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In Minnesota we are proud of calling ourselves the land of 10,000 lakes. Owning, or at least having access to, a cabin on a lake seems like a birthright to native Minnesotans. In many parts of the world, though, access to water is severely limited. This is certainly the case in Israel, where people rely on the yearly rains for a significant amount of their water supply. At the time of Jesus, cisterns were used to store water from the yearly rains, and wells were public places where people gathered to draw water for their daily use. Now I mention this because in our Gospel today on the 3rd Sunday of Lent Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at “Jacob’s well.”
There are a couple of details in this Gospel that are significant. First, notice that the Gospel tells us that it is about noon. Most people would have come to draw water early in the morning when it was cooler, as opposed to mid-day. This suggests that perhaps the woman didn’t want to bump into other people. Possibly (as we discover later in the Gospel) this is because the woman had 5 husbands and was currently living with another man. Second, it would have been highly unusual for a man (and a Jew) to talk with a single woman (and a Samaritan). The reason for this is that there was a great deal of hostility between Jews and Samaritans, and at that time there wasn’t any fraternization between men and women, most especially when they were strangers.
Although the woman initially misunderstood Jesus and his offer to give her “living water,” after talking with Jesus we discover that she was transformed by the encounter.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the book of Exodus. It is the story of the Jews in the desert grumbling against Moses because of their thirst for water. God instructed Moses to “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” The connection to the Gospel is evident. The difference, though, is that the water Moses provided only satisfied the people’s physical thirst. Jesus satisfies our spiritual thirst.
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. It reminds us that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. I suspect we have all been physically thirsty at some point in our lives, and we know what that feels like. What does it feel like to be spiritually thirsty?
2. Can you remember a time when Jesus has quenched your spiritual thirst?
3. While it is easy for me to acknowledge that I have sinned, it is hard for me to see myself as a sinner. Our second reading today, though, reminds us that Christ died for sinners. Do you, like me, have difficulty seeing yourself as a sinner?