Homily for 3rd Sunday of Lent – Year A

Refreshing Our Life With Christ The Eternal Living Water!

Readings: (1st: Ex 17: 3-7; Ps 94:1-2.6-9; 2nd: Rom 5: 1-2.5-8; Gos: Matt 4:5-42)        

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

The Psalmist echoes thus: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God…”; “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation…”(Ps 42:1; 62, 1), while St Augustine corroborates and affirms him in his Confession: “O Lord, our heart is restless until it rest in you!” (Lib 1, 1-2, 2.5, 5: CSEL 33, 1-5).In other words, just as water quenches our physical thirst, only Christ the spiritual and Eternal Living Water can quench our spiritual thirst and give rest to our forlorn souls. Today the Holy Mother Church encourages us as we continue our journey this Lenten season to quench our spiritual thirst with the Eternal Living Water which is Christ. She also calls us to break all cultural barriers, prejudices and segregation in order to let the eternal living water flow into all hearts.

In the first reading and gospel of today, one finds that water was mentioned explicitly. Whereas in the second, it was implicitly referred to by Paul’s use of the verb: “to pour.” What is water and why is it important to us on this third Sunday of Lent? One of the most important requirements for the sustenance of all lives on earth is water (Greek – νερό, nero), a compound with one of the simplest chemical and structural formulae (H20). Studies have shown that it makes up to 60-75 percent of the total body fluid of the human person. The case is not different for most other living organism especially, plants. This means that complete withdrawal or dehydration of water from any living organism is the fastest means of killing it. Although, water in itself has close to zero energy value, its importance cannot be over flogged for the continuous existence of living organisms. The most important functions of water include that it lubricates and activates the cells which contains the energy and power house of life in living organisms, it flushes toxins, boosts immune systems, helps to relieve headache, prevents cramps and strains etcetera. Water is a common Old Testament metaphor for the satisfaction of spiritual needs (Ps 23:2; 42:1; Is 12:3).  Jesus’ use of the phrase, “living water,” has its roots in the OT (Jer 2:13; 17:13). This is also paralleled by his later reference to “the bread of life” (Jh 6:35) and “living bread” (Jh 6:51).

The first reading of today tells us of the ordeal of the Israelites in the wilderness on their way out of their captivity after 430 years (Ex 12, 40). They grumbled against Moses and of course, indirectly, against God because they were thirsty. Moses was instructed by God to strike the rock from which water came forth. They drank and were satisfied. Both the rock Moses struck and the water that gushed out from it allegorically and metaphorically prefigure Christ who is both our rock and the eternal living water. Though the Israelites felt only the need for their physical thirst, but the water that flowed from the rock was spiritual and thus played the dual role of quenching both their physical and spiritual thirst. Like the Israelites, most of us Christians do not know what we actually want, and because we are confused, we end up complaining about everything, and gallivanting from one adoration ministry, fellowship, night vigil, etcetera, to another. Unfortunately for most of us, we often times end up where there is no solution to our spiritual thirst. What we need is not just “miracles”, but a spiritual drink of the living water that flows from the Rock of Ages. Like St Augustine, we must allow our souls to rest in God if must be satisfied. Hence, we must:“With joy…draw water from the well of salvation” (Ish 12: 13), in order to quench our spiritual thirst on our own journey this Lenten season.

In the second reading, Paul employs one of the properties of water or fluids, that is, ability “to flow” or “to pour,” to describe how the Love of God (Christ the Eternal Living Water) “is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” He reminds us also of how helpless our life was and could still be without Christ the Living Water upon which our continuous existence depends. In other words, through his death, Christ made himself the source of our own life, because through the water and blood that flowed from his side when he was pierced on the cross (Jh 19: 34), he became the living spring and the source of our life. Cut off from this spring therefore we can do nothing (Jh 15: 5), because it is the water that flows from it that lubricates and gives life to the “spiritual cells” of our own life.

In the gospel of today, Jesus presents himself to the Samaritan woman as the Eternal Living Water. This underscores His importance in our life. Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan woman today is an eye opener to us Christians. Through it, he was able to prove to us that he is the spring, source and sustainer of our life. It suffices to note that the woman was surprised that Jesus asked her for a drink and says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Here Jesus is given the label “Jew” by the Samaritan woman, while at John 8:48, He was labeled a “Samaritan” by His fellow Jews. Both of these labels are given to him in less than a friendly manner, to say the least. He is a stranger to both groups, and this is a confirmation of what the scripture says about him: “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (Jh 1: 11). This hostile relationship between Jews and Samaritans apparently goes back to post-exilic times, and after so many centuries the wounds still festered. The use of racial slurs continues to drive a wedge between the two groups. In spite of all these, Christ was not discouraged but pressed on with his mission and feeding on his “food” which as he told his disciples is: “To do the will of the One who sent me!” The lesson from this is that we like Jesus, must not discriminate against people especially in helping to bring them to the Eternal Living Water. Jesus knew quite well who the woman was and what she needed the most in life just as he knows us. He knew that she was a Samaritan, “an enemy” of the Jew. Yet, he approached her to ask for a drink. It also suffices to note that while the proximate aim of Jesus in approaching the woman for a drink might be to quench his physical thirst (though John did not tell us whether He drank the water or not after all), his remote aim was to convert her by drawing her closer to Himself the Eternal living Water. By breaking the silence and going against the social customs, conventions, prejudices and the hostilities between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus becomes the gift of God to this woman and her people.

Like Jesus therefore, we must be ready to take a risk, challenge the unspoken rules of social structures and norms, break down walls that alienate people, open up possibilities to others so that they can experience and quench their spiritual thirst with the gift of God- the Eternal Living Water. Finally, the argument that ensued between Jesus and the woman represents the obstacles, question and hurdles that we must be ready to scale before we can succeed in convincing people about Christ, the Eternal Living Water. In other words, they represent the “rational” or “philosophical Stubbornness” that the society will present to us before they finally yield to the gospel message. However, if we ourselves are connected to the Eternal Living Water, we shall have a better and more convincing witness to bear to them without getting weary.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!

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