Third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, we choose the reading from Year A, because we have a RCIA Candidate preparing for Sacrament of Confirmation. This weekend the readings are centered on the Sacrament of Baptism and new life. The first reading, from the Book of Exodus chapter 17, tells us the story of Israelites complaining about their thirst. In the previous chapter, they had complained that Moses brought them to the wilderness to die of hunger (16:3). Here they grumbled that Moses meant for them to die of thirst. So Moses asked the LORD, “What shall I do with this people?” Moses followed God’s instruction and strikes the rock. In Deuteronomy 32 in Moses’ song, he called God the Rock. St. Paul says that the rock was the Christ (I Corinthians 10:4). The spiritual rock followed Israelites in the wilderness and satisfied their thirst. The place Israelites quarreled was called Massah and Meribah which means the place of the test. Psalm 95:89 says, “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert. There your ancestors tested me; they tried me though they had seen my works.” Several generations of the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and they forgot about their God who made Covenant with them and they complained that in Egypt they at least were not thirsty.
In the Gospel, Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were half Jews, ritually impure, and therefore Jews were forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled. The original twelve tribes of Israel that settled in Canaan, eventually divided into the Southern Kingdom, two tribes centered in Jerusalem and the Northern Kingdom consists of the other ten tribes centered in Samaria. In the eighth century BC, Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom. We read in the Second Book of Kings chapter 17 that the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. The Israelites in Samaria had defiled themselves by assimilating the practice of those pagan people and intermarrying with them. This caused enmity between Jews and Samaritans. Geographically, Judea is in the extreme south, Samaria in the middle, and Galilee in the extreme North. Normally, Jews avoid Samaria to go between north and south. But Jesus went through the Samaria and made a stop at Jacob’s well. This well was located on a piece of land that had been bought by Jacob (Genesis 33:1819), and later given to Joseph (48:22). Jesus oversteps the boundaries of Jewish traditions by conversing with women in public, sharing a drink with a Samaritan woman, and mingling with a sinner. When Jesus reached the well, it was hot midday, and he sat there and the disciples went to town to get some food. Jesus was thirsty from traveling and asked the Samaritan woman for water. We see in the Old Testament the meetings between future spouses at wells. Isaac meets Rebekah (Genesis 24:1067), Jacob meets Rachel at the well of Haran (Genesis 29:130), and Moses and Zipporah meet at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:1521). Here Jesus is the divine bridegroom in search of believers to be His covenant bride. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His thirst was for the soul of the Samaritan woman. On the other hand, the Samaritan woman thirst for real love. Normally women used to go to 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 came to her level to reach out and walk with her and lead her to faith. Jesus reveals himself as the source of Living Water.
The liturgy makes use of the symbol of water to refer to our relationship with God. It represents God’s Spirit coming to us in Baptism. The water that Jesus promises is closely linked to conversion and the forgiveness of sin. The miraculous water from the rock is a type of “living water” that would flow from the pierced side of Christ signifying the Sacrament of Baptism and Eucharist. Water also symbolizes the grace of the Holy Spirit. 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.
A Samaritan woman, in the Gospel once embraced the faith, the living water, became a missionary who brought others to Jesus. Once she had a life changing experience, she couldn’t hold it for herself. Jesus’ THIRST is for our faith. Lent invites us to renew our faith, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let us pray for one another, in a special way please pray for our RCIA candidate.