THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
The giver who began by asking
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
The Gospel today tells of a woman who was searching for a water that would quench her thirst for happiness. Right out of the blue she encountered a person who told her that he could provide her with that water. The person was Christ. We are all looking for the elusive ‘something‘ that will make us happy. We come here this morning to encounter the only person who can give us what we are looking for. Let us pause a while to draw close to him. [Pause]
Preserve us, we take refuge in you: our happiness lies in you alone. Christ, have mercy.
Near restful waters you lead us, to revive our drooping spirits. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Exodus 17:3-7). Despite their ingratitude, God shows his care for his people by providing water for them in the desert.
Second Reading (Romans 5:1-2.5-8). God has proved his extraordinary love for us by- the fact that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
Gospel (John 425-42). This contains the account of one of the most touching encounters of the Gospel – Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. (Shorter form recommended).
Jean Vanier never tires of saying that all of us, even the mentally handicapped, have a great wealth of the heart. Unfortunately, this wealth often goes untapped because people are not awakened to what they possess and encouraged to share it. One of the worst things we can do for poor people is to keep on giving handouts. In this way we keep them in a position of dependence. We can stifle people with gifts.
Sometimes we do more for others by asking something of them. By asking something of them we awaken them and challenge them to grow. We give them a chance to love and enter the world of sharing. The greatest good we can do for other people, is not to give of them of our own wealth, but to show them their own. Tagore has a lovely parable about this.
One day a beggar man was making the rounds of his native village. But door after door was closed in his face, so that at the end of the morning he had nothing to show for his efforts. As he made his way out of the village, the hot noon sun beat down on him. Weary and dejected, he sat down by the side of the road. At his side lay a sack which contained his last handful of grain. In the evening he would grind it down and bake a last cake of bread.
Suddenly his face lit up. He saw the king’s carriage coming towards him. ‘The king is a kind man,’ he said to himself. ‘He will not pass without giving me something.’ He got to his feet at once, his heart beating with excitement. To his delight he noticed that the royal carriage was slowing down. In fact, it came to a halt exactly opposite the spot where he stood with his hand stretched out in a begging attitude.
Down came the window, and the king appeared at it. The beggar man bowed low and was about to say: ‘Good day, your Majesty. Could you spare a little money for me, your most unworthy servant?’ But the king got in the first words. Reaching out an empty hand he said: ‘Could you spare a little corn for your king?’
The beggar man was completely taken aback at this strange turn of events. But he soon recovered and said: ‘Certainly, your Majesty.’ With that he opened the sack, took a quick look inside, then picked out the smallest grain he could find, and gave it to the king. He apologised that it was so little, saying it was all he could spare. The king thanked him, and the carriage moved off, leaving the beggar man with a terrible feeling of disappointment and emptiness.
All day long he sat there by the roadside begging but got nothing. When evening came on he made his way home, sad, tired, and hungry. Once home, he took a pan and emptied the last of the corn from the sack into it. As he inspected the meager heap of grains that resulted, he made a startling discovery – the smallest grain of corn had turned into a grain of pure gold.
Then he bitterly regretted the fact that he had been so miserly with his king. If only he had known what gift the king wanted to give him, then most surely he would have given him every single grain of corn in the sack. In that case, he would now be a rich man and would never have to beg again.
The moral of the parable is simple: it is by sharing that we are enriched. The real art then is being able to get people to share. Jesus had this art. He often began by asking. There are many examples in the Gospels. At Cana he asked the servants to fill the jars with water. Then he turned this water into wine. But if the servants hadn’t provided the water there would have been no miracle. The same with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He multiplied the few they gave him. And we have a lovely example in today’s Gospel.
Jesus’ approach to this outcast woman was ever so gentle. He didn’t force himself into her life. Had he done so she would no doubt have immediately closed up. There is a world of difference between asking a person for the key to her house, and battering the door down. Jesus began by asking. He began as the one in need. He disarmed her with a simple request for a drink of water. She gave him the water, and a dialogue ensued. She soon sensed that here was a man who had time for her and who seemed to understand her. Before she realised it, she had shared with him the whole story of her sad life. Again, ever so gently, he got her to face what she had been running from. He showed her that up to now \she had been looking for the right thing (love) but in the wrong places. Then he told her that he could give her the ‘water’ that would quench her thirst for love and meaning in life. Where was this water to come from? Surprisingly, it was to come (to bubble up) from inside her. The spring was already there. It was just that up to now it had been hidden and blocked off.
Christ meets us where we are. At any time, any place, in any circumstance the encounter can take place. You get a feeling that for some Catholics this encounter never happens. If this is so, then it is a great pity. For Christ says to us what he said to that lost woman: ‘If you only knew the gift God wants to give you ’
However, this encounter rarely happens in a dramatic way. More often it comes as the result of a slow growth in intimacy with Christ, until the time comes when (again like the woman) we are an open book to him. Then we will not be afraid to let him see how poor we really are, and how thirsty we are for lasting happiness and love. And if he asks something from us, it is. only because he has something better to give us in return.
‘It is very difficult to admit one’s poverty, weakness, and sins. Hence we are unable to receive the “gift of God” Jesus wishes to give us.’ (Jean Vanier)
‘Prayer is not asking things of God but receiving what he wants to give you.’ (Anon)
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us not be afraid to acknowledge our inner thirst, and let us pray with confidence to Christ who alone can quench it. R. Lord, hear our prayer.
For all followers of Christ: that they may turn away from the murky waters of sin, and seek instead the clear waters of grace. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For people everywhere: that they may realise that all the drink in the world will never quench the thirst God has placed in the human heart. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
Christ asked the woman for a drink, and she gave it to him. That we may respond to the thirsts of our brothers and sisters. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
That through prayer and the reception of the sacraments, we may grow steadily in friendship and intimacy with Christ. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
. For local needs.
, Let us pray:
Heavenly Father. you sent your Son into our world to quench our thirst with the living water of your grace. Help us to listen to him, and to accept his gift of living water. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.
There is a thirst in every human heart.
Each of us is like that lonely Samaritan woman.
We are thirsting for something,
something that will satisfy all our longings.
The only trouble is,
we often search in the wrong places.
We draw water from many wells:
the water of praise to quench our thirst for self-esteem;
the water of success to quench our thirst for importance;
the water of pleasure to quench our thirst for joy
But we still get thirsty.
For those who have encountered Christ
the search is over.
He alone can provide clean living water
to quench our inner thirst.
The encounter with Christ can happen
at any time and any place.
When it happens,
he will cause a spring to well up inside us.
The water from this spring will sustain us
in our journey to the Promised Land of eternal life.