Reflect on your real needs and thirsts
By accepting God's invitation we bring his love into our hearts
March 3, 2002, Third Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
If God loves us and invites us to accept his love, what is our response? The readings of this Third Sunday of Lent ask us to reflect on the choices we can make. In daily life we respond to different invitations. God's invitation requires an RSVP. While in baptism and confirmation we accepted the challenge now we must continue to know what we want to do.
The gospel story tells us of a woman who went to the village well to get water where she encountered Jesus. It was a famous well for, by tradition, it was the one Jacob had used and given to his son Joseph. It was in the province, which at that time was called Samaria. For some reason Jesus and his disciples were going through Samaria. Usually Jews tried to skirt it for the Samaritans were hated and in turn they were hostile to the Jews.
The writer of the gospel uses his usual device of having the person meeting Jesus misunderstand what Jesus was saying. He asks the woman for water, when in reality, he wants to give her water, a living water, a precious gift from God. Living water is referred to often in the Old Testament both by the prophets and in the wisdom writings as the basis and principle of the spiritual life.
The rest of the story centers on where true worship will take place. It also suggests that the woman has not led a very exemplary life. One wonders what she is doing at the well without the company of other women and why she even responded to this strange man. It went against all custom. Jesus' invitation led to her acceptance of Jesus' gift and the acceptance of others in the town. John has moved Jesus ministry to another group of despised and marginal people.
The first reading also centers on water or the lack of it. Even though God has continually helped the people of Israel they find it easy to doubt and complain. Receiving instructions from God, Moses strikes a rock with his staff. Water comes flowing out of the rock. It is a most unlikely source of water and challenges the faith of the people. The responsorial psalm tells us the same story but in a more poetic fashion. It pleads with the hearer to listen for God's voice rather than turning a deaf ear. The challenge is to accept God's signs of care and love.
Paul's Letter to the Romans serves as a reminder that whatever God does for us is not because we have earned it or deserved it. This is especially true of God's greatest gift, being justified or made whole. Even though we are sinners and, therefore, don't deserve it, God proves his love in the death of Christ. So when we accept God's invitation, the Spirit brings the depth of God's love into our hearts.
When we are thirsty we look for water to satisfy that thirst. Scripture uses this symbol of water to teach us that even if we are not talking about physical thirst, God can satisfy our needs. We need to ask ourselves what we thirst for in life. The readings ask us to think beyond what is physical and think of what our deeper needs are. Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman water that would give real life. Jesus offers this same gift to us. Sometimes we don't know our real needs or we don't know where to look and see how we might satisfy those needs. Lent may be that time when we can find the opportunity to reflect on those needs. Are we ready to answer God's invitation and fill out that RSVP?
(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)