Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – Third Sunday of Lent – 23 March 2014 – Yearning for Living Water


Third Sunday of Lent A – March 23, 2014 – Yearning for Living Water

Exodus 17:2-7; Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

My maternal grandparents had a farm. They had cows, chickens, horses, cats, pigs and a dog named Sport. There were vast fields, a garden and an orchard. The food was always fresh and home grown. But, there was one problem. A high sulfuric content in the ground affected the taste of the water that was pumped into the farmhouse. So, there was a big tank along side the house that collected rain water from the roof. That water was used for cooking and drinking.

According to conservative statistics, one out of every six people in the world does not have access to safe drinking water. Every twenty seconds a child dies from a water related disease. According to Professor George Zacharia the water crisis is not an issue of scarcity but of access and equitable distribution in the community. [1]

Zacharia argues that water has become a commodity with a price tag. Water is auctioned to multi-national corporations to attract capital. Clean, fresh water for every human being is becoming more unattainable. The other side of the argument of course suggests that we buy water because the local water is not good. What if you cannot afford it?

Today’s scriptures are about yearning for water both real and spiritual. In the first reading we heard the story of the Israelites who hoped that God would deliver them from bondage and lead them to a land of sustenance, of milk and honey. But they found themselves stuck in the desert thirsting for water. 

They complained to Moses that God had abandoned them. God acted with compassion and water sprang miraculously from a rock. Such a restorative and creative act of God brought hope where there was desperation. According to Paul in the second passage you and I have access to this grace filled presence of God because of our faith. We are called to boast in this hope and then participate in the glory of God’s work.

The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well was not ready to boast. She was unsure of herself. Like the Israelites parched in the desert this woman, whose name was Photina, was thirsting for something that she thought spring water in the well could not give her.

As the story unfolds we find that both Jesus and Photina were helpful to each other. Both were thirsty. He did not mistreat her because she was a woman, a Samaritan, or because of her past. Rather, he engaged her in a conversation that inevitably offered new possibilities for both of them.

Natural water is essential for our physical bodies. The living water that Jesus spoke of is good for the soul. The soul needs the body and the body needs a mind. They are all connected and essential for developing our full potential as human beings. We need both kinds of water in order to survive and grow.

Today we celebrate the first scrutiny of our catechumens Olyvia, Tracey and Abbey. Called the Elect of God they are chosen by God to participate in God’s work of restoring the planet, animals and humankind so that all people would be free from any want. In a few weeks these Elect will be baptized in living water, water that satisfies their physical, cognitive and spiritual yearnings … water that we believe brings hope in place of despair.

To  accompany them on their journeys is also to awaken ourselves to our own yearnings and our own possibilities. What if we pay attention to our use of water this week? What if we note how much we use or waste; how much we buy? What changes in our consumption of water would whet our thirst for transformation in our own lives?

It is so good for us to be here today. If you are visiting or come to church only once in awhile, know that there will always be a place for you at our table.


1.  Zacharia is professor of theology and ethics at United Theological College in Bangalore India



Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “Homily – Third Sunday of Lent – 23 March 2014 – Yearning for Living Water

  1. Thank you for giving the Samaritan woman her name. I found her story in the Orthodox Church calendar a few years ago. There is a lot we can learn from our Orthodox brethren. (We do have some of the best tasting water in the state here in Albany, according to the NYS State Fair taste tests!) While in college, our daughter had a part in the musical “Urinetown” a fable about water conservation. Everytime I hear about water shortages in other parts of the world, I think the writers of the musical may have something there. It is a bit of a relief to hear that Prof. Zacharia says the problem is access, not amount. Unless one is in California, of course. I fell it is really a bit of a racket that people are buying into purchasing all this bottled H2O, ones sees others getting at the supermarket. And thanks for the reminder not to waste it!


  2. So appreciate your “gospel-izing” a daily practice of mine. Affirms my “conservation appreciation” about saving water first thing in the morning. Rather than running water in the sink (and down the drain) until it’s warm enough to wash and shave with, I put a quart size container under the spigot until it’s full and then pour it into an empty kitty-litter pail. I do this repeatedly until the running water gets hot. I then can use the saved water for a variety of uses throughout the day. Thanks for a new spiritual lens with which to view my idiosyncrasy!


  3. This is an exceptionally good homily, weaving together the personal (your experience, our daily actions), global, commercial, and prophetic. Ray, I share your practice of not wasting water by using this precious resource in other ways until what’s coming from the faucet is warm enough for whatever use it’s intended for.

    The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, in a campaign a few years ago to raise awareness that water is a human right, called it a ‘sacramental commons’, just as in earlier times, there was common grazing land where anyone in a community could pasture their animals (cf. the Pastures neighborhood between S. Pearl St. and Rte. 787 in Albany). By contrast, the Nestle Corp., the world’s largest food processor, has openly stated that access to water is not a human right, meaning they have the right to buy up water sources and deprive others of this necessity for life.

    It reminds me of an old limerick:

    They put in jail the man or woman who steals a goose from off the common, but let the greater thief go loose who steals the common from the goose.


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