CHOOSE today: to live INSIDE with fear from our sins… or to come OUTSIDE and discover God’s love for us
Most of us, I think, are aware of the Biblical symbolism of water: life giving, washing away sin, etc. However, in relation to this week’s 1st reading and Gospel, we are hearing about UNDERGROUND water. And, according to scholars, this represents God’s (deepest) Wisdom.
Now, let’s re-read the 1st Reading and Gospel and discover deeper revelations about God. The people are complaining about a lack of water: not a bad request when you are dying of thirst. A naughty Australian would be complaining about the lack of cold beer in the tents as they travel through the hot desert… but that’s another story! Ha, ha.
However, the grumbling way in which they ask Moses and complain about God, speaks loudly of a deeper “thirst” the people have in their lives: or perhaps it would be better to say something IS LACKING in their inner lives.
We can assume that, after some time in the Desert, the excitement of escaping from slavery has worn off and the hard work of living and surviving life has begun. Not much fun working in a “desert”. Just surviving is not enough to make life joyful: we need meaning/purpose.
In response, with no complaint, God provides an answer to both forms of thirst: God could have caused rain to fall once a week and people would have received water. But God brought forth water that revealed and symbolised God’s deepest Wisdom.
In the 1st reading God says: You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ People say: Water is life. But actually, ordinary water only maintains life, it’s not “life.” A meaningful life needs extraordinary water that puts God’s Wisdom inside of us.
- Because the water came from a particular rock, it meant the whole community became united around that that rock: meaning they couldn’t wander just anywhere nor move too far away. We too cannot find meaning in life if we are separated from family and community: making space is OK, but we need real connections: make an effort to build/maintain links.
- The ROCK was a place outside of the camp of the Israelites: the people had to “come out of themselves” in order to receive God’s deepest Wisdom (symbolised by the water).
We can learn so much when we come out of our comfort zones and go outside ourselves: Jesus crossed internal boundaries calling Zacchaeus; Jesus crossed external political boundaries talking to the Samaritan woman at the well: a foreigner, a woman, a sinful woman, etc.
- The community had to unite behind Moses: Firstly, the Israelites needed someone to blame (scapegoat) rather than blaming themselves;
and then they needed someone to represent them and give a unified response/answer. We also look to blame and criticise others instead of taking responsibility ourselves; Even when not 100% happy, we need to support our leaders if we want a hope in hell of touching Heaven.
Now we move to the Gospel: Note that the Jewish people thought the Samaritans were enemies and “traitors” to Judaism because of their behaviour during the great Babylonian Exile.
1. Jesus passes through “enemy” territory: crossing and breaking down political boundaries.
2. Jesus talks to a “strange” woman – breaks cultural norms.
3. Jesus associates with a woman who is a “serious sinner” – breaks religious norms.
As Jesus asked the woman to draw him some water, we see Jesus drawing forth UNDERGROUND water “from” the well established by God for Jacob long ago. Jesus offered the woman Wisdom, but she could only receive it (recognise it) after she had been honest about her life: symbolising her confession and giving us a model to follow.
How does Jesus respond to her confession? With gentleness & patience; and then offers her the means to find joy for the rest of her life: Wisdom. Importantly, Jesus did not condemn her: Jesus revealed God’s love for her: gentle and forgiving.
I’m grateful to Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI for his article on Judgement (9-03-2020): here he shares how we live in a kind of fear of being “naked” in front of others and we fear God’s judgement, God looking at us. But, at the same time, we desperately want to be loved for who we are; we hope against hope that God will love us when we finally come to our time of judgement.
So, the readings today are truly about God’s love for us, not about God getting angry with the Israelites, or the sinful woman at the well. In the 2nd reading, Paul says: but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Hang on to that!
One thing is clear: if we want to give God a chance to tell to us how much we are loved, we need to move outside our normal comfort zone (home or ways of behaviour), and become somehow vulnerable (naked) and honest. I pray each one of us has that courage.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI