First Reading: Ex 17:3-7; Psalm: 95. R. v. 7d.8a; Second Reading: Rm 5:1-2.5-8; Gospel: Jn 4:5-42
THE GOD WHO SEES OUR INNER THIRST
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Most human actions and reactions are not a product of chance or accident. They are often occasioned by the effects of some past life events that became a turning point defining one’s character and person. Our experiences of the past cannot be completely removed from what we have become today. People don’t just change; situations change people. We may have heard of the Native American proverb, “Never judge another man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” Put differently, this proverb underscores the importance of recognising our limitedness in judging anyone.
One obvious character of the people of Israel en route to the Promised Land was their incessant complaints in the midst of lack. We read today in the first reading how they wearied Moses with their complaints for lack of water. Moses was displeased with their attitude. But God saw a people whose hope and trust have been dashed by long suffering and pain. God quenched their thirst by giving them water from the rock.
The gospel reading of today reported a very detailed conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. A conversation that progressively led to the conversion of this woman. Any reader who comes across this gospel would possibly think that Jesus was actually thirsty when he asked this woman for water. But it was the other way round. The Samaritan woman was actually the one in need of water. Not the water from the well she was about to draw from. But the living water that would quench her inner thirst which only Jesus can give.
A closer look on the story of this Samaritan woman reveals she was obviously disconnected from her people. She came to the well alone at noon to draw water. But the usual time to draw water was in the morning when there was no sun. And the women of the town would usually go in groups discussing about their lives as they draw water from the well. So apparently this woman was not welcomed in the company of her town’s women. She was treated like an outcast probably because of her kind of life. She has been married to five different men and the marriages failed. The sixth man she was living with was not even her husband.
But while her town’s people despised her for some reasons best known to them; Jesus saw her differently. Jesus saw a woman who was thirsting for happiness and fulfilment and not a woman who could not afford a stable marriage. Jesus saw a woman who needed true love and support and not hatred and rejection. Jesus saw a woman whose inner life was desiccated and enervated and not a woman in need of ordinary water. This was why Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is it that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” For truly, the inner life of this woman was in dire need of living water.
When this woman finally realised she has been discussing with the expected Messiah, she left the water she came to draw from the well and went to invite the same people who despised her to come and encounter Jesus. Evidently, this shows that what this woman was actually searching for was not that water from the well but Jesus the living water.
Recall that the background to the conversion of this woman was that Jesus saw her differently. Perhaps it is time we began to see each other differently. One of the reasons why some people are angry and sad today is because of their narrowed judgement of others and their refusal to see them differently. If we always saw our spouse as a quarrelsome person; that perception may keep hurting us. If we felt our child is incorrigible; we will always look out for instances to consolidate our claim. This can steal away our joy. Seeing people differently is not the denial of who they are. It is the acceptance of who they can possibly become.
Just like this Samaritan woman, no one knows the circumstances surrounding people’s upbringing. People go through a lot of crisis in their life and marriages today not because they wished to. But because over time, in the course of their upbringing, their formation have been affected by certain detrimental factors which now plays out in their present life causing them pain and sadness. Although we do not have the divine insight to see through people’s life story; but if we understood that there is more to our knowledge of people than what we presently see, then maybe we can act differently towards them.
There may be many of us going through certain crisis in life just like this Samaritan woman. A kind of crisis that has isolated us from friends and families. Probably life has suddenly become meaningless to us due to the situation we find ourselves. But there is good news for us today. Jesus can bring back meaning into our lives again if we gave him the chance.
When Moses breached the rock in the wilderness with his rod, God provided water to quench the thirst of his people. This rock prefigures Christ who will be pierced on the cross and would gift the Church the sacrament in the symbol of blood and water. This gift of the sacrament from Christ can bring healing and meaning into our lives again. For we cannot find fulfilment and meaning on our own without God.
In this period of Lent, let us return to God with all our burdens and worries. Let us come with our emptiness that Christ may fill and reinvigorate us to becoming joyful disciples of the gospel. If we have kept ourselves away from the sacraments; this is the time to return back. So that Christ may quench our thirst and make us new again.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Jesus the Living water, quench our thirst and draw us back to you. Amen.