THEME: THE LIVING WATER
READINGS: Exodus 17:3-7 / Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 / John 4: 5-42
3rd Sunday of Lent
Water sustains life. Hence the slogan, ‘water is life’. One could, therefore, understand how desperate the Israelites were when they could find no water in the desert. God, however, had an already-made answer to the water shortage situation. He, who miraculously made a way through the Red Sea and provided the hungry thousands with manna, would soon perform another miracle. Water would flow from where it was least expected – from a solid rock. In other words, God, who has the power to stop the flow of the waters of the Red Sea, has power to make water gush forth from the rock (Exo. 17:5-7).
St. Paul gives a spiritual meaning to this event. He says that Jesus Christ is the spiritual Rock from which the spiritual water flows (1 Cor. 10:1-4). That is, Jesus is the One who gives us the spiritual water. This could help us understand today’s gospel reading in which Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He is the giver of living Water (John. 4:10).
Now, if Jesus is the spiritual Rock, who is the living Water? St. John provides us with the answer. He writes: ‘On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” [St. John, then, explains:] By this Jesus meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified’ (John 7:37-39). So, the Holy Spirit is the living Water.
Let us now employ some of the uses and characteristics of natural water to enable us to appreciate the role of the living Water, the Holy Spirit, in our lives. Water:
- Sustains life
- Quenches thirst
- Is used for washing
- Dissolves certain things
- Has great power
- Water sustains life
As water sustains life, so the Holy Spirit sustains our spiritual life. Consequently, without the Holy Spirit, we are only physically alive but dead in spirit. Let us, therefore, ask the Lord Jesus to fill us with the Holy Spirit, the living Water.
- Water quenches thirst
As water quenches our thirst, so the Holy Spirit, the living Water, quenches our spiritual thirst. We may take all kinds of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, but for most of us only water truly quenches our thirst. Similarly, it is the Holy Spirit, the living Water, who satisfies our true desires. Moreover, the living Water satisfies us, not for a short while, but forever. Thus, Jesus told the Samaritan woman: ‘whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never be thirsty; for the water that I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:14). To this generous offer of Jesus, the woman rightly requested: ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may never be thirsty’ (John 4:15).
Therefore, like the Samaritan woman, let us seek the living Water, the Holy Spirit, that we may never thirst for vanity.
- Water is used for washing
As water is used for washing, so the Holy Spirit, the living Water, cleanses us of our sins and makes us new in spirit. His cleansing and renewing power is experienced first time at baptism. This is what Jesus meant when He said that to be born again is to be ‘born of water and the Spirit’ (John 3:5). Firstly, we see here the association between water and Holy Spirit. The renewal that takes place by the action of the Holy Spirit is depicted as a new birth or being born again.
Subsequent to baptism, the Holy Spirit continues to cleanse and renew us. In other words, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot remain cleansed and renewed. To cleanse and renew the Samaritan woman who acknowledged her sins of having lived with several men, Jesus offered her the living Water, the Holy Spirit. Like the woman, let us acknowledge our sins and call upon the Lord to cleanse and renew us with the living Water. Here, we may adopt the prayer of the repented King David: ‘Have mercy upon me, O God …. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow …. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me’ (Psalm 51:1,7,10-11).
- Water dissolves certain things
Water dissolves soluble things (e.g. sugar, salt, etc.). Similarly, the Holy Spirit, the living Water can soften harden hearts. In today’s first reading, Moses named the place where water flowed from a rock for the Israelites Massah and Meribah, because of their ingratitude, their rebellion and the fact that they put the Lord to the test (cf. Exodus 17:7). Years later, the psalmist referring to this event, would admonish us: ‘O that today you would listen to His voice! Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the desert when your forebears put me to test …though they saw my work’ (Psalm 95:7-9). Beloved, if we have any stubbornness of heart or bad habits, let us call upon the Holy Spirit, the living Water, to dissolve them.
- Water has great power
The flow of water is powerful. For instance, we are familiar with damage the floods can cause. Also, the force of water is employed in hydro-electric dams. More than natural water, the Holy Spirit, the living Water is very powerful. The great sound like a mighty rushing wind that came down from heaven on the day of Pentecost gives an indication of the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2). Indeed, the Holy Spirit is most powerful since He is co-equal with God the Father and God the Son (cf. Matt. 28:19). Let us, therefore, seek Him who is divine to dwell in us always, so that He conquers any force that may attempt to harm us. In this respect, St. John assures us: ‘You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).
Beloved in Christ, the season of Lent is a special opportunity to reflect on how the Holy Spirit, the living Water, is working in our lives. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit, the living Water, will:
- Sustain us unto eternal life,
- Quench our true thirsts or desires,
- Cleanse us of our sins and renew us,
- Dissolve our stubborn hearts and bad habits and
- Conquer any evil power that may attempt to harm us.
By Msgr. John Kobina Louis