The third Sunday of Lent

This Sunday John 4:5-42 is read: the Story of the Samaritan woman. It explains that Jesus’ love is the living water. Already the church fathers placed this reading on this Sunday. To make thirsty the catechumens to the water of the baptism in the Easter Night.

The painting of Matthew 03,11 might be a suitable replacement.

Matthew 3:11

3:11     ‘I baptise you in water for repentance,

but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I,

and I am not fit to carry his sandals;

he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’


This line is taken from the preaching of John the Baptist just before Jesus came to him to be baptized. John announces the one who is coming after him. Therefore he asks his audience to prepare themselves to receive the one who is coming after him in the right way.


John is baptizing repentance. The Greek word means more than repentance. Repentance means that I recognize the mistakes I made; that I regret them, and that I promise not to do it again. That is already a big thing. But the Greek word says: ‘meta-noia’. ‘Meta’ means: ‘changing’; ‘noia’ means ‘mind’. John is preaching me a baptism of changing my way of thinking; changing my mind-set.

He explains it in the next lines. In the original Greek version of the text there is word play. John is saying: ‘I baptize you in water; [-] the one who is coming after me will baptize you in holy spirit and fire.’ The image is not that some drops of water are poured out upon my head, but that I will be submerged into the water. So that Holy Spirit and Fire is around me as is the atmosphere. The air I will breath in and out is Holy Spirit and [Divine] Fire.

I am reminded that water and fire are exactly the two characteristic key symbols in the celebration of Holy Easter Night.

Picture Meditation

The most obvious part of the painting is the fire in the centre. Three columns of fire. Behind the flames... or through them, I can discern the shape of a person. His head surrounded by the sun. I see his eyes looking down upon the people beneath him.

I see his left hand. With his right hand he pours out water over the people in the fire at the left side. Not to extinguish the flames, but to baptize the people.

These people undergo the fire and the water with closed eyes.

I remember that during the celebration of the baptism water is poured out over my head. And that I was signed with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Maybe I was a little baby when I have been baptized; that I underwent it unconsciously.

Now I take the time to revive it. I take the time to feel the cool water of the Lord; the same feeling when I have taken a refreshing bath or a shower.

I take also the time to feel the fire, the same feeling I had when I was falling in love; when I had a strong desire to get somewhere, to go after my ideal.

The people at the right side went through the water and the flames. They are naked: freshly washed and (re-)created. They are happy. Rising high.

I take the time to remind the moments that I was in such happy circumstances. Looking back: did these circumstances - as secular as they were perhaps - have any connection with God? With Holy Spirit?

There is a third group of people: bottom down at the right side. They are separated from the other groups by a stream. They are in the dark. They don’t have the serene faces of those with closed eyes; let alone they show the joy of the people above them.

Who are they?

Did I ever experience their situation?

I finish with a colloquy with one person in each of the three groups; with the man of fire; with...?

Does this picture / meditation help me to prepare myself for the mystery of Easter?

- Meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker S.J