Pastoral Reflections

3rd Sunday in Lent – 2017

In 1888 a man was shocked to read the notice of his own death in the local newspaper. It was obviously an error. However, he was even more shocked to read that the newspaper characterized him as someone who found new ways to kill people and that he became rich from doing so. This characterization was given, as he had invented dynamite. That very morning he decided to change, and to devote his energies in a new direction, to work for world peace. He left most of his estate after his death to fund the Nobel prizes. That man was Alfred Nobel.

Early in life, when Nobel was working with dynamite, he was a lot like the woman in our Gospel lesson, coming to the well to draw water. Water is necessary for life just as dynamite is necessary for some construction work. But at the well the woman met Jesus and he offered her living water. She was so impressed by Jesus that she left her water jar at the well. She went back to the town to tell everyone that she believed she had met the Messiah. Through her encounter with Jesus, she had found the living water and forgot about the water from the well. Although we do not know for certain, it is quite possible that Alfred Nobel, on the morning he read his obituary in the newspaper, may have had a similar experience as the woman at the well.

Until that point, he was going to the well to draw water, but the false report of his death may have touched him deeply inside, so much so, that he totally changed direction, and began working for peace from that point forward. We can imagine that in some way he must have met Jesus at the well that morning, and he offered him living water. If we had the opportunity to ask him about his experience, his change of heart, he might or might not have described it as an encounter with Jesus. Nonetheless, something profound had happened deep within him to affect that change. He left the jar of weapons at the well and hurried back to the town to tell the townspeople that he was dedicating himself on behalf of peace. What about us?

We too have to go to the well everyday with our jar because we live in the world. As we frequent the well, Jesus approaches us and makes the same offer to us as he did to the woman at the well. ‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again. The water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside welling up to eternal life.’ Each of us has the choice to draw water only from the well every day or to accept the living water that Jesus offers us.

What is this living water? Put simply we could describe this living water that Jesus offers us as the love of God. If we don’t receive this living water from Jesus every day, we will look for satisfaction in ways that will never please. It is no wonder the woman at the well was now in her sixth marriage!

What is the driving force of your life at the moment? Are you all wound up in something that is not the love of God and is not preparing you for heaven and not bringing you real deep lasting happiness or are you drinking the living water of Jesus every day?

How can we receive this living water so that we will never be thirsty again? If we are not drinking the living water of Jesus every day surely the first step is to admit that we need this living water, which Jesus is offering us. Nothing will ever change if we continue to deny that we need the living water of Jesus. Once we are able to acknowledge this, we can begin to turn to Jesus for his living water.

How can we receive this living water from Jesus? In my own case I receive this living water from Jesus by praying and reading the Bible every day. Because I receive this living water from praying and reading the Bible every day, I often remind you of the importance of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. I believe that praying and Scriptural reflection are some of the best ways for everyone to receive this living water. Every time we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we are drinking his living water. Every time we turn to Jesus for mercy by making a good act of contrition, we receive living water from Jesus.

This time of Lent is a special season of grace in the Church. Each year Lent enables us to drink more and more of this living water that Jesus offers us. Let us not waste Lent, so that God is forced to communicate with us in some unexpected way, as happened to Alfred Nobel. Instead, let us profit from Lent by drink living water from Jesus.

Whoever drinks the water from the well will get thirsty again; but anyone who drinks the living water that Jesus gives, will never be thirsty again. The water that Jesus gives, will turn into a spring inside welling up to eternal life. Let us take advantage of this living water over the balance of our Lent. As we do so, and feel the immense satiation that the living water of Jesus provides, we may find ourselves continuing to take it in well beyond Lent. We may even elect to make it a habit for life!

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