Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19-26, 39, 40-42
My dear father would often threaten my brother and me by a frightening, but confusing, “If you guys know what’s good for you, you’ll stop that!” We knew what was good for us, exactly what we were doing. This of course led to what was bad for us in the long run. It is so hard to know and keep choosing what is immediately as well as ultimately good for us.
Lent is the season for taking steps away and revaluating who we are in God’s eyes and what in life is good for us as we run. We would like to say that God is very good for us by being good to us. We are invited to “desert” a while. Not just do-without, but do-with such experiences as hunger, silence, solitude, and thirst. Is there anything good for us as we do with doing without?
In today’s First Reading, we have a wonderful story of Lent in the life of our Jewish ancestors. They have left the slavery and flesh pots of Egypt. They have been freed, but they do not find this good for them just yet. They grumble and complain against Moses who fears he might get stoned for his having led them out into the desert. They are not doing well with the with-out. They are thirsty and there doesn’t seem to be any water handy.
Tension creates revelation in our scriptures and also in our lives. Tensions are good for us; what did he say? The followers of Moses are in physical and spiritual tension and they turn in fear to Moses who turns to God in faith.
Lent is a time of graceful tensions which we can choose to grumble through or wait for relief which is promised. Water is one form of relief and it satisfies for a while, the short run, but there will be more tensions and more revelations. God would say to Israel, “Do you know what’s good for you?” “I Am is good for you.”
The story in today’s Gospel continues this theme of one thing being good, but a second thing being better. To enjoy and profit from this reading one must delight in irony and double meanings. John uses such figures of speech in many of his stories. Here, John uses a well and plays with water and thirst.
Jesus asks a woman from a foreign country for a drink of water. She will play with the superficial meaning of water while Jesus will take her, (and us the listeners) below the surface to drink a deeper meaning. Jesus is the “living water” which is meant to satisfy our deepest thirsts. As good as water is for us; this Living Water is ultimately better.
The conversation between Jesus and the woman results in her becoming aware of being renewed by her drinking in Jesus’ words and meaning. She runs off to tell others what would be good for them and they too come to drink in and believe in this new well.
Jesus gives her, her truth, her real self which is very good for her. Jesus almost sounds like my father when He says, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” She drinks it all in and knows it is good for her.
What in Lent is good for us? These readings invite us to plunge deeper into our longings for God. Nature abhors a vacuum; human nature flees emptiness. The desert is not good for anything and tensions are to be resolved through the most convenient solutions. Lent is a graceful period for us to make friends with those human realities which can be good for us if we have faith in the God Who gave them water from the rock. We must stop drinking the salt-water experiences which lead only to the superficial “satisfictions.” The woman had five husbands in her search for completion and Jesus invites her to see that she too thirsts for a water that springs to eternal fullness.
We are invited to that same confrontation with our shallow sips of
life and the offering from Jesus to trust the tensions which human longing
provides. God longs to give us what is good for us, but there has
to be some deserts, some hospitality within us if we are to be truly human
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