Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Did you know that feeling thirsty is a direct warning from your brain that your body is running low on water and that there is an increase in the concentration of some osmolytes like sodium which could be detrimental to your health?
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advises that an adequate daily fluid intake should be about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women. However, the flip side of nothing having enough fluid in the body is that it affects biological fluid processing leading to altered heart rates and blood pressures.
In summary, the body needs fluid for its metabolism. While you can stay for an extended time without food, a prolonged time without water or any other fluid could be a disaster for the body’s optimal functioning. You may want to pause for a cup of water now and come back. You don’t have to wait until you are thirsty before drinking water.
The First Reading (Exodus 17:3-7) tells us about the experience of thirst of the people of Israel while passing through the wilderness and their murmurings against Moses demanding water to drink. Recall that the people complained about hunger in the previous chapter, and God gave them manna and quails. God responded this time by giving them water from the rock through the staff of Moses.
The Thirst Of Jesus!
The Gospel Reading (John 4:5-42) tells us how Jesus went to the region of Samaria, met a woman at a well, and requested a drink of water because he was thirsty. So, Jesus can be thirsty? Yes, he was like us in all things except sin (Hebrew 4:15). On the cross, one of his remarkable words was, “I thirst” (John19:28). However, there is another dimension of the thirst of Jesus which we shall see as our reflection unfolds.
The backstory to the Gospel narrative is that Jesus was withdrawing from Judea to Galilee through Samaria because of the Pharisees who became unhappy with the growth of his ministry. Coming to Sychar in Samaria about noon, Jesus decided to rest by the well of Jacob while his disciples went to get some food.
Suddenly a Samaritan woman showed up at the well to draw water, and instantly, Jesus asked her to help him with a drink of water. The woman who recognized Jesus as a Jew voiced her amazement that he would make such a request from a Samaritan woman. Responding to her, Jesus said: “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you the living water.” Quickly we ask, “what is this gift of God?” It is eternal life (John 3:16). What is living water? The Spirit of God received through faith in Jesus Christ (John 7:38).
From the interaction, we can say that Jesus and the woman share some important characteristics. Both were thirsty. Jesus needed a drink from the well, tired from the long journey. On the other hand, the woman showed up at the well because she needed water to drink.
Above all, however, they both were spiritually thirsty. Jesus was thirsty for the woman’s soul whose life showed indices of immoral living with five husbands and counting. The woman was thirsty for fulfillment. She was still unsatisfied with her series of relationships, even to the point of keeping someone’s husband; in short, her soul was thirsty. So what really happened at Jacob’s well was a meeting of two thirsty souls.
After Jesus revealed himself as the reservoir of living water and told the woman her life story, she instantly became the first Samaritan evangelist of Christ’s mission. The account tells us that she went into the town to speak about the great prophet she encountered. Her message drew many people to Jesus, who began to teach them and even stayed there for two days, thanks to the Samaritan woman.
Everyone is thirsty: Often, we find ourselves having a false feeling that we are okay. The truth is that nobody is completely okay. We are all needy persons at various levels and degrees. The Samaritan did not know she was spiritually thirsty until she met Jesus at the well while trying to solve her physical thirst.
The Lenten period is a powerful time for us to approach the well-spring of living water to quench our various degrees of thirst, which cannot be addressed in the abundance of our material possessions and wealth. This is the time for our souls to thirst for the living God as the deer yearns for running streams (Psalm 42:1-2).
Every sinner has a saintly future: Did you know that the main reason Jesus came to the well was to transform the Samaritan woman from a nonentity to a functional missionary entity? So, you can imagine how the people felt when they saw the woman of low virtue spreading the word about a great prophet leading up to a two-day crusade in Samaria. So do not conclude on anyone; we are all projects in progress.
God can indeed bring out the best from the worst among us. The prophet Isaiah (1:18) says, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Moving Forward: What do you thirst for?
Our habits and dispositions disclose what we thirst for, and whatever we thirst for controls our lives. We started by exploring the good benefits of drinking water. In the same way, there are gains and losses for whatever drives our thirst.
In the sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” He also gave us the outcome of that disposition: “they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6) In other words, they shall be fulfilled. Question: what do you thirst for, and are you fulfilled by it?
We must constantly distinguish between what we need and what the world wants to give us to quench our thirst. Recall that on the way to Golgotha, the soldiers gave Jesus a drink of vine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t receive it. (Mark 15:23). But on the cross received the sour wine (vinegar) when he indicated that he was thirsty (John 19:28-29)
As we march through the Lenten period, may we continue to raise our souls to thirst for the Lord in whom we can find our total fulfillment and joy.
God bless you.