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3RD SUNDAY OF LENT: GIVE ME WATER: WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW

Has it ever felt like God is asking you for an uncommon favor? What’s that like? Put in another way, when God asks you for a favor, what is he expecting of you? Obviously, it can be strange. At such a time, our human nature is at its full operation. Perhaps the limits of our human senses show up and we stress about what we do not have, rather than reflect on the great encounter before us. Here is exactly what happens to the Samaritan woman in the gospel of this weekend.

 

Jesus is upfront in making his uncommon request from the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink.” What does that mean? A drink request from a stranger? A drink request from a Samaritan woman? For obvious reasons, the woman’s red flag goes up, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Pay attention to the emphasis on the descriptors used by this woman, "water," not just from a Samaritan, but from a “Samaritan woman.” Does Jesus realize how serious that is? The woman's reasons include both religious and cultural discrepancies, which make this request look inappropriate. Jesus is asking for what seems impossible because: 1). Jews have some kind of negative impression about women. 2). Jews have a primordial hatred for Samaritans. 3). This encounter is happening in the shadow of Mount Gerizim, which is the place of worship for Samaritans. The typical Jew considers Jerusalem to be the proper place for worship, and not any other place. Hence, the background for this beautifully strange encounter.

 

To the question of what God expects when he asks for a favor from us, think about it from the perspective of the nature of God himself. In the book, Rebuilt Faith: A Handbook for Catholics, Michael White and Tom Corcoran, explain what constitutes the three core mysteries of the catholic faith as follows:

1.     The mystery of the Trinity

2.     The mystery of the incarnation and

3.     The mystery of the resurrection.


Each of these mysteries reflects the nature of God as being super generous, with instances in the scripture, beginning from creation to the resurrection of Jesus. The authors write, “God is generous. That’s not a word we throw around lightly as it is often overused, but we can confidently describe our God as generous. Generous means showing a readiness to give more of something, freely giving or sharing. That is God” (p.88). When Jesus asks the Samaritan woman to give him some water to drink, is Jesus testing this woman’s generosity? One might be inclined to say yes. But the answer is to the contrary. Jesus is leading this woman to experience God’s generosity for her. Having lived a somewhat frustrating life, Jesus is redirecting her to a life filled with joy, a life not restricted by religious or cultural baggage. He is saying to her, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” “Come to me all who labor and are burdened. And I will give you rest.”


Jesus does this in four ways:

1.    Offers her the living water.

The woman at Jacob’s well certainly understands the material or physical life only. Hence, when Jesus asks for water, her idea is the water provided by Jacob, drawn from the well. For this reason, Jesus’ statement, “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,” does not make sense to her. Her response speaks to that, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Yes, God’s cistern is deep and needs greater insights as the Psalmist puts it, “Deep is calling on deep in the roar of waters; your torrents and all your waves have swept over me” (Ps. 42:7). Jesus offers her that opportunity to go deep, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” To this, the woman says to him,“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” She sips a taste of the living water, and automatically her spiritual thirst increases.

2.    Speaks to her soul.

The conversation in this episode offers us the gentle image of Jesus. The Samaritan woman presents with several psycho-spiritual problems before Jesus. As the divine therapist, he diagnoses her softly to uncover her trauma. Her stonewall is up. Her defense is evident. And she tries to avoid letting Jesus into her secrets. But Jesus speaks directly to her soul, “Go and call your husband and come back.” She says, “I do not have a husband.” There she realizes that Jesus is the prophet and knows everything about her. Then she presents her faith struggle. If a prophet is speaking about her life, he should remember that there is an obstacle which is that Jews only believe Jerusalem to be the authentic place of worship. How can this difference be reconciled for a Samaritan woman? Jesus takes care of her anxiety. Not as Jews or as Samaritans does worship matter. Rather, true worshippers must worship God in spirit and truth. God wants to love her the way she is.

3.    Reveals to her the Messiah.

As Jesus advances against the obstacles keeping this woman from fully engaging him, including her pattern of broken marital relationships, her soul is touched and she makes her first profession of faith, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called Christ.” She recognizes Jesus as a prophet, but significantly moves from a limiting physical stance to a theological understanding of God’s offer for her. The response from Jesus affirms her faith, “I am he.”

4.    Makes her a disciple.

The goal of this encounter is to make this woman a disciple for God and a witness to the gospel. Jesus is the Sower whose mission is to harvest souls. Planting the seed of salvation in the heart of this Samaritan woman is the will of the Father, the food which his disciples does not know about. Conversion follows, not just for this woman, but from the testimony of faith by other Samaritans. Many of the woman’s townsmen/women begin to believe in him and testify, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” This is awesome.

 

So what?

1. When God asks you for a favor, he wants your soul. Be aware that God does not need anything from you as such, rather your soul. As people of faith, sometimes, we stay in a transactional mode that makes us count gains or losses when we give. God wants us to enjoy the encounter and worry less about what we give back. If God says, “Give me something…,” think about his generosity. See how Jesus provides not just physical water for the Samaritan woman in the gospel, but peace of soul. Just so, God provides for those who believe in his generosity. White and Corcoran (2023) write, “God loves us, so God gives to us. Just as any good father provides for his children, it is in God’s nature to provide for our needs” (p.93). When God asks you for a favor, give him. He is drawing you into multiple favors through his great relationship.


2. Religion is good, but faith is great. Faith is what unites us as believers in God. Do not limit yourself to circles of religious differences and cultural discrepancies that you lose sight of God’s offer of love and mercy. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman in the gospel of what matters, “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” We must learn to be like Jesus. Let’s speak gently and softly to souls in front of us. Belonging to religious groups is important, but more important is seeing each other as God’s image and treating each other with love. Once we love, it becomes easy to convert souls for Christ, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).


Lent is a great time to reflect on how we can deepen our relationship with God. So, if today, God asks you for favor, what will you do?


READINGS: 1st- Ex. 17:3-7; 2nd- Rom. 5:1-2, 5-8; Gospel- Jn. 4:5-42

 

 

 

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