GIVE ME THIS WATER
In this third Sunday of Lent, we continue to reflect on the history of our salvation as seen from the first Sunday, the fall of our first parents, the second Sunday which presents to us the call of Abraham and today we reflect on God’s plan of salvation through his servant Moses, through whom he provides water to quench the thirst of the Israelites. Water remains an essential element for our existence and there is no life without water. Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. It is on this that Christ gives to us the water we shall drink and thirst no more.
The first reading from the book of Exodus presents to us the ordeal of the people of Israel in the desert. The book of Exodus narrates the bitter complains of the Israelites against Moses and against God of bringing them out of Egypt to perish in the wilderness. On several occasions they have complained to Moses: with the Red Sea at their front and the pursuing Egyptian soldiers at their rear, they complained he brought them out of slavery to die in the wilderness, and said they would have been better off as slaves (Ex. 14:11-12). Then at Marah, they complained because the water was bitter (15:14). In each of these instances, Yahweh responded by giving them what they needed. However, they never learned the lesson of faith, to trust Yahweh. They forget the good deeds of the Lord. Yahweh has saved them from hopeless situations and should understand that Yahweh will rescue them now, but they don’t.
In the reading, “The people thirsted for water and the people murmured against Moses, and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and cattle with thirst?’” they accuse Moses of bringing them out to kill them. Perhaps they doubted his motives and leadership and so they lost faith that God can save them. You will agree with me, after the presidential election of February 25th 2023, so many Christians began to loose faith in God. Some cried out through private chats to us priests and religious saying, “Why is God so merciful towards these criminals who have no regards for human life? Why has God abandoned us when we need him the most? We have cried, prayed and done everything humanly possible we can, yet no result. Our faith has dropped…” Some have complained and asked like the Israelites: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (17:7).
Sometimes, it is hard to give hope to Nigerians with the present situation of the country. A common slogan we hear these days in Yoruba language says, “e sope o ti lo.” That is, “to say it has gone,’ Nigeria has gone but we remain people of hope. To people of this mind set, the Lord says, “I have seen the miserable state of my people… and heard their appeal to be free… I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them” (Ex. 3:7-10). It is on this note of Yahweh’s compassion he gave them water from the rock at Horeb, as he earlier ordered Moses to speak to the rock at Nile but he struck at it with his staff (Num 20:1-13) and now the Lord says, “You shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink” (Ex. 17:6). This event have an illusion of Christ the Solid Rock and a pre-figuration of Christ on the cross, being pieced with lance and water came forth from his side.
In view of the water from the rock, the gospel presents to us a beautiful conversation or encounter between Christ and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Christ was on his way to Galilee, passing through Samaria (a pagan territory), recalling his mission is to save all and not only the Jews, and so, he began a long conversation with the woman, of which there is an exposition of his identity from the pagan view as a Jew, which will later end in a believer’s view as the Savior of the world. The direct route from Judea to Galilee passes through Samaria, but Jews (who despise Samaritans) often bypass Samaria by travelling east of the Jordan in other not to become ritually contaminated. If Christ “needed to go through Samaria,” the reason is most likely theological instead of geographic.
At the well, Christ requested for a drink from the woman, “Give me some water” (Jn. 4:7) and she began to narrate some barriers between them (a Jew and Samaritan). There is a rift between Jews and Samaritans as a result of intermarriage when Assyrians defeated Samaria and took many Samaritans into captivity. Those remaining in Samaria intermarried with non-Jewish people, compromising their ethnic identity and later when the Babylonians defeated Judea and took many Judeans into captivity, they maintained their identity while in captivity. At their return, from captivity, they build their temple and stayed away from the Samaritans who have intermarried and have a mixed heritage. So, it was a surprise for the woman that a Jew would ask a Samaritan for water.
Along the conversation, Christ said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drink from this water that I shall give him will never thirst; it will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (v. 13). In return, she was the one asking for a drink, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw” (v. 15). At this point, he said to the woman, “Go call your husband, and come here” (v.16). This leads to her insight that Jesus is a prophet and was leading her to a deep spiritual truth of her life. In reply, she said, “I have no husband” and Christ said, “You had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband”(v.17). Invariably, the sixth husband is not her own and the number ‘six’ biblically means imperfection while ‘seven’ means perfection. Hence, there is a theological interpretation that Christ became the seventh and perfect husband the Samaritan woman encountered. This encounter brings worship of God in truth and in spirit. At this point, her perspective of Christ has changed and she recognized Christ as the Messiah, and called others to follow him.
As Christ carried out his mission of salvation on her, she identified Christ as a Jew from the beginning, letter as the spring of water, with a deeper step as a prophet and as she grows spiritually in Christ, she saw Christ as the Messiah and finally as the Saviour of the world, of which she called many from the city to follow Christ and many Samaritans believed in him because of her testimony. It is on this note, St. Paul in the second reading reminds us that God came to save us while we were still sinners. Hence, salvation is for all and so, let us do away with segregation, tribalism, regionalism, division and be like Christ to break all barriers to save sinners, and let us share with others the spring of living water. O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your heart.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ