a nice house, a good income, success at work or school and many more.
The second kind of thirst is vertical, a deeper desire built into our nature: a desire for meaning and purpose. But unlike horizontal thirst, our vertical thirst cannot be satisfied by our own efforts. Only God himself can satisfy it.
On the third Sunday of Lent, we see in the first reading the Gospel uses the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. Just as water in the desert was life-giving for the wandering Israelites, the water of true, loving relationship with Jesus is life-giving for those who accept him as Lord and Savior, like the woman at the well.
In the first reading, Moses was leading Israelites out of Egypt from slavery. While they were thirsty in the desert, they started to grumble against Moses and tested God by saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” God told Moses that he will be standing on the rock and Moses has to strike the rock and he will provide them water and satisfy the thirst. This place was called Massah and Meribah, which means the place of test and the place of quarrel.
In the Gospel, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and asked for water. Jews and Samaritans were not on good terms. So a Samaritan woman was surprised to see Jesus, a Jew, asking her for water. Normally women would go fetch water in the morning or in the evening when it was not too hot. But she came to fetch water at noon. She may be trying to avoid the crowd. Jesus reaches out to her and walks with her and leads her to faith. Jesus reveals himself as the source of Living Water.
When Jacob came back to his father’s land, and met Esau and lived in Shechem. In the book of Genesis, chapter 33:19, we read Jacob bought a piece of land for a hundred pieces of money and lived there. Samaritan women and Jesus met at Jacob’s well. Here two strangers met for the first time, but as the conversation continues, women started to ask questions and get to know Jesus. She asked Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Once she found Messiah, the Christ, the true Living Water, she couldn’t wait to tell everyone. She left the jar, went to the town and brought the people to Jesus. We see a true missionary.
The liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. It represents God’s Spirit which comes to us in Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. In the second reading, Saint Paul asserts that, as the savior of mankind, Jesus poured the living water of the gift of his Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Samaritan woman, in the Gospel, once embraced the faith, Jesus, the living water, becomes a missionary who brings others to Jesus. Once she had a life-changing experience, she couldn’t hold it for herself.