God’s mercy flows like living water

MARCH 15, 2020 THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (Lec. 28) 

1)         Exodus 17:3-7

2)         Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

3)         John 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Gospel related: CCC 439, 528, 544, 586, 606, 694, 728, 1137, 1179, 1999, 2557, 2560, 2561, 2611, 2652, 2824

FOCUS:  What does Paul mean when he writes: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?

It helps to remember and understand that faith and salvation are not something we can achieve on our own, but are God’s freely given gift. That does not mean we are mere puppets in a cosmic salvation show, or passive recipients of God’s actions. The truth is, that with free will, our actions and choices – our commitment to Gospel living – does matter before God.

But Paul didn’t stop at telling us that we have been justified. He went on to say that we now have hope and access to grace. Because we have been justified, we can boast: For God’s love has been poured out into our hearts, reconciling us to him. In other words, because of what Christ has done by his death and resurrection, we have hope – hope for an eternal life in God. It is a confidence that,at the moment of judgment, God will not prove hostile to those who are faithful and in a state of grace, but his mercy will pour forth like water, giving life to all who believe in him.

The image of mercy flowing like water is present in today’s Gospel, where Jesus encounters the woman at the well. From the start, we know this is no ordinary meeting: It is with a Samaritan with a mixed marital history, spurned by others such that she must come to the well at the hottest time of day, when no one else is there.

But there is someone there: Jesus. And despite her situation and cultural conventions, it is Jesus who first speaks to her. And what a conversation it is! For in looking at where the woman “is,” spiritually, at the start and again at the end, it is almost like two different people. This simple encounter with Jesus radically changes her. Into the desert of her sinful, sad and lonely existence Jesus pours the fast-flowing water of God’s mercy and love.

Initially, she so easily misunderstands his words; she cannot let go of her limited understanding of water. Her very questions and replies betray this failure to understand what Jesus is saying on a much deeper level. And yet Jesus gently affirms and brings to the surface her deepest need – to drink from the waters of salvation – to be renewed in her relationship with God and her community.

She slowly begins to hear his message, and moves from being a woman of great suspicion to one who rushes to tell others that she has met the Messiah. Look how she describes Jesus: first a Jew, then Sir, then a prophet and finally, the Christ. Along the way she is changed from being an outsider/sinner to an evangelist.

Like the woman at the well, we, too, are seeking the living water of God’s mercy. Lent invites us to be more purposeful in our efforts, as it reminds us that God is also seeking us. He is taking the initiative to engage us so that we might experience this flowing water, and so live in ways that are worthy of him. This is our hope and our faith. With God’s help, we pray that God’s flowing water will wash us clean and refresh us today and always.