THE EFFICACY OF THE LIVING WATER
Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; Gospel: John 4:5-42
Water is one of the essential elements that sustains the life of every human being. Of course, no one can actually survive without water since it quenches human thirst. Moreover, it is believed that almost 80% of the human body is made up of water. Without irrigation of the soil, the crops may not grow well or even die. In the same way, without quenching our thirst with water, we would dehydrate or even die.
Meanwhile, in the first reading of today, the Israelites were very thirsty and nearly died due to a lack of water in the wilderness. Consequently, they complained bitterly and even wondered if God was still alive. Hence, Moses sought God’s intervention, and subsequently, God answered him and provided water for the Israelites, and thus the Israelites survived (Exodus 17:6).
In the gospel reading, Jesus Christ speaks of “new water” and “new life” that He wants to give us. In His encounter with the Samaritan woman who came to draw physical water from Jacob’s well, Jesus Christ dismantles racial, religious, and gender barriers and demonstrates how God’s love and grace are available to everyone. In exchange for physical water, Jesus Christ offers her the water that sustains spiritual life, that is, the gift of eternal life (John 4:7–10).
Surprisingly, even though Jesus Christ reveals her secret life to her, He nevertheless does not hold her accountable for her prior deeds or her underprivileged status as a woman in search of peace, which even her five husbands could not give (John 4:16–19). Instead, He is kind to her, tells her the truth, and gives her the living water of salvation that brings true joy and peace. This interaction reveals Jesus’ readiness to bridge cultural borders and engage with those who are generally ignored or marginalized in society.
Certainly, the Samaritan woman is a symbol for all those whose lives are filled with difficulties and obstacles but who wish to take the first steps in a life of genuine faith. She eventually becomes the first missionary of the gospel as well as the first apostle of the Samaritans to share the Good News with them. Sequel to this, many Samaritans believe in Jesus Christ as a result of her testimony and the impact of His teachings. This shows that our encounter with Jesus Christ should become a living testimony to others.
Undoubtedly, the body needs physical water to stay alive. Of course, Jesus Christ is for the human soul what physical water is for the body. So, the life that He brings is a spring of living water that is available to all who worship God in spirit and in truth. The living water that Christ gives is God’s life, and since God is Love, we receive the very love of God when we drink the living water.
Meanwhile, St. Paul affirms this when He says, “It was the very life of God that was poured into our hearts at baptism” (Romans 5:5). This love originated from the pierced side of Christ on the cross (John 19:34) and continues to flow into the veins of His Church, whose members we are. As a result of our contact with Jesus Christ, especially through the Holy Eucharist and Confessions, we are transformed and are able to witness to others in a powerful way. We are challenged to overcome the obstacles erected by our own cultures and societies and to interact with individuals who are different from us in a loving, compassionate, and truthful way.
In the second reading, St. Paul shows why we should trust in the efficacy of the living water and be joyful because no one will be deprived of this water. Hence, he says, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-2, 5).
Finally, we are called to seek not only the physical water that is ephemeral but the spiritual water that is eternal. Jesus Christ is that fountain of living water that satisfies and quenches our spiritual thirst and finally grants us eternal life. Therefore, our Lenten prayers, fasting, and almsgiving offer us the precious opportunity to drink this life-giving water to the full and share it with others as well, without any racial, religious, or cultural prejudices.
May the Holy Spirit always quench your thirst with the spiritual water that will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.