In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the third Sunday in Lent and we are getting closer to Holy Week - to our Lord Jesus’ victory over death, devil and this world through His crucifixion and triumphant resurrection on Easter Sunday. Christ undergoes the passion, all for the sake of His bride the Church. To save her through His selfless sacrifice, by humbling himself and remaining obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. There is a deep connection between today’s reading and the crucifixion. One of the obvious one is that of the living water that Jesus offers to the Samaritan woman and the living water and blood flowing from Christ’s side, which He offers as Sacraments to the entire church.
Only last week we heard Jesus telling Nicodemus of being born again, with water and spirit, for without it one cannot enter the kingdom of God. In today’s gospel lesson Christ continues to teach and baptize, and as the apostle John clarifies it was not that Jesus himself who baptized but his disciples baptized. And yet, all baptisms are done in the name of God, by the pouring of water included with God’s command to which the Spirit testifies.
The Holy Spirit testifies about Christ and brings to faith sheep who hear their Shepherds voice. And so, our Lord Jesus proclaims these words in a relentless, unwavering resolve, to attain the great prize that God has set before him. And this great prize is the in gathering of all the faithful. The in gathering of the lost and the condemned, made new through the washing of waters and made alive with the name of God. To people such as these -poor miserable sinners, Jesus gives the water that become within them a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Now water in itself has great significance in daily life. It is needed for a variety of things and above all, it is needed to sustain life. Our own body is made up of water, and so it is an elemental, building block for life and for the sustenance of any life form on earth. Such is the life force of water that even the animals appreciate its need and importance.
In many countries springs and wells have a long history attached to it. In our reading from today, the well in question was established by Jacob - the patriarch of the Jews and the racially suspect Samaritans. So, Jacob’s well had historical relevance and an importance in the community. In Canada we are blessed to have the world’s largest resource of fresh water, in arid condition like those in Israel and the Middle east, it is not easy to find fresh water. Therefore, at the time St. John writes it was common that an entire village or even a cluster of villages would depend on a single source.
This made wells a place where communities gathered at morning or evening time. They became a location for social interaction, real community living. You had to be physically present to drink from it. This is alien to us as we are content with these somewhat inadequate and impersonal cyber- interactions, done in the confines of our homes over small screens.
We cannot replace the sense of community that Jacob’s well produced, or their sense of belonging or un-belonging as might have been in the case of the Samaritan woman. So, many things were discussed at the well, we might imagine some of the conversation might have been about the zealots who consistently revolted against the Roman rule, or what was being worn in the palaces of Herod or even in Rome. News must have reached Sychar about the man who appeared in camel clothing and was baptising in the Jordan river and possibly his proclamations in the wilderness about the coming Messiah.
In the absence of twitter, you had to make the trip to the village well, to gather news, to hang out. On many occasions, the village watering hole would serve as the first meeting between a bridegroom who sought a wife for themselves. Many marriage proposals were made at these places, and we have the example of those Old Testament. From Moses, to Isaac to Jacob, all met their wife for the first time at a well.
Now all three -Moses, Isaac and Jacob were types of Christ, bridegrooms who sought a bride for themselves. And having been united with their wives, they lived happily ever after…. Not really! We know how each of these marriages had their fair share of - arguments, abandonment, anger, adjustment issues, mothers favouring one son, father favouring the other, even betrayal.
We too face similar issues while aspiring to be like that proverbially perfect married couple. We all have issues as we live together in marriage, arguments abound : about what is right for children, our inability to devote time for family, temptations and immoral passions plague us, even arguments over silly things like deciding the colour of the wall or who will do the dishes, need I say more.
By the way, no one is exempt, if you think you are a child or unmarried, think again, we all sin in thought, word, and deed. For marriage produces family, and there is neither the perfect married couple nor a family…… well not completely, for sin, the world and the devil are always lurking around to make trouble. And yet, we toil and labour to make it work, sometimes going out of the way, buying flowers, or planning a dinner, planning children’s education. Or even something ordinary like cooking something nice for your husband or wife. O! how hard we try, and in spite of best efforts something goes awry. Words are spoken in haste or anger, sickness or fatigue that comes with caring for young children and infants or the general busyness of life.
Is there no hope then? Brothers and sisters in Christ, be strong and of good courage, there is hope. With the help of Christ Jesus -the strongest strand in the cord of marriage, a marriage and even a family will sustain and become stronger as they hope in Christ together.
You see only Christ, is the perfect bridegroom. The one who relentlessly pursues his bride the Church, all of us. The one who never gives up but urges us to be steadfast and long-suffering when we think we can’t make it work, [this applies to a family, a community or even a Church.] For Christ alone who establishes the bonds of marriage and keeps them strong, for you and I are incapable of it. St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians gives us a good idea about marriage, [paraphrasing] for marriage is a profound mystery and he says again that he is talking of Christ and the Church. It is the same Lord who comes to this well, seeking a lost woman, as St. Augustine explains:
“And there came a Samaritan woman, a figure of the Church not yet justified, but now about to be justified. It is pertinent to the image of the reality, that this [Samaritan] woman, bore the type of the Church”
So, just as the woman is a type of the Church. This applies to our current day and time as well, for our Lord even this day pursues relentlessly so that He might save a lost soul. Our Lord Jesus came to Sychar, with an intent to save this woman. A less than perfect woman, lost in sin. And even today this is the kind of person [man or woman] Jesus intends to rescue. Jesus visits us, through his Words that you share with people. His words save us and equip us to receive from Him living water that would create in us a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
A lot of you may think that the sermon may have been more appropriate at a wedding. But you see marriage has always been understood to be a union of two, a man and a woman. This is the same thing that Christ intends for us as His bride, to bring us into a perfect union with him. Even now, Jesus is relentlessly pursuing you, giving you all that you need, not just water to sustain your body but even more. He brings us into adoption as the children of God through these eternal life-giving waters. So that just as the villagers heard the testimony of the woman and came out to meet Christ by the well. And received from Him the living waters and confessed that Jesus is indeed the Saviour of the World.
Similarly, Christ causes to burst through you and I, springs of water welling up to eternal life to all who listen to the Words of Christ. For Christ came to save the Samaritan woman to give her water that would quench her thirst even while he himself ignored all bodily comforts and necessities, even water. Jesus foregoes all for our sake. St. John’s use of words connects the incident of the Samaritan woman to the holy mountain where Jesus was lifted up and glorified on Good Friday. For in the seeming weakness of His crucifixion is His strength, in the folly of the cross is God’s wisdom. In the thirst of Christ, is hidden his thirst for our soul.
This is the same thirst He experiences for our sake, at the Cross.
For in these fifth words from the Cross, “I thirst” that Jesus spoke at the sixth hour we are reminded of His visitation to Sychar for this woman and many in her village. For the theme of living water finds its culmination in the death of Jesus. For it is written that water and blood sprang forth from his side. The sacraments in which are encapsulated the springs of living water which quench our thirst for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And through them He wants to give us the victory eternal. May we give thanks for all that Jesus experienced and ourselves thirst after His righteousness which He gives to us in His blessed Words and Sacraments.
Even today, Jesus has prepared a place at this table for His bride, for you and me. Come eat and drink. Look to the altar as Jesus makes the journey, like he does every Sunday, to seek you out and to give you His body and blood now present in the bread and the wine. When you kneel to receive His body and blood may you be reminded of the living waters that washed you. And though these sacraments, just as they burst forth from our dear Lord’s side, may the good Lord burst forth from you springs of water welling up to eternal life. So that we may confess along with the Samaritan woman and her village folks, indeed all who are called His children that Jesus is Lord and the only Saviour of the world.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.