Conversion of a city

Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? a little more and they will stone me!" The LORD answered Moses, "Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink." This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD in our midst or not?"

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. And 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. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

John 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink, ' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" Jesus answered and said to her, "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." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water. "I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking with you." Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world."

The conversion of a city begins with Jesus asking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman at the well. She comes to get water to quench her thirst. But coming to get water in the heat of the midday sun must have worsened her thirst; others would get their water in the early morning when the air is cool. From her conversation with Jesus, we know her life story. Maybe she wants to avoid others who may look down upon her, a woman with five husbands and now living with someone who is not her husband. The thirst to free herself from this bondage in her soul must be harder to bear than the thirst for water.

When Jesus talks to her about the living water that He can give and whoever drinks of it will never be thirsty, she asks Jesus for it so that “[she] may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15). She shows great faith, unlike her ancestors whom Moses brings out of Egypt. When the people are in the wilderness and thirst for water, they complain and put the Lord to the test, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:3,7)

When Jesus tells her that He is the Messiah (Ref. John 4:26), she leaves her water jar, runs back to the city – a Samaritan city called Sychar – and tells people to go see a man who “told [her] everything [she has] ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (John 4: 39). She must be overwhelmed with excitement and joy that Jesus with whom she has a conversation at Jacob’s well could be the Messiah. She is so zealous in spreading the good news to her people that she leaves behind her water jar and the reason for her to come to the well. Many Samaritans from that city believe in Jesus because of her testimony. What a great example for us to follow; we must have passion in our hearts and a strong faith to share effectively the good news we have received with others!

At the request of the Samaritans, Jesus stays in the city for two days. After hearing for themselves, many more believe because of His word, they said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the World” (John 4:42).

Jesus creates the gift of faith in the Samaritan woman and kindles in her the fire of divine love (Ref. Preface for this Sunday’s Eucharistic Prayer). We, too, have a special grace from God. In the second reading, St. Paul proclaims that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” and “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5: 5, 8).

When the world is devastated by the spread of the novel virus, let us stay calm, and may this Lenten journey be a time for us to grow in God’s love, to imitate His kindness and generosity as we await Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

Posted: March 15, 2020

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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