Third Sunday of Lent, Year A, John 4:5-52
Jesus is thirsting for our charity. The Son of God comes into a village on a hot, dry day, and sits down on the well. He tired, he’s hungry, he’s thirsty. A woman comes out in the noonday sun to draw water. Jesus turns to her and says, “you can relieve my thirst.”
We are on our Lenten journey of conversion and repentance. The Church has given us three disciplines to assist us in our preparations for celebrating the Passover. The first Sunday of Lent, Jesus leads us in fasting and sacrifice, offering us a powerful example in his own time in the desert and his resistance to the temptations of Satan. The second Sunday of Lent, we join Christ on the mountain and witness the manifestation of Christ’s glory as the Son of God. Along with Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elijah, we experience the presence of God in his Son. The transfiguration is a powerful example of prayer, of spending time with God, hearing his voice and seeing his glory.
Now on this Third Sunday of Lent, we take up the discipline of charity. Christian charity is the most visible sign to those who may not know presence of God in this world. In Christian charity, the Word becomes flesh once again in our own actions as we share the presence of Christ. Our faith is rooted in the Incarnation, where God becomes visible in this world in the Person and Message of his Son, Jesus Christ. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God has visited his people. The Sacraments of the Church are the way in which Christ has chosen to continue his presence among us. God uses the stuff of this world to bring us grace. The water of baptism becomes the wellspring of salvation. The bread and the wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord. The holy oils giving us a new identity in Christ and healing of our ills. The power of prayer and word—the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the vows of those who marry—these visible signs of the inner reality of God made manifest.
The incarnation and the sacramental economy continue to work in the charity of the Christian. It is the commandment that Christ gave us all: love one another as I have loved you. Do good to those who harm you, bless those who persecute you, so that all may see your charity and come to know God. St. Paul reminds us that Christian charity and love is the greatest of the Theological Virtues.
It is in this act of Charity that the woman comes to know who God is: God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God. The act of charity, giving a drink of water to a stranger set this woman on the road to salvation. This fourth chapter of the Gospel of John is the paradigm of conversion. Since ancient times, this reading has been part of our Lenten liturgies. From this reading, those who are being transformed through the rites of initiation are invited to enter into a conversation with Jesus. To share the story of their lives, and to hear the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus: the good news of salvation. And this act of charity, of giving drink to the thirsty is that first step of conversion.
How do we evangelize? Jesus demonstrates it very clearly in this story. Go to where you find the lost. Sit down among them. Listen to their stories. Hear their confessions of sin, betrayal, shame and suffering. And answer with compassion, love and mercy. The first step of charity gives way to the woman running to the other people of the village to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And through her evangelization, the whole village accepted Christ as the Savior. And he remained with them.
Brothers and Sisters, at this time, the world needs our charity, as it always has needed it. The disturbing news of the pandemic can be confusing and make us afraid. Remember how many times Jesus told those who came to him for assistance: fear is useless. What is needed is trust. We are not confused as Christians. We know what our response must be: charity. Charity means that we first think of the health and wellbeing of others, even as we know that keeping ourselves healthy will also assist in keeping others healthy. We are only in the initial stages of a severely disruptive time. Things are not going to be normal.
Well, we know that our own complacency has tricked us into thinking that every has been fine, that we have given enough, that all is right. In fact, this pandemic will open our eyes to the suffering that has already been happening in our midst through hunger, poverty, and oppression and all the attacks on human life that humanity perpetrates.
Jesus has sat down on the well. He is still tired, hungry, thirsty and alone. He asks us today for a drink to relieve his thirst. He is waiting for our response. I know in the coming weeks and months, our parish will be responding in charity to the suffering that will come our way. And in these acts of charity, God’s mercy will again be manifest.