The reading from Exodus recounts a real difficult time for Moses. The People of God grumbled against him and wanted to kill him because of the harsh conditions of life in desert. You would think that after experiencing the Passover, seeing the Red Sea parted and being fed with manna and quails in the desert, the People of God would have recognized God’s action behind the leadership of Moses. No human being could do such things by himself. In reality the people are following the directions of God and they sure do not like it. God wills their predicament in the hope that they come to their senses. After all, are you enjoying your Lenten sacrifices? But we know that is what the Cross is all about. God is willing to die for us and He wants our sufferings to be joined to His so we can rise with Him at the end of time.
The places mentioned, Massah which means trial, and Meribah which means contention, aptly describe a rebellion against God as well as Moses. It seems that they want a tangible God. Some one they can see and perhaps whom they can direct. They are impatient with a God who does not reveal Himself in His totality, but only with miracles. But they are so far from God that they cannot appreciate these miracles. Moses, they can see, and so he became the target of their anger against God.
Moses, at God’s direction, strikes the Rock and water flows to satisfy their shallow minds and physical bodies. Over time the presence of water becomes more significant. In the Rabbinic tradition, the Rock becomes a divine title for God Who follows Israel in the desert giving them this basic need. It is God, the Rock of Israel, Who is the living water that God wants to share with them, but they are still not properly disposed. We read in Psalm 18, “God is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is my God. I take refuge in him, my rock, my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold, my place of refuge.” St. Paul sees the Rock as the pre-existent Christ already active with the Israelites. Water is seen as the life that God gives, a life imparted by Divine Wisdom which symbolizes the life to be given in the Messianic age. But without God, water is just water.
In the Gospel Jesus speaks of water again as the symbol of life, but now in a deeper sense – the Holy Spirit (sanctifying grace or God dwelling in us). A Samaritan woman comes to the well at noon. It is an odd time to come because no one would generally be around even though it is a public place. Noon is the hottest time of the day and most people would be home resting after a meal. She obviously is trying to prevent herself from being ridiculed because of her adulterous life.
When Jesus asks her for a drink, she is surprised because Samaritans are ritually impure to the Jews and Jews cannot even drink from vessels handled by Samaritans. Also talking with an un-chaperoned woman in public was also considered suspicious. Jesus talks about giving her living water. She misses the point at first thinking about the quality of the well water. This was water from a cistern which only contains stale rain water. It does not taste very good, but on a hot day, it will certainly do! But where is Jesus going to get fresh water because she does not see any? She does not realize that Jesus is thirsting for her soul. She would just like to get this water so she does not have to ever come to the well again and be ridiculed.
Jesus pierces into her soul and reveals her adulterous living with considerable depth. She realizes now that Jesus is some kind of prophet. Jesus then introduces her to worshiping the Father in Spirit and truth. In fact soon there will be a time when worship in the temples of Samaria or Jerusalem will never be necessary. Soon she can worship God within herself because Jesus will make her a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus then identifies Himself as the Messiah.
Leaving her empty jar behind indicates that she has now left her own emptiness behind for a new life. She understood that she needed to change if she wanted to attain eternal life. Now taking on this new life, she becomes an evangelizer inviting her friends to meet Jesus and be transformed. When one is truly transformed, a new desire and duty wells within us like living waters. Those waters are the presence of the Rock which St. Paul speaks. Once one recognizes this, it is more understandable to see that bread and wine can be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. But at what stage in our lives are we at? Do we really appreciate this fact? Have we passed through our sacrilegious stage so as to see the Holy Spirit dwelling in us? Or are we stagnated in mortal sin? Or are we just stagnant? Jesus says that he will vomit out stagnant people.
May this Lent be a time to change our sinful ways and open our hearts so that we can be the new evangelizers who drink the living waters of Christ and then share it with all the world.