(3rd Sunday of Lent: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-8; John 4:5-42)
The French and Spanish Lectionaries include information that is not evident in the English translation of the first reading, i.e.: Meribah comes from the verb meaning “to quarrel,” and Massah “to test.” Both refer to the adversarial character of the episode when the Hebrews dared to bring a case against the Lord.
In Micah 6:1-2, the prophet summons his people: “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice! Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s case... For the Lord has a case against his people.” Here is that Meribah word again, now as “case.”
The message of Our Lady of La Salette fits into this context. She calls her people to task for their sins, especially their indifference. Today’s Psalm, which also references Meribah and Massah, has the response, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
When Jesus asks the woman for a drink, she adopts a contentious attitude. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jesus takes no offense, but opens a dialogue with her with the words, “If you knew the gift of God.”
Much later in John’s Gospel, Jesus will declare from Golgotha’s height, “I thirst.” Here, in chapter 4, his thirst is brought on by the fatigue of his journey. But we get an inkling of that thirst that marked the whole of his life and ministry, that burning desire he expresses in John 12:32: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” In satisfying our thirst, Jesus satisfies his own.
On the cross, blood and water flowed from Jesus’ pierced side. The famous biblical commentator Matthew Henry explained this in the following words: “They signified the two great benefits which all believers partake of through Christ—justification and sanctification; blood for remission, water for regeneration; blood for atonement, water for purification.”
Catholic theology applies this also to the Sacraments.
At La Salette, there is a miraculous spring. It had long existed, but always dried up in the summer. But ever since the Apparition it has flowed without ceasing, a reminder of the Beautiful Lady’s tears, and of her deepest thirst—ours, too, if we only knew.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse