Peace and grace to you all!
The readings that we use this weekend are from Year A. The reason we will use them is because they emphasize the importance of faith and baptism. This is important for the faithful and especially for those preparing for baptism and those coming into full-communion in the Catholic faith.
In the first reading, the Israelites’ physical fatigue and thirst reveals the deeper level of their spiritual aridity and lack of faith. This happens even though God has been providing everything that they need in a unique and powerful way. Moses is frustrated with their hardness of heart, doubt and complaining rather than putting confidence in God. But God is patient, understanding and compassionate so he gives them the water they desire (the water symbolizes the Life of Grace through baptism).
In the Gospel story, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman and surprises her in many ways. She carries an empty jar to the well each day to satisfy her physical thirst. But in the encounter with Jesus, it becomes almost immediately clear that the empty jar is an image of her own spiritual emptiness and thirst for grace and mercy from God. She has had a hard life. She comes to the well at mid-day to avoid the scorn and ridicule of the townspeople. She quickly discovers that Jesus doesn’t treat her the way other people do. He is kind toward her even though he knows her whole life story with the bad decisions but instead of ridicule and rejection, Jesus offers her a remedy. For her part, she has only to put her faith and trust in him. She leaves the jar behind as an image of leaving behind her emptiness, pain, and thirst for God. Something new is springing up inside of her, it is faith and trust. As baptized Catholics, we can well identify with the wellspring flowing inside her because we know it is the grace and mercy of God. It is evident that Jesus came on that day and at that hour to satisfy the longing the woman had for God: to save her from her sins.
There is another thirst in the story too. Jesus’ thirst. Jesus was thirsting for her faith and trust. This set of readings helps us in our Lenten desert. While we experience trials and tribulations, aridity and loneliness, we thirst for fulfillment and comfort but we don’t always remember that God’s thirst for our faith and trust in him is much greater than ours. God’s thirst for us is satisfied when we put him first and call to him for help. God’s presence will always be found in the act of loving. When we comfort, accept, heal and forgive one another, we are not only imitating God’s response to us, we are also making God present to others. May God continue to fill you with life-giving water! +++ Fr. Peter