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Homily for third Sunday of Lent, A

17 Mar 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Our reflections this morning are centered around been thirsty. It begins with ancient Israel; they were tormented by thirst as they traveled from Egypt through the desert to the Promised Land. It is natural and expected that they become thirsty after a long journey under the scorching heat of the sun, especially when there seemed to be no hope for water or food. They complained against Moses and wished they never left Egypt; for them, Moses brought them out to kill them and their children and cattle with thirst. Their murmuring expressed a lack of faith in God’s presence, they tested God, but he proved himself strong and able to provide even when there seems to be no hope. From the rock, he provided water in the desert through Moses to quench their thirst.

In our gospel passage this morning, we see two other persons who needed to quench their thirst; Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

Like ancient Israel, Jesus and his disciples had traveled a long way to a Samaritan town called Sychar. At this point in their journey, he was tired, hungry, and thirsty. It was about twelve o’clock midday (the sixth hour), and the sun was already heating up just as ancient Israel was heated up in the desert. Jesus found a well, Jacob’s well. He sat straight down by the well patiently without a bucket. Then, there came another thirsty person to the same well to draw water, a Samaritan woman. It was an interesting meeting, a Jew and a Samaritan meeting at the well of their ancestor Jacob.

The Jews and the Samaritans were traditional enemies; they don’t meet. But on this particular day, they did not only meet, but Jesus broke down the wall of enmity between them by asking the Samaritan woman for a drink. He was actually hungry and thirsty, not for food and water but souls. That was why he rejected the food his disciples brought; they begged him to eat, but he says, My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and completes his work… That work is to save souls, to save you and me. Jesus asked the woman for a drink not because he needed the water but to initiate the move for reconciliation. That is what St. Paul tells us in our second reading this morning, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He made a move to save us, not because we are worthy but because God loves us. It is not easy to die even for a good man, yet he did it for us. It was his own initiative just as he made a move by the well to reconcile the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritan woman tried to hold onto that ancient wall of enmity by saying; What? You are a Jew, and you ask me, a Samaritan for a drink? She tried to resist the Divine move for reconciliation just as we sometimes resist the love of God. But Jesus says to her, If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.

The woman observed that Jesus had no bucket, and she pointed out that fact to Jesus, but Jesus gradually led her into self-understanding; he made her understand her own thirst. Jesus made her understand that the waters of this well cannot quench her thirst, Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again. Still, anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty also: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life. The woman was actually thirsty for love, for acceptance, for a home she could call her own. She was like an outcast, an irresponsible woman, and unacceptable in society because she had been married to five men, and the one she is with at that moment was not her husband. Jesus became the seventh man in her life; he became the water to satisfy her thirst. When she discovered Christ the living water, she left her bucket by the well because she did not need it anymore. She ran back to the town to call everyone to meet Jesus; she ran to call fellow Samaritans to meet with a Jew. They came, they saw, and they believed. It was a day of great reconciliation. It is that same reconciliation God is offering today and in this season of Lent. He wants us to drop our buckets by the well, our buckets of sin, shame, and failure, and open up to the living water flowing from his side. At this season of Lent, the whole Church thirst for mercy and forgiveness. Let us not grumble like ancient Israel, but wait patiently by the well of compassion as Jesus did and let him lead us to drink the living water.