March 27, 2011
Third Sunday of Lent
It is high noon when Jesus stops to rest by the well of Jacob.
His revelation about life-giving water will provide a light that
challenges the sun. When he asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is
amazed that he seems so unaware of how things really are. Does he not
know about the human conventions that have condemned her to social
invisibility? After all, women were supposed to be ignored in public and
she was also a despised Samaritan. How can Jesus be so out of touch?
When Jesus answers her, we discover that it is she who is out of
touch. For she does not know about the "gift of God" that Jesus
offers--a gift that is as refreshing and enlivening as bubbling, cool
spring water, and thus so much better than the stale, stagnant well
water on which she has been trying to survive. The woman's eyes must
have sparkled as Jesus awakened in her the dream of a life of freedom
and dignity. "Sir, give me this water."
We learn about the nature of this "living water" a bit later
when the woman asks Jesus whether it is better to worship in Jerusalem
or on the Samaritan Mt. Gerizim. Jesus defers to Jerusalem but adds
immediately that such considerations are no longer relevant. What counts
now is to welcome the Spirit who can transform the hearts of people by
enabling them to experience the ultimate truth of God's love for them.
Religious places and rituals remain important but only insofar as they
lead to this experience of God's love made manifest in one's personal
union with Christ.
It is all too easy for most of us to identify with the Samaritan
woman when she experienced life as often unfair and unjust, that is, as
stale well water. Many powerful human institutions conceal systemic
injustice in the sense that opportunities and rewards are too often
provided on the basis of connections rather than of ability or merit.
Even those who benefit from such arrangements will sense the lack of
that joy that comes from a life where love is more important then
security. To shrug off injustice as simply "the way things are" is to be
condemned to the half-life of stagnant well water.
Today's gospel invites us to dream about the possibility of a
world where opportunity and hope replace the bondage of fear and
despair. God really does not want us to live a life of quiet
desperation. Jesus has come to reveal the Father's love and the Spirit
is ready to convince us of that fact. The Spirit of Jesus whispers
constantly to us: "If you only knew the gift of God..." Our eyes too can
sparkle as we dare to imagine a world, at least within our hearts, where
the experience of God's invincible love becomes a source of refreshing,
life-giving water to quench our thirst for goodness and justice.
In order to avoid a cynical attitude toward life, we need to
realize that the Holy Spirit wants us to redeem our own little corner of
the world. We do not need to be a Messiah, but we do need to inject some
messianic hope into the area of life that we can influence. The
conversion of the world begins with the conversion of a kitchen or a
dining room or a workplace. If each one of us would do that, the larger
world would soon become what God intended it to be--a place where
justice blossoms and where love bears wonderful fruit.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.