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The Gift of God: The Encounter that quenches our thirst

Julian Paparella

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent
We all have some part of us that we wish was different. Something in ourselves that we wish was otherwise. Often this part of us can be a source of shame, of fear, of regret, of embarrassment. It is something we wish would just go away, that we would rather never have to deal with. We wish it would change but somehow it does not. What can we do about it?
The Gospel reading for this Third Sunday of Lent (John 4:5-42) starts with an odd indication of time: "It was about noon." Jesus reaches a town in Samaria where there is a well that was built by Jacob the patriarch, the one who gave his son Joseph the coat of many colours. We are told that when Jesus arrives at the well it was about noon. Is this simply a clue to help us imagine the scene? Not exactly. In the time of Jesus, no one would go to the well at noon. Everyone was busy seeking cover from the midday heat. No one wanted to venture to the well, their water jug in tow, only to lug it back filled to the brim. One begins to sweat just thinking about it!
But Jesus arrives at noon. The well is deserted. He is tired and He sits down. A lone woman comes to draw water. She did not expect to see anyone at the well. It is precisely for this reason that she chose to come at this hour. What a surprise to find a man sitting there in the heat of the day. Jesus asks her for a drink. The question is off-putting: "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" Any self-respecting Jew wanted nothing to do with Samaritans in those days. Yet Jesus replies: "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
The conversation that follows surpasses all of the woman's expectations and imaginings. It is the water that the woman seeks. Jesus knows about her five husbands. Jesus knows that the man she is with now is not one of them. Their encounter is so strong that in the heat of the day, the woman who just moments before wanted to remain hidden and unseen in her shame, leaves her water jar behind and runs back to her village exclaiming:  "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" Her testimony is so striking that the village people welcome Jesus in their homes and believe in Him.
What do we take from such an encounter? What is its impact on our journey through Lent and through life? We too thirst. We too have parts of our lives that make us ashamed, afraid, and leave us wanting. We are thirsty. Jesus comes to us in our thirst, in the parts of our lives where we need Him the most. He knows these places even before we say a word. He knows we are thirsty and longs to satisfy our thirst. Jesus comes to wipe away what fogs up the windshields of our lives. He is here to wash away the stains that we have sought to cover up. He is here to take our sin away from us and fill us with the water that satisfies. Jesus is the water that satisfies.
Jesus brings us something that cannot fit in a water jug. Jesus brings us the love of God. This Love encountered the woman at the well. It knew her whole life and wanted to liberate her from what fettered her most. It is a Love that longs to forgive us and set us free. Jesus speaks to us not as an infuriated judge, but as a friend sitting with us in the heat of high noon. This Friend has the answers we seek. He Himself is the living water that quenches our thirst. We can trust Him. We can speak to Him as a friend, as one who knows us and wants what is good for us.
The Gospel of the Samaritan woman is a challenge for us. We are called to take our cue from her. Go to Jesus. Speak to Him openly about your life. Let Him enter into the areas of fear, of shame, of worry and uncertainty. Do not be afraid. He is not here to judge. He knows we thirst. He is the water. He brings us the love of God. Jesus comes to us at noon. He meets us in the heat of the day to quench our thirst. Jesus wants to quench our thirst. Jesus knows we are thirsty. Jesus Himself is the living water that satisfies.
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