Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

In his first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul, referring to our first reading, said this about the Israelites journey through the desert, “I do not want you to be unaware brothers that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10: 1-4) In this passage St. Paul refers to baptism symbolized and prefigured by the journey through the parted Red Sea, he refers to the Eucharist symbolized and prefigured by the manna a spiritual food, and he refers to Jesus as the rock, a rock that followed the Israelites through the desert. You probably don’t know this but Jesus was the original rolling stone.

Jesus as the spiritual rock refers to two instances where the Israelites were thirsty and grumbling. They grumbled against God and Moses. God hears their grumbling and he directs Moses to strike the rock once, this first instance is at the base of Mt. Horeb (Sinai) (Exodus 17). When the rock is struck, immediately water gushes forth, satisfying the thirst of the Israelites and their animals.

Now the second instance of where water is produced from a rock takes place at Kadesh (Number 20:2-13). And there God instructs Moses to “speak” to the rock, to say a word to the rock, and bring forth water. Moses only has to speak to the rock to bring forth the water. Just like the priest who says a word to bring forth the Body and Blood of Jesus. But Moses is in a bad way he is annoyed with the grumbling of the Israelites and he is suffering from a lack of faith in God. So instead of just speaking to the rock, to produce the water, he strikes it twice with his staff. Water is produced and it
satisfies the thirst of everyone, but God is not pleased with Moses’ lack of faith.

Now it’s very interesting to note that ancient Jewish rabbis when commenting on the rocks being struck by Moses’ staff teach that not only was water produced, but also blood. According to these ancient Jewish scholars, when the rock was struck both blood and water was produced.

The rock following the Israelites is Jesus prefigured, the rock is predicting Jesus, and fulfilled in Jesus. On the cross, blood and water flowed from his pierced heart, satisfying the thirst of his people for two millennia.
In our Gospel today we find that; Jesus is tired after his journey. So He sits down by the well, thirsty, hungry, and worn out. He was so thirsty that he skirted all social protocol and asked a Samaritan woman to give him a drink – Jewish men at that time just didn’t do that kind of thing. But Jesus’ thirst went much deeper. He was really thirsting to save her soul. His tiredness doesn’t hold back his love for a lost sheep that crosses his path. The Samaritan woman came to the well at noon, the hottest hour of the hot, middle-eastern day. The other women of the village would have come in the cooler hours of early morning and evening. The woman was a social outcast, avoiding contact with her peers. Jesus notices this, seeing in her eyes the anxiety that comes from an unstable life, but he also sees a spark of sincerity – her rocky path through life had worn down any façade of self-righteousness or self-delusion. Her wounded and suffering heart provides an opportunity for grace, and our Lord, forgetting about his own suffering, seizes it, changing her life forever.

And so he asks for a drink but what he is really thirsting for is her brokenness, her pain, her sinfulness, her doubt, and her darkness. He wanted it all. And the Samaritan woman could see that He saw it all and yet he still loved her. She would give Jesus a drink, and in return he would satisfy her thirst with mercy and love.

On the cross, Jesus our rock was pierced. He was struck once and blood and water flowed forth from His Heart. This is the wellspring of our salvation. It’s the grace, the love, the sacraments, the mercy, its everything. It’s the living water of his merciful love flowing always. And only this will truly satisfy us. On the Cross Jesus says, “I thirst.” And the drink we give to him is ourselves, all of our brokenness, darkness, pain, and sin. We give it all to him to satisfy his thirst. And in return the drink he gives to us is his love and mercy, his tenderness and friendship, himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Our Lord says to us today, “I have created you for My Love and My Love alone can satisfy the desires of your heart. Enter then, the wound in my side, take refuge in my pierced side, penetrating even into my heart, drink deeply of the springs of love that will refresh and delight your soul and wash you in preparation for the wedding of your soul with me, for I am the bridegroom of your soul your Savior from all that would defile you, and your God who is love and mercy now and unto the ages of ages.”

Pax et Bonum,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley