Third Sunday of Lent – March 10, 2019
Saint Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
Exodus 17-3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
This scene of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman is very famous and we have heard it many times. But as always, the question is have we really heard it? Do we really understand what is going on here? Why, on the third Sunday of Lent, do we have this Gospel? Well, this Gospel is meant to call to mind, in each one of us, the particular Event from our life that changed our life. The story is very detailed, and it is so detailed because it was such a powerful moment for her that she never forgot. It was noon, it was at the well, Jesus was tired, the dialogue between them is more than just a simple question and answer. But at the end of the day, the story of the Samaritan Woman is the story of the Person, of the Event that changed her life, that gave new meaning and direction to her life, that opened up a newness and vigor to life, that provided her with what corresponds to the deepest desires of her heart.
In each of our lives, we can all list off the events or the people that changed our life, that forced us to change our life. When someone receives a diagnosis of cancer, or diabetes, or lupus, their life changes. When a couple finds out they are pregnant, their life changes. When someone receives the letter that they were accepted to college, their life changes. When someone looks in your eyes with a look that you could follow to the ends of the earth and awakens your heart, your life changes. And there are many more examples: death of a family member, getting a new job, moving to a new place. But the point is that you don’t decide these things! These events, your encounter with these people change your life! They give a new direction to your life. They change everything.
This is what the story of the Samaritan Woman is about: this is the event that changed her life. But it wasn’t just another event. It was the Event, it was the encounter, the Person that changed her life. She was changed, life was changed, life had a new meaning, a new vigor, a constant newness! In her encounter with Jesus Christ, in this event, everything changed. And everything changed not because Jesus gave her some new rules to follow, not because he handed her the mass schedule to her closest church—none of that! No, her life changed because in her conversation with Jesus, the walls around her heart were finally broken down, the desires of her heart were finally set free—her heart found what it had been searching for for so long.
The main image in the story is water: Jesus asking for water, the woman filling her bucket, Jesus speaking of living water. But think about the bucket, a metaphor for her life. This woman “has been trying to satisfy her thirst with the things of the earth and has found herself perpetually thirsty, unsatisfied, and frustrated. This was her life—one of pain, misery, loneliness, being used and rejected, and discarded. [And] it’s not entirely unlike our lives. We too have our own buckets. We try to cope with our…weaknesses and [loneliness and everything] by filling our lives, [our buckets], with things we think will satisfy us. For some of us it is alcohol, drugs, and pornography; for others it is money, power, the desire for human respect. [For others it is our phone, or snapchat, or the number of likes and views we have. For others it is shopping and clothes, or parties and dances.] We will take anything we can to help us feel better, [to “fill our bucket”], but in the end, it doesn’t satisfy” (+Pierre). We all know this! We know that all of these things help for a while, but then they betray us. And yet it’s hard to let them go, and we go back day after day to the well, alone, hoping to find the water that will finally satisfy us, but going back to the same well as the day before.
We need something, someone to break in. We need an event that will wake us up from the numbness we experience. And the only place we find this, the only place we have ever found this is in those encounters, those events of life. When someone else in our life allows us to live in a different and new way, then we are awakened, we find not just another bucket of water, but a fountain, a spring. And nothing awakens us quite like someone who is moved with compassion for our destiny. You can see this in your own life! Just ask yourself the question: “When have I discovered and recognized a Presence in an event in my life, in a conversation, in prayer, in a look someone gave me?” Ask! What is this event! Ask! Over and over and over!
Because it is in these events that the Lord was there, asking for a drink, knocking at the door of our heart. These are the events in our lives that can cause us to emerge from the ashes, to emerge from the numbness and malaise of life. When we encounter someone truly extraordinary and exceptional, a miracle takes place. Our life is saved, we are made new, we experience life as permeated with a newness and vigor that we know we did not create. This is the presence of Christ! This is the Presence that gives us new life! This is the event that truly and definitively changes our life! We finally find something that fulfills the deepest desires of our heart, that awakens our heart!
What shines through in those events, in those encounters, is the divine. It is the Christ. And we would follow that to the ends of the earth. Christ becomes the one who determines our life. Just like cancer, or diabetes, or a heart attack will change our life; just like having kids will change your life; just like the look from another will change your life—Christ changes your life. You have no choice but to follow him, to tell everyone about him. We stop doing things because “we have to do them” or because “that is the rule.” And instead, we do them because we want to experience this newness, this life, this fulfillment, forever.
Seek the living water. Seek the water that is a spring welling up to eternal life. Beg for that water, that life.