From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Journey to Living Water

Exodus 17:3-7;   Romans 5:1-2,5-8;   John 4:5-15,19b-26,39a.40-42

Gospel Summary

It is high noon when Jesus stops to rest by the well of Jacob. His revelation about life-giving water will provide a light that challenges the sun. When he asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is amazed that he seems so unaware of how things really are.

Does he not know that, as a woman with several husbands, that she has been condemned to social invisibility? After all, women were supposed to be ignored in public and she was also a despised Samaritan. How can Jesus be so out of touch?

When Jesus answers her, we discover that it is she who is out of touch, because she doesn’t know about the “gift of God” that Jesus offers–a gift that is as refreshing and enlivening as bubbling, cool spring water, and so very much better than the stale, stagnant well water on which she’s been trying to survive. The woman’s eyes must have sparkled like the waters in the sun as Jesus awakened in her the dream of a life of freedom and dignity. “Sir, give me this water.”

We learn about the nature of this “living water” a bit later when the woman asks Jesus whether it is better to worship in Jerusalem or on the holy mountain. Jesus tells her that such considerations are no longer relevant. What counts now is to welcome the Spirit, who can transform the hearts of people by enabling them to experience the ultimate truth of God’s love for them. Religious places and rituals remain important only insofar as they lead to us to experience of God’s love in our personal union with Christ.

Life Implications

It ‘s all too easy for most of us to identify with the Samaritan woman when she experienced life as often unfair and unjust, that is, like stale well water. How many of our powerful human institutions conceal systematic injustice, opportunities and rewards provided only on the basis of connections rather than ability or merit.

Even those who benefit from such arrangements can sense the lack of that joy in not being rewarded for one’s accomplishments. How sad that so many live a life of emptiness and futility. If only they could realize that a life of loving concern for others, where we ourselves not only give love, but get it in return is so much more important than a constant yearning for security. To shrug off injustice as simply ‘the way things are’ is to be condemned to the half-life of stagnant well water.

The woman runs off to tell all the townsfolk, those who hold her in such contempt, that she has found the messiah. The disciples return; and one sees through the eyes of Jesus the crowds she has stirred up coming across the fields, their robes waving like wheat in the wind. The fields, He says, are ripe for a great harvest.

He invites us to understand the yearnings of so many in nations throughout the world, and in our own country, in revolution for true freedom, who dream about the possibility of a world where opportunity and hope replace the bondage of fear and despair and oppression. God really does not want us to live a life of quiet desperation. Jesus has come to reveal the Father’s love and the Spirit is ready to convince us of that fact.  .

The Spirit of Jesus whispers constantly to us: as he did to the downcast woman: “If you only knew the gift of God…” Our eyes too can sparkle as we dare to imagine a world, at least within our hearts, where the experience of God’s invincible love becomes a source of refreshing, life-giving water to quench our thirst for goodness and justice.

A cynical attitude toward life will not be sufficient. We need to realize that the Holy Spirit wants us to redeem our own little corner of the world. We do not need to be a Messiah, but we do need to inject some messianic hope into the area of life that we can influence. The conversion of the world begins with the conversion of a kitchen or a dining room or a workplace. If each one of us would do that, the larger world would soon become what God intended it to be–a place where justice blossoms and where love bears wonderful fruit.

Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.



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