Third Sunday of Lent
Theme: “Thirst for Encounter, Dialogue, and Acceptance”
-John 4: 5-42
Science tells us that a person can survive for weeks even without food. This explains why Jesus survived in the desert for forty days and nights even without taking any food. However, science also confirms that, even if we can survive for weeks without food, we cannot last a day or two without water. Why? Because 80% of the human body’s composition is water. Hence, water is neces- sary for the proper functioning of our body. In fact, losing even 2% of the water content in our body could make us ill, and, worse, it can cause the breakdown of our vital organs. Indeed, thirst is a concrete and universal human experience.
Like anybody else, Jesus is also in need of water. So He had to go to a well to quench His thirst before proceeding His journey. The gospel tells us that a woman of Samaria came to draw water. Having an open attitude, Jesus began the conversation with her by asking for a drink. Jesus was fully aware that he was ask- ing for a drink from a Samaritan woman, which was not expected of any respect- able Jew. In spite of His awareness, Jesus still asked for a drink and opened his dialogue with her. Had not Jesus opened the conversation, probably the Samaritan woman would have gone away in silence. Jesus’ attitude of openness to reach out to others and his approach of taking the first step to open the dialogue led him to a wider horizon of his mission and also to his first mission with non-Jews.
Moreover, Jesus opened a dialogue not only with a woman who was a Samaritan but also a Samaritan woman of ill repute. She had had five husbands and the one she had then was not her husband either. She was treated as socially deviant and the very fact that she came to fetch water at midday (an unusual time for women to draw water) shows that she had been shunned by other women in the village. She had to avoid the company of other women who used to fetch water either in the cool of the morning or the evening. Her coming at midday is generally explained by her desire, as a notorious sinner, not to have to meet other women.
This dialogue shows that Jesus went beyond all cultural and gender biases of His community and the personal deviances of the woman in order to enter into a dialogue with others. Neither cultural barriers nor gender biases could ever stop His dialogue mission.
The starting point of the dialogue here is a human issue: need for water. Je- sus, exhausted by the journey at midday was in need of water to quench his thirst. The Samaritan woman who came to the well, was also in need of water for her domestic chores. An ordinary daily need became the starting point of a meaningful dialogue. Their dialogue began not with theological problems or doctrinal dis- cussions or hair-splitting philosophical arguments, but with the Samaritan woman coming to the well and Jesus asking for water.
Jesus’ method of reaching out to others through daily events and ordinary human issues and concerns is a down-to-earth approach that is quite evident in this dialogue. For Jesus, a human experience can serve also as a medium for conveying a reality of the spiritual order. Though the dialogue led Jesus and the Samaritan woman later on to the realms of theological revelation and social interaction, one should not forget that the starting point of the dialogue was notably a human issue. Human need could become a point of communion among people.
Today, human issues and problems could become the starting point of our dialogue, just as the human needs of thirst and water led both Jesus and the woman into an efficacious and humanizing dialogue, many human issues and problems can bring the peoples of all religions together for a meaningful dialogue.
Each religion can respond from its faith positions and learn also from those of other religions the ways and means of encountering such human issues.
When the starting point of dialogue is a human issue or problem, it will inevitably lead us to a dialogue of action. This will enable each religion to respond from its own religious wealth of beliefs and convictions and which will also help each religion to learn and benefit from the beliefs and convictions of other reli- gions to enter into a corporate and collaborative way of responding to human needs and issues.