To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 17:3-7; Rm 5:1-2, 5-8;Jn 4:5-42
At first glance, it might seem that because of the mention of water in the first reading and the Gospel, the theme of today centers around water. However, it goes much deeper. It goes as deep as the immanent presence of God who is not only with and around us, but also within us.
This story of Moses bringing water from a rock is similar to the one in Num 20:2-13, where Moses and Aaron are denied entry into the land because of their lack of trust in God, when after Moses struck the rock twice, water gushed from a rock. The story in Exodus, which is the first reading of today, relates two place names associated with this miracle. One is called Meribah (people quarelling with Moses) and the other Massah (putting God to the test). The grumbling of the people reflected their general attitude. Even though they were freed from oppression and led by God through the wilderness, they still complained. Blessings were not enough. They wanted their needs and desires fulfilled immediately! This attitude of the people stood in stark contrast to the immanent and constant presence of the Lord. The testing of God is summed up in the last sentence of the text: “Is the Lord among us or not?”
If anyone doubted that God is indeed with us and in Jesus could cut through any barriers that may have been set up, Paul reminds the Roman community of one overriding fact: “Christ, while we were still helpless, died for the ungodly … God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If Jesus entered our lives while we were sinners, how can anything we do later take Him out of our lives? He lives in us constantly.
This also means, therefore, that no place, event, time or person is unworthy of God’s salvation. Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman makes this abundantly clear. This incident is perhaps one of the most unusual of all those reported in the New Testament. The conversation would surprise his contemporaries. By engaging in a dialogue with the Samaritan woman, Jesus broke two clear boundaries that had been set up. The first, which was between Jews and Samaritans, and the second, between men and women. Yet John tells it to reinforce the theme that in Jesus, who is the source of living water, God continues to be present and freely available to all irrespective of caste, creed, race, colour or gender.
In explaining how this was possible, Jesus compared the water from Jacob’s well with his living water. The water drawn from Jacob’s well would satisfy only physical thirst. Lack of this water would thus cause thirst again. However, the living water Jesus offered truly satisfied, because it gave eternal life. Jesus painted the image of an artesian spring, water leaping up into life everlasting. The woman understood only in part. She desired eternal life, but only as a continuation of her present existence. She did not realize that the reception of God’s gift required her to look to the giver. Even when she did look, all she saw was a prophet, one who worshipped at the Jerusalem Temple. She, being a Samaritan, had her own centre of worship. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by inviting her to realize that the time was fast approaching when the location of worship would be irrelevant. Indeed, in the presence of Jesus, that time had arrived. He revealed himself to her in the words, “I AM”, and through this revelation, which here is absolute and with no predicate, showed her God as someone who is present and acts in this world. Jesus is the one in whom God is seen and known. Now the woman knew. Gender, nationality, and moral standing did not matter. Only the Spirit mattered.
The challenge of the texts of today is therefore to realize that openness like Jesus has shown is necessary, if the Church is to continue the revelation that Jesus made. All too often exclusivism on the part of the Church and a closed attitude to those of different orientations has led to their being pushed away from Jesus rather than being drawn to him. They also point out that with healthy dialogue, understanding and insights can be gained. Through the dialogue Jesus had with her, the Samaritan woman’s expectations were fulfilled and exceeded and the Samaritans from the city recognized the Saviour of the world. If we as Church realize this, then we can lead people to the immediate experience of Jesus, which is and continues to be both a gift and a task.