IN THE STREAM OF LIVING WATER
HOMILY – 3 LENT [A] 2017 [John, 4]
Last Tuesday our school held its annual swimming sports. Most of the children were in the pool at some time and their obvious enjoyment and competitive spirit told me they’re very comfortable in this environment. Less comfortable were the thousands of people caught up in the torrential rain that caused havoc and flooding as it swept through much of the North Island last week.
Water is a great mystery. Life is lost without it; yet too much water can also destroy life! [Record number of drownings in NZ this year] Jesus speaks of “living water” and identifies himself as its source. As God promised Noah that the world would never again be destroyed by flooding, Jesus promises an even flow – a stream of life-giving water that will hold in balance our self-serving survival instinct and our need to be connected with others.
We enter this stream in baptism and the refreshment of this new life provides the energy to ease the tension between self-serving and self-giving, between wanting and sharing, between loving and avoiding, between forgiving and wishing the other person harm.
(Today) the parish welcomes three people who have spent that last several months preparing to commit to the life that baptism begins: a whole-hearted following of Jesus Christ. Their welcome is accompanied by an anointing with the Oil of Catechumens – consecrating, or making holy, the steps that have brought them to this point in their lives. This marks their formal entry into the stream of living water, and as it carries them towards Easter they invite each of us, already baptised, to renew our own commitment, to feel anew the strength of the current urging us to live more fully the Christian life. You do not have to witness this anointing to sense its impact and to be part of the movement.
The woman who encounters Jesus when she comes to draw water from the well has a thirst far greater than the well-water could satisfy. Her reputation labelled her as a woman to be avoided. That’s why she comes to the well at midday, a time when normally no one else would be there. She has no expectation of being spoken to, as Jews and Samaritans avoided each other. But Jesus is blind to any differences people and cultures might impose on each other and opens a conversation that in a short time would quench the longing she had for acceptance, understanding and inner healing. She becomes the first missionary, taking the news of Jesus back to the very people that despised her.
This Eucharist is our “Well”. Not a sun-baked opening in the ground, providing water for desert dwellers, but a spring of living water that rises in our hearts when we gather in the name of Jesus. The refreshment available here is given to brighten our lives to the point where we become visible missionaries – making it obvious to others that we are people at peace with ourselves, loved for ourselves, having had our thirst for peace and love fully satisfied by a God who comes to us in the food and drink that is Jesus.
Those who will join the community at Easter, have been attracted by something or someone that spoke to their need for belonging and for peace. We each have to ask ourselves what is the image of Christ that I show in my public life? There are still people looking for the spring of living water. Will they find it in you?
Be “Water Wise” is the advice to all who enter a pool, river or sea. Know what you’re doing. Work with the water as a team; serve each other. The same wisdom will carry you through the stream of living water. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy your faith! Your enjoyment will be your witness.