Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Water of Life

Homily Lent 3. Yr. A
The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Sunday’s Gospel is full of a large number of meanings on a variety of levels. It begins with the account of the woman at the well. Although we don’t have the name of the Samaritan lady we do have the name of the well. Jacob’s well is named after the great Patriarch Jacob who was an absolutely key figure in Hebrew history. He was of course the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. On his journey at Bethel he received a vision when he was promised blessing and posterity, which became true. There is by the way a legend that the stone pillow on which he laid his head during his vision at Bethel is the stone of destiny or the crowning stone of Scone on which all Scottish Kings and English ones, since 1296 when it was removed to Westminster Abbey, are crowned.
Jacobs well is, however a real and historical place, the setting for the account of Jesus’ journey from Judea to Galilee that traditionally passes through Samaria taking a symbolic three days. The well can be found at the fork in the road in a very precise place; that is at the fork which branches in one direction to Samaria and W. Galilee and in the other to Bethshan and Lake Genaseret half a mile from modern Askar. 
John’s Gospel is full of references to water. Here the human need to drink water is reference to its life giving qualities. We cannot live or exist without it. Jesus’ life and ministry often refers to water, as in new birth from the very beginning of life with water in the womb of the BVM, through baptism in the Jordan, water in cleansing and healing, blessing and at burial. The church uses water extensively in its sacraments and blessings from the cradle to the grave.
Jesus’ dialogue with the woman at Jacob’s well, as with his dialogue with us today in the sacrament of word and action and Eucharistic presence, is that not only is water a life giving and life saving commodity essential for our survival but he as living water is also essential for our well being and our spiritual life both here and in the life to come.
The woman is the first missionary in a sense, as she brings her community as she brings us to recognise Jesus as our Saviour and the Saviour of the world. Jesus shows us that he is the gift of God greater than Jacob, he is the living water on which we heavily rely. Hence his words “everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again but he who drinks of the water that I shall give will never be thirsty… gushing up to eternal life”. Wine is made up largely of water, the same substance that through the mystery of the Eucharist becomes the blood of Christ, the water of spiritual and eternal life. One of the reasons Deacons at Mass mix water with wine in the chalice before its consecration is to make this connection between what Jesus did at the last supper using water in this way and remembering that at the crucifixion both blood and water came from his pierced side sacramentally embodied at every celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
So then, we have water of life to drink, the gift of God himself and the food of life which is Jesus his son who refreshes us with his words, comforts us as we thirst for the true meaning of life, food and drink beyond all understanding. Jesus is the water and food of our redemption and the deep source and well of all life, all knowledge, wisdom and truth. The physician and healer of our weakness, clears away our sins and doubts and fears like a great cleansing tide that washes over us leaving us pure and renewed to do his will. As we turn towards the cross we shall again hear the words of Christ hanging there for you and for me “ I thirst”. He thirsts not just for himself but he for us, he thirsts for our love above all he thirsts for our faith and our faithfulness. Will we hear his words to us and will we respond? May this Holy Lent reveal to us the great joy and meaning of the coming Pascal-tide. May we see more clearly the life giving Saviour in whom and to whom we owe everything and to whom all honour might majesty dominion and praise be given now and for ever, Amen. + M.E.Z.

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