Third Sunday of Lent: Thirst
The Readings for the Third Sunday of Lent focus on thirst.
In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, the Lord gives abundant water to the Israelites who are thirsting in the desert. In the Gospel and in the Second Reading we see that there is also a spiritual thirst for God’s love. St. Paul states that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel Jesus promises the Samaritan woman ‘living water’ that will bring spiritual renewal through God’s love. They say that timing is everything and this is so true with the Samaritan woman. Why did she come to the well at the hottest time of the day rather than in the early morning when most people fetch water? The reason is that she wanted to avoid people. As a Samaritan who had five failed marriages, I am sure she felt like an outcast who considered herself inferior to most people. She was thirsting for acceptance and love and she found that in Jesus. This experience changed her forever and, instead of hiding from the townspeople, she went to them to share her incredible story. This woman proclaimed Christ and many believed her testimony. She came to Jesus, the wellspring of love and mercy, and her spiritual thirst was satisfied.
I believe that this encounter speaks to what Pope Francis is addressing in Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia. He talks about accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness and this is exactly what Jesus did with the Samaritan woman. He accepted her; however, he also acknowledged her sin and her irregular marriages. He helped her to see the truth and this brought her hope and she had to share it with others. We cannot forget that the Samaritan woman was instrumental in bringing her village to Christ.
In this Gospel, we find a conversion paradigm that we should follow. Pope Francis asks us, without ignoring canon law or the Church’s moral or sacramental theology, to find ways to help those in irregular marriages to participate, where possible, in the life of the Church. This is achieved not by ignoring or approving past sins, but rather, by fostering a deeper conversion through accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman. “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty…”