Superior Water

Third Sunday Of Lent, Year A
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
March 15 2020 – 10:30 AM
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Exodus 17:2-7 | Psalm 95:1-2;6-9
Romans 5:1-2;5-8 | John 4:5-52

       + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

There is a story I’d like to share about four men who were adrift in the Atlantic Ocean near the equator.  They were so thirsty that they were trying to extract water from the pieces of canvas on their small lifeboat.  When rescuers finally arrived, the men were so dehydrated that they were laying down, unable to get up.  After getting them to the hospital, one of the rescuers informed the men of an incredible irony:  all the time that they were fighting for a few drops of water, they had actually  been floating on drinkable water!  You see, they were on the Amazon River, a river so huge that it pushes fresh water out into the ocean.  The men could have dipped a bucket or a cup off the side of the lifeboat and had drinkable water!

Water is one of the most important requirements for human existence.  We all know that by living in the desert how important it is to stay hydrated, especially during the summer.

In the Old Testament times, water was used as a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction.  Our first reading today from Exodus tells of the ordeal of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They had suffered more than four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and they were exhausted and thirsty, causing them to complain to Moses.  God instructed Moses to strike the rock from whence water came forth, saving the Israelites and they were satisfied. The rock that Moses struck and the water that flowed from it metaphorically and allegorically symbolize Jesus.  He is the rock of our salvation and our living sustenance.

In today’s second reading from Romans, Saint Paul describes how Jesus’ love “is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus is symbolized as the Living Water who is the sustenance of our lives.

In our Gospel today, Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman as a means of showing us not to judge others on the basis of  their sex, race, or culture.

The Samaritans are a religious group claiming descent from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as well as from the Levites.  Samaritans believe that their religion, based on the Pentateuch, is  the true religion of Israel, not Judaism, which believes the Old Testament.  The major issue between Jews and Samaritans has always been the location of the Chosen Place to worship God.  Judaism believes it is the Temple of the Mount while Samaritanism believes it is Mount Gerizim.

During the ministry of Jesus, there were three prominent Samaritans:

The Good Samaritan

The Samaritan Leper

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Jesus knew before He approached her who the woman was.  He knew about her past marriages and her sinful past, but He approached her for a drink in order to draw her closer to God, the Eternal Living Water.  Jesus had a plan for her which was to lead her to Him.  Instead of the water in the well, Jesus offered Himself as the Living Water.

By going against the social customs and prejudices between the Jews and the Samaritans, Jesus broke down the walls that exclude people, like our border wall, and in doing so, He opened up new possibilities for helping to improve the lives of others.

The Samaritan woman was so enlightened by meeting Jesus that she left her jar by the well and hurried back to tell the townspeople about her encounter with the Messiah.

Just like the woman at the well, Jesus knows all about us, even what we do not want to face.  But Jesus wants to transform us and give us a new life and a new identity.

This is what happens to us in baptism which is why today’s readings are often used at baptisms.  Water is the principal symbol at baptism.  John baptized Jesus with water in the
River Jordan.  And likewise, Jesus and His disciples went into Judea where they baptized others with water.  When Jesus died, water flowed from His pierced side, an outpouring of His grace through water.  Water is rebirth and as Jesus explained, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”  It is in baptism that a person is reborn as a spiritual being by the grace of God, and through this rebirth, the person is an adopted child of God.

To me, the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows that Jesus loves everyone and that He came for sinners.  Why was this woman at the well by herself instead of among others?   Why had she come to the well at noon instead of at an earlier hour when it was cooler and other women were present?

Jesus knew that this woman had already had five husbands and the man she was with now was not her husband.  Human nature hasn’t changed in thousands of years.  When the Pharisees asked, “Master, is it ever lawful for a man to divorce his wife and marry another?”, the answer is still the same today…”What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”  Or, as the elderly Illinois farmer stated, “What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong, and you can’t  change  it.”

Sin has been around since Adam and Eve.   Marriage is a Sacrament in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.  While sharing some characteristics with Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity has a different view on domestic violence and divorce believing that violence kills a marriage, whereas Roman Catholics have a more lenient view and often do not do enough to help victims of abuse.  When Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, He was preparing her for the gift of faith.  Jesus approached her to awake her heart and realize the Father’s love.

What were this Samaritan woman’s sins?  Well, first, she is a Samaritan, not a Jew.  Second, she is guilty of sexual immorality by the fact that she has had five husbands, and third, she is a woman.  John does not tell us the disciples are shocked to find Jesus talking to this Samaritan woman because she is a Samaritan or because she is sinful.  They are surprised to see Him talking with her because she is a woman.  Although there is a race issue here, there is also a gender issue.  The Jews of the first century, not today’s Jews, were inclined to hold a demeaning view of women.

But Jesus seeks to show her that she is the one in need of “water” and that the “water” He gives is vastly superior to the water she can get from the well.

“We have peace with God our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” AMEN.