Sunday Scripture readings for March 12, Third Sunday of Lent
Ex 17:3-7 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 Rom 5:1-2, 5-8
Jn 4:5-42 (Alt. Jn 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42)
Lent is the graced time to quench our spiritual thirst
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are concrete spiritual practices that mark our journey of Lent. Fasting engages our relationship to food, drink and material possessions that may control our lives. Almsgiving draws us out of ourselves to walk with compassion and solidarity with the needy, the wounded and marginalized around us. And prayer engages the deepest recesses of our interior life. As we strive to fast and act with justice for the good of the poor, Lent is the perfect time to reflect on our understanding of prayer and its power in daily life.
We might be surprised to learn that the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes prayer as God’s thirst for us and our thirst for God. This description invites a new perspective on prayer seen first within God’s desire for us and our desire for God. We are freed up to experience prayer not as an obligation or burden, but as a daily spiritual lifeline and gift of God’s grace that enriches life.
“If you knew the gift of God!” states the catechism, “the wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water; there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depth of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.” (2560)
In the first reading from Exodus, Moses strikes the rock in Horeb to give water to satisfy the people’s thirst. The Israelites had grumbled and questioned, “is the Lord in our midst or not?” At times, our words of prayer may share the attitudes of the Israelites. Moses turned his gaze to the Lord and prayed that the people will recognize God’s providential, generous care for them. God thirsts for their freedom from oppression and walks with them every step of their exodus from slavery.
As Moses did for the Israelites, St Paul exhorts the Romans to a new perspective on prayer anchored in the hope of God’s mercy and love. So, Paul writes, “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Jesus’ encounter becomes for the Samaritan woman at the well a profoundly life changing experience. At every eucharist we are invited also to the same encounter with Jesus who desires to meet our spiritual longings with the gift of his Body and Blood. Notice that the Samaritan woman comes to the well at noon, the hottest time of the day. She was an outcast in her community, but Jesus thirsted for her faith as he promised her living water. As she wondered where she might find this living water, Jesus says to her, and to us, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Lent is the graced time to quench our spiritual thirst by drinking deeply of the living water of God’s word and sacrament. May we join the psalmist in kneeling before the Lord who made us as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
Question: What does Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman reveal about prayer?
Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.