Seek Living Water: We Were Not Made for This World

User’s Guide to the Third Sunday of Lent

This bronze relief depicting Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well is from the gate of Basilica Collegiata di San Sebastiano, probably from the 19th century.
This bronze relief depicting Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well is from the gate of Basilica Collegiata di San Sebastiano, probably from the 19th century. (photo: Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock)

Sunday, March 12, is the Third Sunday of Lent. Mass readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42 or John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42.

The Gospel for this weekend’s Mass is too long to consider in detail. However, let’s note the following essential points.

1. What it is that really makes you happy? We desire so many things: food, water, shelter, clothing and creature comforts. We long for affection, peace and a sense of belonging. Sometimes we want stability and simplicity; at other times, we yearn for change and variety. Our hearts are a sea of desires, wishes and longings. Today’s Gospel says that a woman went to the well to draw water. She represents each one of us, and her desire for water is symbolic of all our desires.

2. The well in today’s Gospel symbolizes this world. Jesus says to the woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” The world cannot provide what we are really looking for. No matter how much it offers us, it will never suffice, for the world is finite while our desires are infinite. In this way, our heart teaches us something very important about ourselves: We were not made for this world; we were made for something, Someone, who is infinite, who alone can satisfy us. We were made for God. Jesus says to the woman, 

“If you only knew the gift of God and who it is that is speaking to you now, you would ask him for a drink, and he would give you springs of living water unto eternal life.”

3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about our longings: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (27). All of this is depicted in the encounter today at the well. Thirst brings the Samaritan woman to a well that cannot really satisfy. Thirst brings Jesus to the well, too, as he has a thirst for souls.

4. At first the woman doubts Jesus’ ability to give living water that can satisfy. She ridicules him, saying he doesn’t even have a bucket and scorns him due to his race and that he is a man. In stages, Jesus builds her trust and breaks through her anger and scorn. We too often doubt God and ridicule spiritual things, preferring the well of the world and scoffing at the truth of the Gospel as the clear and living water that will actually satisfy us. With us as well, Jesus is patient and stays in a longer conversation with our often-stubborn hearts. In the end, the Samaritan women is amazed at Jesus’ capacity to answer her deepest questions and free her from worldly pains and sorrows. How about you? 

5. A beautiful detail in the Gospel is that she leaves her water jar behind as she goes to tell others of Jesus. The water jar was critical as a means of drawing from this world needed necessities. It was the ancient equivalent of leaving a cellphone behind or of a paralytic leaving a wheelchair behind. She no longer depends on worldly things to connect her to a worldly well that cannot satisfy. Her heart is now focused on other things. This, too, must be our journey, out of a finite world that cannot satisfy to the kingdom of God and God himself, who alone can satisfy our infinite longing.