40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Third Sunday in Lent-A, 12 March 2023 Exodus 17:3-7 + Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 + John 4:5-15, 39, 40-42
Thirst for water is something more intense for us humans than hunger for food. Thirst is something too strong we could feel affecting us deep down to the most remote and minutest parts of our body unlike hunger that is localized in the stomach area. Thirst moves us to search for water, even sending us to scamper even for droplets of water to quench our thirst unlike hunger we often dismiss by sleeping in the hopes of forgetting it, even overcoming it.
But not our thirst for water, something we would always quench by all means.
That is why, thirst would always mean more than physical but also something deeper that concerns our very soul and being. This is the beautiful meaning of our gospel this Sunday – from the wilderness of temptations to the summit of a high mountain of his transfiguration – we now join Jesus into a Samaritan town for some water after a very tiring journey on his way to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission. Here we also find Jesus thirsting for us humans, sinners as we are, like on the Cross at Good Friday.
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. – Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”John 4:5-10
There are a lot of interesting details in this opening lines of this long story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Very notable is Jesus coming into a Samaritan town and talking to a woman that are both a big no, no for Jews at that time as the evangelist explained in verse 9, – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.
It is very clear that what we have here is more than a geographical setting but a revelation of God’s immense love (and thirst) sending Jesus for us all especially the sinners and those neglected by the society, living in the margins like women and children, the poor and the elderly.
That Samaritan woman symbolizes us whom Jesus searches to return home to the Father.
Notice that Jesus comes to the well at the hottest time of the day, at noon when the Samaritan woman would come to draw water. Why? Because as we have seen in the story, the woman was a sinner, living with her sixth “husband” as pointed out to her by Jesus himself. She drew water at that time when no one was at the well to avoid the Marites of the town who would always feast with gossips about her scandalous lifestyle!
Is it not the same with us too? Jesus comes to us right in the heat of our sinfulness, of our infidelities, of our cheating, of our unkindness and unforgiving? It is when we are hot in sin when Jesus comes thirsting for us, inviting us to return to him. And too often, he works wonders to win us over, even sometimes allowing us to feel like the Samaritan as so special in doing him a favor.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”John 4:7-9
Here we find Jesus working subtly, even playing by our games while we are in the heat of our sins and other pursuits in life when he would ask us favors, namely, asking for a drink.
In response, the Samaritan woman opens herself to a dialogue with Jesus rather than outrightly dismissing him as a nuisance. She felt that in giving Jesus a drink, she would do him a favor when in fact, as we have seen later, it was the Lord who did her the most favor as we shall see too on the Cross at Good Friday especially with Dimas.
Are we not like this Samaritan woman when we are in the heat of our sinfulness with our bloated ego that we even dare think of doing God a favor by entering into a dialogue until suddenly, for good reasons, we are swept off in our feet, finding ourselves in his merciful and loving arms?
Like the Samaritan woman, in opening to Jesus to a dialogue when we are in the noontime of our sinfulness or simple ordinariness, that is also when we allow the Lord to do us a great favor.
That is why I always tell people to give us priests a chance to do something good, never to compensate our services and ministry with remunerations. Very often, people say they feel so blessed with our ministry and presence but the truth is, we priests are the ones more blessed when we are able to selflessly serve you our flock!
This I have always felt in hearing confessions and anointing the sick especially since last year as a chaplain at the Fatima University Medical Center here in Valenzuela City. I have instructed our nurses to always insist to the family of patients to never give me anything after visiting their sick. They do not realize the tremendous grace and blessings I experience when I visit the sick, hear their confessions and anoint them with oil. Even when patients die, because as my former Parish Priest Fr. Ersando used to tell me as a young priest 24 years ago, confessing and absolving the sins of the dying and anointing them with holy oil are the most meritorious acts of a priest in preparing the faithful in meeting God our Father. This I have experienced so true in the recent death of Msgr. Teng Manlapig whom I have shared last week.
Many times in our lives, it is through the many “inconveniences” we experience that Jesus comes to invite us to open ourselves to receive his abundant graces and blessings not necessarily material in nature. God is never outdone in generosity and everything is pure grace in him because we are always blessed with more than we give when we offer him the gift of our self to do his will.
Remember always Jesus Christ’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well which are the same words he tells us especially when we are hot in our personal pursuits in life, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
In the first reading we have heard how “In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses” (Ex. 17:3), quarreling among themselves and testing God.
How sad that until now, we grumble and quarrel and test God because of our many thirsts for things and pleasures we thought would complete us. Sometimes we feel as if God owes us so much that we feel so entitled in this life, deserving all the good things without realizing how God knows us so well, even the sins we hide most. We keep on thirsting and desiring so many other things when it is only God whom we must desire first of all, actually desire and thirst most all like the deer that yearns for streams of running water (Ps. 42:2).
One of my favorite churches of all time is the Sta. Cruz in Manila. It is one of the most beautiful churches that has remained unchanged, never altered. As a child more than 50 years ago until now, I am still fascinated by its sanctuary of a painting or a mosaic of Jesus Christ the lamb slain and offered as sacrifice whose blood is like the waters of a spring flowing into us through the Blessed Sacrament.
Notice that this story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman comes after his meeting with the Pharisee named Nicodemus at night where the Lord first discussed the symbolism and importance of being born again in water of Baptism and the Spirit to become a new person in him. This time at Jacob’s well Jesus promised the Samaritan woman water that becomes in the one who drinks it a source springing up into eternal life so that whoever drinks it will never be thirsty again.
This has become possible because Jesus “died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8) on the Cross when he said again, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28-29)!
May we continue to thirst for God by entering into dialogue with Jesus especially when he comes to us, also thirsty, asking us for some small favors from us in order to gift us with his bigger favors we have never imagined. Amen.