Sunday, March 23, 2014
Third Sunday of Lent
“… whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Today and on the next two Sundays, we hear marvelous stories from John’s Gospel. They are stories for the journey, both for adult catechumens, who prepare for Baptism at the Easter Vigil, and for all of us immersed in Lenten renewal. In the Roman Catholic Church they are accompanied by “scrutinies” for the catechumens, ancient prayers that address the human need to examine (to “scrutinize”) the areas of our lives where we seriously are tempted or sin. They are equally powerful prayers of healing and forgiveness.
Several years ago I attended a day-long retreat on these passages from John and their accompanying scrutiny prayers. The Jesuit retreat master led us in plumbing their many rich layers. These are multi-dimensional stories that expose us with the intent of healing, and they are inexhaustible. Each has a cast of characters. The central character moves from darkness to freedom to apostolic witness. Though we want to pay special attention to the conversion journey of this character, the retreat master bade us take time to play ourselves into the other roles for often we sin both as disciples and as bystanders, and this is something that John also seeks to expose.
Today’s metaphor is thirst, and the central character is one who represents the marginalized, alienated and outcast – women, the sexually immoral, infidels and foreigners. She draws water at a well by the heat of midday – likely to avoid the jeers of those who despise her. Jesus asks this woman (who He should avoid according to society) for a drink. The interplay of their subsequent conversation is witty and incisive. Jesus exposes her sin and forgives her. In a few short verses she accepts the living water that only Christ can offer – the Spirit that does not so much remove our thirst for God, but continually satisfies it. In the end, she becomes the agent of salvation for her entire village – also Samaritans, outsiders and unbelievers.
Throughout this week, spend some time with this Gospel story in preparation for the renewal of your baptismal covenant this Easter. Try on the various roles. Explore the dynamics of alienation. Plumb the metaphor of thirst. Allow the words of Jesus to address you personally. Pray these words adapted from the first scrutiny:
God, You are the fountain for which we thirst.
Open our hearts to You in faith.
In Your love, free us from sin, heal our sickness, quench our thirst and give us peace.
Show us the way of salvation in the Holy Spirit,
that we may worship You in truth, for You live and reign forever. Amen.
Marketing and Public Relations Associate, Avera
EXODUS 17:3-7 • PSALM 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 • ROMANS 5:1-2, 5-8 •JOHN 4:5-42 OR JOHN 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42