Homily from the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A 2014
Normally in the sales world, you begin by telling someone what they will get, then you tell them the price. When I was in Europe, there were merchants who would do this sometimes – they would come up, especially to kids, and give them a toy or something, and then they would ask them to pay for it after they had it. Sometimes you had to leave the item on the ground.
They would not take it back. That’s what you call a hard sell.
But Jesus is not a salesman. And he is not selling a product, that is clear in the Gospel today. What is the first thing he says to this woman who he does not know at the well? “Give me a drink.” No please, no explanation like “I normally would not talk with you but my disciples are away and I am really thirsty.” Just “Give me a drink.”
I was tempted to preach about all kinds of things this weekend – the dynamics that are at play, the way this beautiful drama unfolds in the Gospel this weekend. But I decided to stop right here – with the first sentence. “Give me a drink.”
It is a short request that we will hear from Christ again in just a few weeks, isn’t it? “I thirst.”
When I offered Mass for the Missionaries of Charity at their little soup kitchen tucked into the Vatican wall, on the wall of their little chapel they had those words “I thirst.” Later, I went to Kolkata and realized that Mother Teresa insisted that those words be on the wall of every one of her sister’s chapels.
As we know, the word of God is not ineffective. It is through God’s word that all creation exists. God spoke his word and all things came into being. He commanded and all things were made.
But we are not like the rest of creation. God does not command our obedience, he does not require our service. He makes a request, he asks – and he is willing to enter into the difficult and messy circumstances of our lives to make his request. He risks the scandal of being seen alone with a woman at a well. He risks the greater scandal of being seen crucifies between two criminals. He goes where he must go in order for us to hear him, to hear his request “Give me a drink.”
Now, it may not be a command, but it is not a suggestion either. The request is clear. It is jarring. Christ asks us to cast aside the social conventions of our time. To go out on a limb. To be inconvenienced. To act in a way that will draw the disapproval of others. To be seen with a stranger, with a foreigner. To be associated with a religious radical, a “churchy” person.
“Give me a drink.”
She resisted. It was against the conventions. She would be judged. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” How could he ask this of her? She had so many things on her plate, so many challenges.
But he responds “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Christ teaches the Samaritan woman, and wants to teach each of us – that his request is actually a gift. When we listen to him, when we serve him, when we give him what he thirsts for, then he quenches our thirst – a deep thirst that many times we did not even realize we had, that we had tried to ignore or to wish away. A thirst for fullness of life with him, for living water.
But we must lower the bucket first. We must listen to his words and respond, willing to risk the conventions of our time and to be inconvenienced.
How many times a day do you hear it? Those simple words. “Give me a drink.” Do you stop? Do you pray? Do you give? Do you forgive? Do you listen?
“Jesus is God,” Mother Teresa said. “Therefore His love, His Thirst, is infinite. He the creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures. He thirsts for our love… These words:
‘I Thirst’ – Do they echo in our souls?”