This weekend is the Third Sunday of Lent. The readings can be found here. The theme of the readings centers around water. Water is crucial for our survival and virtually every culture has had water as part of its core religious rituals. Christianity has used water as part of the sacred sacrament of baptism. Water is the external manifestation of the internal surrendering our ego to God and becoming incorporated more fully into God’s people. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1213), during baptism, we are “reborn as sons [and daughters] of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.’ ”
Today’s reflection comes from the Irish Jesuits and Living Space. You can find the entire reflection here but set forth below is an extended summary:
The Gospel which we have just heard is about the Woman at the Well and it also centres around the theme of water and life.
The woman can be said to represent three oppressed groups with which Jesus and the Gospel are interested:
– prostitutes and sexually immoral people generally
– all kinds of outsiders, people who are unclean, infidels, foreigners…
The story begins by Jesus showing himself as a person in need: tired, hungry and thirsty. We constantly have remind ourselves how genuinely human Jesus was, “like us in all things but sin”.
He asks help from a person he was supposed to avoid (a strange woman on her own) and also to hate (a Samaritan).
She is very surprised at his approach but her surprise allows Jesus to turn the tables and offer her “living water”. She, understanding him literally, asks how he can give it as he has no bucket. But the water that Jesus will give is different. Those who drink it will never be thirsty again and it gives eternal life. Again, literally, the woman wants this water that lasts forever. Then she will never have to trudge to the well again.
What is this water that Jesus speaks about? It is God’s Spirit which comes to us in Baptism.
Baptism is not just a ritual producing magic effects. It is the outward, symbolic sign of a deep reality, the coming of God as a force penetrating every aspect of a person’s life.
And this happens through our exposure to Jesus and to the Gospel vision of life and our becoming totally converted to that vision. This can only happen through the agency of a Christian community into which we are called to enter. As the Second Reading says today, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”. It is not just a question of a ritual washing or immersing and saying magic words but of a real drinking in of that Spirit. The spirit quenches our thirst, not by removing our desire for God’s presence but by continually satisfying it.
* * *
‘Stay with us’
Many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus because of the woman’s witnessing. Then they asked him to stay with them, otherwise he would have continued on his journey. Jesus often needs to be invited to stay. Remember the two men walking to Emmaus? He would not have stopped if they had not invited him to stay the night. He stands at the door and knocks but he will not come in unless invited.
As a result, in this story many in that Samaritan village came to believe in Jesus. And they said: “It is no longer because of what you [the woman] said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the World.” For our catechumens, and for all of us, the faith that has been handed on must become our own faith. So that, even if everyone around us were to abandon Jesus, I would not. Ultimately faith is totally personal. “I live, no not I, but Christ lives in me.”
Let us pray today that all those preparing to be baptized at Easter may find that life-enriching faith for their lives.