Embracing the Living Water to quench the thirst within
Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really thirsty…the kind of thirst one experiences on a particularly hot day, after lengthy period of exercise, or even after eating a salty meal. I’m talking about the kind of thirst that keeps calling for more liquid even after the point when our stomachs start to slosh.
We can’t exist without water. Science tells us that, on an average, a person would only exist three days without water before perishing. Water not only hydrates, it refreshes and cleanses. For the average adult 57-60 percent of the body is water. No one would argue that the longing for water is an innate part of the human condition.
In this weekend’s Gospel (Jn 4:5-42), we open our hearts to the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. This story speaks to us about another thirst – a spiritual thirst that can only be quenched, according to Jesus, by the Living Water.
Jesus has come to Samaria. This is curious since the Jews and the Samaritans were, politely stated, not on the best of speaking terms. Jesus stops at a public well; it’s high noon and it’s hot. The disciples have gone to find some food. So, by all accounts, as Jesus sits to rest, he is alone…except for the woman who comes to draw water.
Also curious. Women of the era knew their place. They came for water either first thing in the morning or later in the evening. And certainly, a decent woman by herself would never dare to speak to a strange man.
Jesus asks for a drink and she immediately questions his judgment. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
Jesus replies that, if she knew who she was talking to, she would be asking him for a drink…a drink of the Living Water.
Confusing. Curious. Hey, mister, what is this Living Water?
Now Jesus has her attention.
“Everyone who drinks this water (from the well) will be thirsty again; but 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.”
The woman takes her first leap of faith: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Of all the rich meaning we might derive from the story of the woman at the well, the image of unquenchable thirst is one to which we can all relate.
In The Holy Longing, by Father Ron Rolheiser, one of our NWI Catholic columnists, writes that, as much as we thirst physically, even more, we thirst spiritually. There is a restlessness that exists within and an inexplicable need to do something about it.
That restlessness, that longing, is the memory – the thirst – for God and, as it was for the Samaritan woman, it is the starting point of our own spirituality. God provides the love – the Living Water – and seeks to draws us close. Don’t forget, it was Jesus who first reached out to the woman and she quickly latched on to what he was offering. She took the first steps toward God, toward quenching that longing that went unfulfilled for such a long time.
We all have a longing within. Some embrace it as the longing for God, while others, who cannot put a name to it, try to blindly fill it with the things of the world: drugs, alcohol, money, sex, material possessions, etc. But it never quite satisfies the thirst within, does it?
Even Jesus felt that longing, that thirst, when hanging from his cross. Read John 19:28. “After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’” It was over; death was imminent. Jesus wasn’t talking about a drink of water; he thirsted for God.
As we look inward this Lent, perhaps we might take the time to examine the longing within. For what do we thirst and what are our priorities? Do we spin our wheels looking for the answer or, like the woman at the well, do we seek to embrace the Living Water?