Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday of Lent - March 3, 2013 - Year A Scrutinies
The Year of Faith
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
Saturday was a work day for me. I was about 13 or 14. I cruised my paper route visiting my customers and collecting for a week's worth of the Dubois County Daily Herald. Sometimes I combined Saturday delivery with collecting for the paper, catching some of those folks who lived on top of the big E. 4th Avenue hill or others who weren't home in the morning.
I remember one particularly hot and humid Saturday afternoon. The heat of the sun beat my brow and body with unrelenting strength. It seemed that the rays of that Southern Indiana sunshine were sucking the water right out of me. I began to search for some way to relieve the dry cotton swelling up in my mouth. My body screamed from dehydration. So I stopped at the local Dog 'N Suds root beer stand and had a very cold and syrupy root beer from a frosty mug.
It didn't help. To this very moment every time I think of that day on my paper route I cringe and imagine my mouth becoming dry and dusty like a desert. The cold, syrupy, sweet, root beer went down the hatch and the inside of my gut was begging to come out. I know. It's more than you needed to know. So I climbed onto my Western Flyer Newsboy Special bicycle and headed for my next customer on E. 4th Avenue hoping I could find a big glass of water my body was screaming for. I imagined what it would taste like. There was nothing like Huntingburg City water.
Gratefully, the old folks were home. My customer, old enough to be my grandmother, took the paper I delivered and paid me for the past week. With appropriate manners I asked if could have a drink of water. My body was ready to receive the life giving drink of water it begged for. My customer said she would be glad to get me a glass of water. Then she suggested she could get me a cold Pepsi. I said no thank you, and assured her that a glass of water would be fine. She insisted that she would get me a cold Pepsi and was pleased that she could offer what she believed would be a treat for me. I continued to say, "No, no, no. Just a glass of water, please." My body went into agony and my tongue felt parched as I pleaded for a glass of water to no avail.
So I drank that cold, syrupy, sweet, Pepsi and accepted the growing reality that I might soon succumb to dehydration.
Today about 1 billion people wake up thirsty. One in 6 people on this watery globe have to spend a good portion of their day transporting unsafe and unsanitary water drawn from water holes 3 or 4 hours away. Mothers and children often have to take care of this task. This means that children don't get an education. It means that life is a daily struggle for survival. In the mean time sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, eduction, and death remain huge issues for more than a billion people who have no adequate and safe water for themselves or their daily needs.
Charity is an organization whose goal is to provide for the waterless one billion people safe, clean, and accessible water. They are accomplishing this goal by raising awareness and money to drill wells in remote villages where thousands of men, women, boys, and girls wake up everyday with thirst, dehydration, and death. One hundred percent of the public money Charity raises goes to equipment and efforts to find drinkable, life sustaining, water. In many places the gift of water lies underground waiting to be tapped if someone will bring the equipment needed to build safe, and reliable wells. You can check out Charity and its mission at www.charitywater.org and learn why they believe that water changes everything.
Who would have thought that hundreds of years after Jacob built his well that the Son of God would sit on that well exhausted and thirsty and hot and ask a social outcast for a drink of water. Twice in scripture we read that Jesus is thirsty. The first time is in today's Gospel reading. The next time we will hear again on Good Friday. I remember when our little Heidi suffered from dehydration. We spent eight grueling hours in the ER at Children's Hospital in Knoxville on a Good Friday about 6 years ago. My little six year old daughter looked at me and said, "I'm thirsty." Somehow in that moment we were one with him who said from an old rugged cross, "I thirst."
God still thirsts for us. He reveals our need for living water by asking us for a drink for himself. St. Augustine says that Jesus first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Augustine explains that Jesus asking for water arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Pointing at Jacob's well Jesus said to the woman from Samaria, "Every one who drinks this water will thirst again." Then our Lord paused and looked deep into the soul of the Samaritan woman and said, "But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Those words are not just for this woman. They are for us too. To all who ask him he gives his life and love; a well of living water.
Let us repeat the words of this Samaritan woman and make them our very own and say to Jesus, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst."
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com