Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "God thirsts for our faith and our love. Like a good and merciful father, He desires for us all of the good possible, and this good is He Himself": thus Pope Benedict XVI summarised the mystery contained in the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:5-42), the account of which- one of the "most beautiful and profound of the Bible" - is proclaimed in the liturgy of the third Sunday of Lent.
The pope was returning from a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of Santa Maria Liberatrice, in the neighbourhood of Testaccio, and was welcomed by tens of thousands of people waiting for him in Saint Peter's Square.
The account says that Jesus, "tired from his journey", asks for a drink from a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from the well. The woman is astonished because "it was . . . absolutely unusual for a Jew to speak to Samaritan woman, and moreover an unfamiliar woman". Jesus then speaks to her of "a ' living water' capable of quenching her thirst and becoming within her a 'spring of water welling up to eternal life'".
"All of this", the pontiff explains, "begins from the real and tangible experience of thirst. The theme of thirst runs through the entire Gospel of John: from the encounter with the Samaritan woman to the great prophecy during the feast of Booths (John 7:37-38), to the Cross, when Jesus, before He dies, says in order to fulfil the Scriptures: ' I thirst' (John 19:28). The thirst of Christ is a gate of entry to the mystery of God, who became thirsty in order to quench our thirst, just as He became poor in order to make us rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). Yes, God thirsts for our faith and our love. Like a good and merciful father, He desires for us all of the good possible, and this good is He Himself. The Samaritan woman, on the other hand, represents the existential dissatisfaction of those who have not found what they are looking for: she has had ' five husbands' and now lives with another man; her coming and going to and from the well to draw water expresses a repetitive and resigned way of life. But everything changed for her on that day, thanks to her conversation with the Lord Jesus, who shook her up so much that she left her jar of water behind and ran to tell the people of the village: 'Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?' (John 4:28-29)".
Before the recitation of the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI invited the faithful to open their hearts "to a trustful listening to the word of God in order to encounter, like the Samaritan woman, Jesus who reveals His love and tells us: the Messiah, your saviour, 'is I, who speak to you' (John 4:26). May Mary obtain this gift for us, as the first and perfect disciple of the Word made flesh".
After the prayer, the pope launched an appeal for the population of coastal Ecuador, struck by floods after already being affected by the eruption of the volcano Tungurahua. "While I entrust to the Lord the victims of this calamity", the pope said, "I express my personal closeness to those who are living hours of anguish and tribulation, and I invite all to fraternal solidarity, in order that the populations of these zones may return as soon as possible to the normality of daily life".
Immediately after this, Benedict XVI invited the university students of Rome to participate in the Marian vigil that will be held in the Paul VI audience hall next March 1. Also participating, via radio-television linkup, will be students of other countries of Europe and the Americas. Last year, a similar appointment was held with a linkup to a few universities in Europe and Asia. "Let us invoke", the pontiff concluded, "the intercession of Maria Sedes Sapientiae, in order that Christian hope may sustain the building of the society of love on these two continents and in the entire world. Dear university friends, I look forward to seeing many of you there!".