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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul MacNeil

3rd Sunday of Lent: Living Water

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

In today's Gospel, a Samaritan woman completely misunderstands Jesus. She is still thinking in terms of the material things around her. She doesn't see the invisible reality beneath the things that she does see. This is a passage I often use for Baptisms because I want the families who are bringing their children to be baptized to know that there is something very deep and invisible at work in the sacraments, and just because it's invisible doesn't make it any less real. Look closer at the Gospel passage about the Samaritan woman at the well.


First, see the misunderstanding at work in this passage. Jesus, "tired from the journey," sits down at the well and asks the samaritan woman for a drink of water. Since Jews and Samaritans don't "share things in common," as one translation reads (NAB), she asks him, bluntly, and maybe not in so many words, "who do think you are?" She's perhaps goading him on a bit.


He responds: "Do you have any idea who I am?" He suggests that if she knew who He was, she would have asked him for water, and he would have given her "living water." When she hears this, she thinks about the material things around her, things she can see, touch and hear. When she hears "living water," she thinks, I suspect, "running water" or a natural spring, something fresh and abundant. To illustrate the misunderstanding, she says a bit further on, "Sir, give me this water so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”


Sometimes it's the same with us. We get so caught up in the distractions around us that perhaps we search for meaning in all the wrong places. A great example of this is in the Confessions of St. Augustine.' He is lamenting that for so long, he searched for God in the 'lovely things" of the world, not realizing that even though God created those things, the thing he's searching for is not there. It's already inside him. He writes,


“Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all."


And so the Samaritan woman at the well first misunderstands Jesus that he's speaking about something rather mundane (but necessary) when He's not. He's speaking of something invisible and eternal.


I ask myself (not frequently enough), "What am I not seeing now that I need to see? What is invisible that needs to be made visible in my life? "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, Jesus says, "but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” This is not water; this is something very different, deep within us that we can't see with our own eyes, but we can see with the eyes of faith.


The things of this world satisfy temporarily, but not eternally. We are looking in the wrong place for something eternal and permanent that will last forever. It's not here. We find it in faith, in belief in God.


I conclude with St. Augustine:


"You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent; you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”


“You have made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”


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