Here again is another homily from Pastor Dick Dahl in my absence–enjoy!
The Gospel according to John was written decades after Paul’s letters to the Christian churches and after the three Synoptic Gospels by Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Holy Spirit over time led the first Christian community to have a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus the Christ. This is reflected in the Gospel according to John. It’s purpose is to be less a history than an understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ actions. They are presented in episodes that serve as signs which draw us into the mystery of God among us.
All three of today’s readings focus on water as a sign of life. In practical terms life originated in the oceans and seas. Living organisms need water to live. We would die sooner from a lack of water than we would from a lack of food. The Israelites in the Sinai desert feared they would die unless Yahweh provided water to quench their thirst. The Native Americans and their supporters at Standing Rock know that water is life.
Today’s Gospel story, however, is a sign that reveals more than our practical need for water, as crucial as this is now and as it will likely become even more so in the near future.
It was noon, the sun was hot. A Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well. This man, a Jew no less, speaks to her. He asks her for a drink of water. Her people were considered inferior by most Jews. No matter. Her religious beliefs were considered heretical. No matter. Her personal life—five husbands—left something to be desired. No matter. Jesus did not argue with her about religion. He did not show disrespect for her as a woman, He did not condemn her for living with a man who was not her husband. He spoke to her about “living water.”
Actually, this is where I think John’s Gospel is speaking to us. She probably had no idea what “living water” was, and we may not have much greater understanding ourselves.
When John and his followers put this Gospel into written form, they were conveying the deeper meaning that the Spirit had led them to see and understand in this event. What is meant by the gift Jesus called “living water”?
Today it’s as if we are at the well and Jesus is saying to us what he said to the Samaritan woman. If you recognized the gift and who it is who is speaking with you, you would ask him. “The water I will give you will become a fountain within you, springing up to provide eternal life.”
John’s Gospel reflects the awareness St. Paul shared years before to the Romans, “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It’s the intimate and immanent presence of the Trinity—the love of the Father for the Son immersing us though the Spirit, the Spirit poured out in our hearts.
What does this mean for you and me? First, it is our growing personal awareness through faith that we are swept up in the evolving creative love and presence of our Triune God. But beyond an individual aspect to this gift of “living water,” there is a social one as well. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.“ In our own limited but real way, the Trinitarian presence calls us to become aware of and work to change systems that oppress and trap people in demeaning and dehumanizing conditions. We find some of those oppressive systems even in the Church…in the community of believers…perhaps even in ourselves. Jesus always went where the pain was. Wherever there was human suffering, Jesus showed his concern about it now and about its healing now. He always paid attention. So must we.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is the “living water” that heals, that strengthens, that enlightens, that makes us aware.
Religious belief and science are both ways of looking at reality, of striving to better recognize what is true and and to have a greater understanding of it.
Ironically, the more humans know, they often realize how much they don’t know. For example astronomical physicists who study the universe, the cosmos, realize that about 68% of it is made up of “dark energy” which no one understands. Another 27 % is made up of “dark matter” again which no one understands. That leaves only five percent or less of the cosmos that is visible to us. Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity proclaimed a dynamic universe. Even when an atom is reduced to absolute zero on the Kelvin scale, it still vibrates.
I find it striking that science is discovering a dynamic imprint in all creation, a vibrancy so like the dynamic and evolving creativity of the Trinitarian force. So, the gift of “living water” that gushes up like a fountain extends our vision of Trinitarian activity beyond individuals and society, and connects us even to the farthest reaches of the universe, the rest of reality, visible and invisible.
The way science painstakingly discovers more and more about the mysteries of the universe in time and in space makes even more awe-inspiring the Christ mystery—namely that “even before the beginning of the world,” the love of God has been given to us, waiting to be poured as living water into us. The Israelites in the desert asked, “Is our God in our midst or not?” Sometimes we may be tempted to ask the same. Let us not harden our hearts, but in gratitude be aware of the Spirit, the “living water” in us that connects us to each other and to the entire universe. Let us pay attention to each other and everyone we meet, as Jesus did to the Samaritan woman.