3d Sunday of Lent
Feb. 26, 1978
John 4: 5-42
St. Andrew’s, Upper Arlington, Ohio
For the 3d time in 3 straight A cycles, I have to post a homily from the past. In 2011 and 2014 it was because I was preaching to Boy Scouts without a written text that could be posted. This year it’s because on the 3d Sunday of every month the deacons preach at Holy Cross and I had no homily at all. Here’s one preached by Deacon Mike a long, long time ago (but not in a distant galaxy)!
“The water I shall give him will become a fountain within him, leaping up unto eternal life.”
How many times have you heard someone misquote Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. (119-22)
We know well, as did the old sailor, that water, fresh water, is life, and lack of it means terrible suffering and death.
The meaning of water was a daily fact of life in the Judea and Samaria of Jesus. Central Palestine is a rocky, dusty, hot country. Without the scattered wells and winter rains, neither the people, their flocks, nor their crops could survive. Travel by foot through Samaria was a burden possible only because of wells such as the one at Shechem.
So we are not surprised that Jesus should stop by Jacob’s well at noontime and ask for a drink. What does take us aback, and the Samaritan woman as well, is that he should then offer her a drink from a better source than hers.
|Artist unknown (to blogger)|
What is this water Jesus offers? It is the Holy Spirit, the source of eternal life. What water is to our bodies, the Spirit is to our souls. The verb Jesus uses to describe this fountain as “leaping up” is the same one used in the Old Testament to describe the actions of Samson, Saul, and David when they are possessed by the “spirit of God.” Jesus refers to the “gift of God” which he gives; many times in John’s Gospel, Jesus promises the gift of the Spirit to his disciples; this is but one instance, using the metaphor of water, as John often quotes the Lord as doing. In just two months, the young people of our parish will receive the sacrament of confirmation. As the bishop or priest anoints each candidate, he says to him or her, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
To accept Jesus means to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have been baptized and confirmed as temples of the Holy Spirit. So we might expect that this fountain within us will now leap up unto eternal life.
Yes, we have the gift. We have the water to quench our thirst. We must drink of it if we want eternal life. We must drink of it in prayer. We must make contact inside our spirits with that Holy Spirit who unites us to Jesus and to the Father. We must make contact with that Holy Spirit who reveals to us who we are and who we are called to become, the Spirit who makes us whole persons and thus holy persons. We must make contact with that Holy Spirit who joins us to one another. Drinking deeply of this fountain, like drinking of fresh water, is a daily need we have as believers in Jesus. Prayer in the Holy Spirit will then lead us naturally to a fully Christian way of living and to a full share in eternal life.
May you know the love of God which is poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).