3rd Sunday of Lent
Exodus 17: 3 – 7; Ps 95; Romans 5: 1 – 2, 5 – 8; John 4: (Short Form)
The Gospel begins: “Jesus had to pass through Samaria…” It is one of those details we can easily pass over but it is an important part of the story. Jesus could have bypassed Samaria on his way to Galilee, in fact, many Jews did just that in order to avoid contact with Samaritans. The verb “had to” or “must” in the Greek version of the gospel has been labeled the “Divine Must.” It signifies something of God’s plan of salvation, of God’s desire through Jesus to bring salvation, a Divine necessity of granting mercy, forgiveness, compassion, healing – in this case to a Samaritan woman He met at a place called Jacob’s well and not, by chance. Nothing happens in God’s world by chance.
The encounter between a thirsty Jesus and this woman coming to draw water at noon is a never-to-be forgotten experience of divine mercy and human sinfulness, woundedness, fragility. In a word Mercy, (with a capital “M”) meets misery – the Divine Must meets a human need.
St. John, in his gospel, often uses misunderstanding as a means of presenting Jesus’ teaching. Today’s Gospel is case in point: Jesus is talking about living water, the water of life that flows from Him and the woman is referring to the water in the well and she challenges Him, in a way mocks Him: “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where do you expect to get this living water?”
He has no need to get this living water because He Himself is the living water. And in their encounter the living water begins to flow into this woman and her hostility and rudeness gradually diminishes towards Him – it is clear that she has begun to open her heart to this stranger, this “Jew” as she called Him at first now becomes “Sir”.
After a some words about worship and the place of worship, the woman is moved to say, “I know there is a Messiah coming….When He comes, He will tell us everything.” And with the most profound compassion Jesus replies, “I am He, the one speaking with you.” I believe this reply is the heart of this Gospel, the central point of their meeting and an important teaching for all of us.
And to us also Jesus says, “I am He, the one speaking with you.” In our lives as men and women of faith, the Lord speaks to us – here and now in this liturgy for sure but also in our hearts – can you/I identify those times? – hopefully we can. Shortly in this Mass we will come to the sacred moment of receiving the Holy Eucharist and the celebrant will hold the Blessed Sacrament before us – He will say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world” and we respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Let us say this together and listen carefully to the words: “Lord, I am not worthy…” Notice that we do not say, “…but only grant me your Eucharist and my soul shall be healed” rather and importantly we pray with desire, “say the word” – speak with me, speak into me. Can it not be said then that the moment of receiving the Lord in the Holy Eucharist is the most sacred, most personal act of listening? Through the consecrated Bread and Wine, the Word of God, Jesus, our Lord, comes into us and speaks into our depths with compassion, with mercy.
With this in mind, surely a most important act, an essential prayer for us is to seek from the Lord what He is saying to me, to you personally for our lives. If that does not interest us, if that seems a bit much, if that means I have to spend some time in prayer and I don’t have time or will not make the time – then what does Holy Communion mean for me? Who is Jesus Christ for me?
I believe we can say that it was a “Divine Must” for the Lord to institute the Holy Eucharist – a must that comes from our need and not His. His overwhelming desire to give Himself to us for our sake surely asks of us a “human must” – I must know Lord what you say into my heart because it is for my salvation.
Lord, Your words are spirit and life; Your word, You Yourself are the living Water that is the source of our lives in You. That life has to be the only life we seek…in our hearts is this true for you, for me?