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Monday, 24 March 2014

"THE WOMAN AT THE WELL" Lent 3A Homily at STM – March 23, 2014

Icon of the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well - 8th century, Antioch

 “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but the one who drinks of the water that I will give will never thirst again  . . .  a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

We see how the Israelites’ hearts  became hardened by their sufferings in the desert as we read the Exodus story read today.  We come to understand that though they saw God’s mighty deeds, still, in their preoccupation with thirst, they grumbled and put God to the test.  This was a crisis point recalled also in today’s Psalm 95, so familiar to us from the office of daily Morning Prayer.

As Pope Benedicts pointed out in one of his Angelus meditations for the Third Sunday in Lent: The theme of thirst runs throughout John’s Gospel: from the meeing with the Samaritan woman at the well to the great prophecy during the feast of Tabernacles (John 7: 37-38) and even from the cross, when Jesus fulfills the Scriptures when he says “I thirst” (John 19:28).

Jesus thirsts for the good of others, for their salvation (John 19:28). He longs to give the Samaritan woman “living water” that wells up to eternal life.

Let us hear Jesus again in the words of the classic tones of the KJV translation:

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Icon of the Woman of Samaria with Our Lord - Artist unknown

 These living waters can’t be drawn from the well of Jacob, father of the Israelites and the Samaritans (the woman at the well was a Samaritan).  You might say that the well of "good will" had been poisoned by the animosity between Samaritans and Jews not unlike it is today between Jews and Arabs (all of them Semites and sons of Abraham). But Jesus is greater than Jacob (Luke 11:31-32). He overcomes the divisions of history and the prejudice of humans.

The well from which we have drawn is also a worthy patrimony, that of the Anglican or English Catholic Church. Like the Jewish tradition it is a worthy tradition of faith handed down the generations from many who have served God in their generation. It has  and has been for the good of God’s people.  It is t the church of our Baptism for many of us here today.  It is a worthy heritage and is the spring-water, which has nourished many saints through the ages.

The living spring water is deep within the tradition yet we cannot rely solely upon tradition we need the living water of Jesus himself, his presence with us.

In an interesting parallel, the Samaritans were actually Israelites who had escaped exile when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom eight centuries before Christ (2 Kings 17:6,24-41). They were despised for intermarrying with non-Israelites and worshipping at Mount Gerizim, not in Jerusalem.

Woman at the well - modern icon

But Jesus tells the woman that the “hour” of true worship is coming, when all will worship God in Spirit and truth.  Jesus’ own “hour” is the “appointed time” that St. Paul speaks of in today’s Epistle. It is the hour when the Rock of Salvation for all humanity was struck on the Cross.  Struck by the soldier’s lance, living waters flowed out from our the side of Jesus – our Rock ( John 19:34-37) the Rock of Ages, stuck for me, let me hide myself in Thee.

These waters flow as the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), the gift of God, is given to his people (Hebrews 6:4). By these living waters the ancient enmities of Samaritans and Jews may be washed away, the dividing wall between Israel and the nations broken down. (Ephesians 2:12-14,18).

Since Jesus hour, all may drink of the Spirit in Baptism (1 Cor 12:13) and in this Eucharist, the Lord is now in our midst –  He was at the Rock of Horeb and at the well of Jacob and he is present with us today in Word and Sacrament.

Jesus calls us to believe him today: “I am He,” Jesus proclaims. He is the Messiah who has come to pour out the love of God into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. How can our hearts remain hardened?  Jesus is here for all and his Sacred Heat offers us life – living water for all who will accept him and we turn to him in humility and penitence.

He is here, with us in his real presence at the altar saying to us: whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”

Jesus is the:  “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  

Woman at the well - a modern icon 

Icons - Courtesy St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, TX 

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