For a moment, imagine that someone set before you a 5-Carot diamond ring and a 5-gallon jug of water and informed you that, for no cost, either could be yours. Which would you choose?
Before you make your selection, know that such a diamond ring would cost about $145,000 whereas the 5-gallon jug of water would run you $23.57. Further, your online search of both objects reveals that the prestigious online jeweler, Deacon’s Diamonds, has advertised that “you will be able to let your diamond do the talking” whereas Walmart’s description of the jug of water simply says “5-gallon water bottle, Out of Stock.”
My hunch is that most of us would choose the diamond ring and continue our search for the water.
I mention all of this because our Gospel passage (John 4:5-42) for the Third Sunday of Lent revolves around water. For contrast, I’ve also added the imagery of a diamond to recall a proposition by the 18th-century economist, Adam Smith, who pondered why diamonds were more valuable than water. The Father of Economics wondered why diamonds were more valuable than water given the reality that water is essential to human life and diamonds are not. His solution? Diamonds are more valuable than water because diamonds are rarer than water and more difficult to obtain and sell.
In our Gospel story, I imagine that Jesus, who waited for this Samaritan woman beneath the hot sun, was not interested in giving her an economics lecture. Rather, Our Lord, as He always does with each of us, sought a true, honest, and probing dialogue with her.
Alone, she approached the ancient well that provided water to Jacob. And with Jesus seated a short distance away, He begins a dialogue with her. As we heard, Our Lord knows her past and present. And regarding her future, Jesus knows what is best for her, as well.
So, Jesus offers her one.
"...Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
And in an instant, she grabbed not the water that perishes, but rather, the diamond that leads to eternal life! “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15) Then, the woman (without her water jar) ran into town to tell the people of her encounter with Jesus. (John 4:28)
In our lives, I wonder how many of us see ourselves as that Samaritan woman at the well? Before her meeting with Jesus, this woman’s life was in a rut and her earthly pursuits were rooted in sin. And the things that she reached for had no eternal significance.
And us? How many of us continue to pursue the things of this world that will assuredly end up in a junk heap while ignoring the reality that the Lord is seated next to us—morning, day, and night—with an offer of eternal life?