Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent in the Year A By Fr JohnPaul Okonkwo

Mar 16, 2017



The first reading of today shows God as our provider, he made water available for the thirsty Israelites in the arid desert. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of new water and a new life that he desires to give us. In the second reading, we see why we ought to live in trust and be joyful because, no one will be deprived of this water. As St Paul puts it, even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

Let us remember that last two Sundays, Jesus taught us that every temptation is an opportunity for us to re-affirm our total trust in God as seen in the temptations of Jesus (Mat. 4:1-11). Last Sunday, God calls us to listen to Jesus his beloved son (Mat. 17:1-9). Today therefore, Jesus assures us that he gives the eternal water. Anyone who drinks, will never thirst again. It is a divine arrangement that Jesus feeds us today with these words as we participate in the first scrutiny of our brothers and sisters who will pass through the waters of baptism on the Easter Vigil. What a love Jesus shows us!


To be able to reach every land, the river from time to time, overflows its banks. As such, to reach every soul, Jesus on several occasions goes beyond the existential boundaries of the Jewish tradition. It is important to note that the quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans was as old as Methuselah. In about 720 BC, the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom of Samaria, captured and subjugated it. They carried away majority of the population to Media (2 Kgs 17: 5-6). The Assyrians however, brought in people from Babylon, Cuthah, Hamath, etc, into the northern kingdom (2 Kgs 17:24). Those who were carried into exile were assimilated into the country into which they were taken. The remaining Samaritans intermarried with the incoming foreigners, and thereby committed what to the Jews was an unforgiving crime. That is, they lost their racial purity. They became the lost ten tribes of Israel. Without enumerating other differences, the Jewish – Samaritan quarrel was more than 400 years old. Little wonder then that the Samaritan woman was astonished that Jesus, a Jew, should speak to her, a Samaritan.

Furthermore, Jesus broke another barrier. The Samaritan in question was a woman. The strict Rabbis forbade a Rabbi to greet a woman in public. If he does, that was the end of his reputation. Jesus did not only speak to ‘any’ woman, but to a woman of notorious character. He not only broke through the barriers of nationality, but also of orthodox Jewish custom. Thus, he begins in love, the universality of the gospel. Jesus is ever ready to give to every thirsty heart, the living water. But what is this living water?


In ordinary Jewish language, living water means running (spring) water. It was the water of running stream as against the water of the stagnant cistern or pool. This well, was not a springing well, but a well into which the water percolated from the subsoil. To every Jew, running water from the stream was always better. Hence, the woman simply says: ‘You are offering me pure stream water. Where are you going to get it’?

However, the Jews had another way of using the word water. They often spoke of the thirst of the soul for God; and they often spoke of quenching that thirst with living water. Jesus was simply using terms that anyone with spiritual insight should have understood. In the Book of Revelation, God promises to give water to the thirsty as a gift from the spring of the water of life (Rev. 21:6). The Lamb is to lead the people to the springs of living waters (Rev. 7:17), and Jesus is the lamb of God (Jn 1:29). The promise is that the chosen people will draw water with joy from the wells of salvation (Isa. 12:3). Similarly, the psalmist speaks of his soul being thirsty for the living God (Psa. 42:1), and God promises to pour water on the thirsty land (Isa. 44:3). The clarion call is that everyone who is thirsty should come to this water and freely drink (Isaiah 55:1). Jeremiah’s complaint is that the people have forsaken God who is the fountain of living waters, and dug out broken cisterns which could hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).

Our lord Jesus Christ gives as a gift, that is, this living water which banishes every thirst of the soul. Thus he said to the woman, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me to drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10).

God promised that his people shall no longer thirst (Isa. 49:10). It is with God alone that the living fountain of the all-quenching water exists. ‘With you is the fountain of life,’ the psalmist had cried (Psa. 36:9). It is from the very throne of God that the river of life is to flow (Rev.22:1). Hence, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman and indeed every person, that the “spiritual drink” he has come to give men and women is not merely to preserve bodily life, but rather to give eternal life to those who will drink of it. Not only will they know and serve the true God in this life, but they will be given a right to an everlasting life with God if they serve him “in spirit and in truth” during their earthly life. This is the essence of our Christian religion! In baptism, we have been made sons of God, heirs of heaven, and directed towards our eternal destination. Through baptism too, we have been incorporated into the paschal mystery of Christ (which we celebrate in this season of Lent): that is, his passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus, in his divine mercy, has given to his Church all the means, and every help we need in the journey of life. St John Chrysostom makes this clearer: After the death of Jesus while he was still hanging on the cross, the soldier pierced his side with the spear. At once, there came out water and blood; the first a symbol of baptism, the other of the mysteries. It is from these two that the Church has been born, that is, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, by baptism and by the mysteries. As such, the Church offers us the moral teachings through the Scriptures and sacred Tradition; we have the ‘first-aid stations’ (sacrament of penance) along the route, where  those who injure themselves through sin, can be medicated and made sound once more; we have above all, the miraculous nourishment of the Eucharist – the manna of the New Testament (Jesus himself), who so lovingly arranged to be our spiritual food and sustenance during life’s journey.


We have the following lessons from today’s celebration: Firstly, we need this living water, the life-giving water of grace, “welling up to eternal life”(Jn 4:14). Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst for this water. This he (Jesus) has deposited in abundance in the sacraments and life of the Church. Secondly, Jesus condemns division of any sort. St Paul tells us that the gospel of Jesus is for all men and women. For him, “there is no longer Jews or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). The Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies for centuries before the advent of Jesus. But on that day at Jacobs well, Jesus broke down this separating wall. Beloved friends, why do parents still instruct their children not to greet Mr A or Mrs B? Why do we still experience division even among siblings, maybe those wealthy against the poor ones; for ladies, those with rich husbands against the rest, those married against the unmarried? Is there still need for the barriers existing between the young and the old politicians evident in our polity? Why do we still encourage the crisis of ‘who is superior’ between husbands and wives in the family life? Why must drivers of trucks and Lories declare war against drivers of smaller cars, and bus drivers against ‘Okada’ riders? Why must the rich still intimidate and oppress the poor in the society? Is ‘osu system’ (outcastes) still relevant in a society that is dominated by Christians? Why do we still locate perversion of justice in our country? Etc. Jesus has ended these wars. May we ask him for the grace (living water) to accept everyone no matter the apparent differences.

Finally, let our prayer be that of the Samaritan woman, “give me this water so that I will never thirst again” (Jn 4:15). The fundamental truth is that in the human heart, there is always a thirst for something which only Jesus Christ (who gives the living water) can satisfy.


Peace be with you !


Catholic Diocese of Nnewi
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Anambra State, Nigeria                     

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