The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
March 15, 2020 – Third Sunday of Lent - John 4:5-42
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
What would you rather have? A thousand-dollar bill or a bank account that gave you money whenever you needed it? This is the kind of question that is suggested by today’s gospel, certainly one of the most unforgettable narratives in all of Holy Scripture. Commonly called “the woman at the well,” most know the main points of this part of John’s Gospel.
I want to focus on that part of the gospel where Jesus and the woman have a discussion about the need for water. They meet at a famous well -- it’s the same well where Jacob, an important Jewish figure in history hundreds of years previous, shared water from this well with Rachel, the daughter of his kinsmen. In that part of the world, with scarce rainfall, wells were needed for survival. They were also social gathering places, a bit like pubs in England and Ireland.
Without going into the wonderful details of this story, I will focus on the meaning of water as it was described by Jesus. It’s the way he will provide water to those who are thirsty. An important prop in the story is a bucket. She brought hers from her home and Jesus had none. He offers to supply her with water from the well, but she responds that he can’t do that because he happens to be without a bucket. This leads to his describing the water of life that he can offer her. He calls it “living water,” which will actually be “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Why does he describe his water that way? Without going into a long discussion of the relationship between water and life, I will only affirm that you can’t have life without water. What I find most interesting is that the water Jesus offers comes through a spring that keeps giving and giving and giving. Not just now, but forever. How incredibly wonderful is that?
Clearly, Jesus is talking about water in a sense that is much more than the simple water we take from our faucets. It is life-giving water that comes directly and abundantly from God. It provides all that we need to continue living, not just here on Earth, but forever. It is water from a source that is God’s love for all that lives in Creation, and most especially, for you and me. That life comes to and flows through family life is a message that Pope Francis loves to repeat. What a beautiful thought that is central to the message of Lent, when new life arises around us. And for us, the life we have received will never be taken away from us, never. God’s spring never ceases to flow.
©David M. Thomas, PhD