Lectionary Readings: Ex 17:3-7 / Ps 95 / Rom 5:1-2,5-8 / Jn 4:5-42
In a couple of weeks, for a course called “Earth, Portrait of a Planet”, (either in-person or virtually… pending announcement from UofT,) I will be presenting to my colleagues about the topic, “Life outside of earth.” As most of you will know, one of the necessities for life is water. Therefore, in order for a planet to be habitable, there needs to be a sustainable source of water as it is used for drinking, washing and a variety of other purposes, including growing food. It would be impossible for us to live. Besides, our bodies are said to be 70% water.
At the end of 2019 going into the beginning of 2020, before Covid-19 even visibly surfaced and caused a stir in the world more so today, the world’s spotlight was placed on Australia’s wildfires that is said to have taken the lives of 1-billion animals. One of the images that struck people were those of Australian marsupials approaching human beings, and sucking from their water bottles as they were very thirsty – they desperately needed the water to sustain their lives. Such images and videos circulated throughout the internet and many found compassion for these cute little creatures.
In today’s readings, we see people thirsting for water, most evidently in today’s first reading in which the Israelites, having freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt angrily demanded water. However, the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel reminds us of another thirsting – a thirsting for an eternal water.
Water – something that we take for granted is a necessity for our lives. So too is our spiritual water that we ever so often take for granted. What is that spiritual water, you may be asking. The spiritual water is Jesus himself, who is the way, truth and life (see Jn 14:6).
While I can speak about thirsting for the way, the truth and life, I think it is vital in this reflection to reflect about the concept of “thirsting for truth”. In a society where relativism is everywhere, even present within our laws (e.g. Medical Assisted for the Dying) or piles of filth circulating on the internet, people long for the truth. We want to know what is really going on, what is the key that will lead us on the right path?
Yet, in order for us to be open to the truth, there are some things that we need to fix up on our Christian lives. First of all, our ego – our ego really blinds us from seeing the truth because an egocentric person places themselves at the forefront of all aspects of life. However, in order to be open to truth, we need to strip ourselves of that ego so that we can listen. How often do we sincerely listen? Or do we talk, talk, talk and fail to absorb in what others have to say?
Second, we need a sense of openness. Are we open to new things, or are we fettered to what I think is right? Sometimes, in order to locate truth, you need to open yourself up to new things.
Third, we need to be people of discernment. After stripping ourselves of our ego and being open to new things, we must discern, see if something is good and conforms to God’s will. That takes time – discernment does not come in an instant. As Catholics, we discern to see what does God want of us? What is the unique mission God entrusted to us?
Those three things the woman at the Samaritan woman at the well did. She put aside herself, was open to the words of Jesus and was a discerning person so she could be very well receptive of the Living Water.
That is what the Lenten season is all about. We strip ourselves of our ego (fasting), open to others (almsgiving) and be people of discernment (prayer). This bears more of a literal sense for our brothers and sisters, the catechumens and candidates who will be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. For the past year, they have strived to practice these three aspects, thirsting for truth, so that they may readily receive the Living Water. As the scrutinies begin this Sunday, we pray for the catechumens and candidates in their period of discernment.
We also pray for ourselves, the baptized People of God, that we may ever long for the Living Water, because when we cease to thirst, we die spiritually and our Catholicity becomes merely a facade.