Third Sunday of Lent: Thirst No More
She really was quite intelligent, this Samaritan Woman that Jesus met at the well. She engaged Jesus in discussion about Jews and Samaritans. She asked him, "Why do you bother talking to me? Jews don't speak to Samaritans." She even delved a bit into theological argument, "We worship on the Mountain; you worship in Jerusalem, so who's right?"
She was also a hard worker, not a lazy woman. She was at that well probably to get the water she needed to care for her livestock, clean her home, and, perhaps, prepare the afternoon meal. Her life was difficult, but no more than any other woman of her time and place. However, her life was different. She had gone through five husbands and now was living with a man she had not married. No one respected her. She did not respect herself. She had given up on herself and just gone with whatever the immediate situation presented. Another husband, another man. Another child. Who's the father of this one? Of that one? She had learned to live with the emptiness that comes from accepting sin in her life.
She was thirsty. It may have been her sheep or her home that needed the water, but she herself was quite thirsty. She was dry. Internally, spiritually, she was thirsty. She had led a sinful life but had refused to acknowledge her sins and seek forgiveness. Perhaps, like many of us, she felt that the past would go away if she just did not think about it. However, that didn't quench her thirst. She went about her daily routine, doing her best to ignore the emptiness within herself. But it was still there, that thirst, that dryness.
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink." (John 7:37)
A thirsty Jesus goes to the same well. He sees the woman and thirsts even more. He also is dry, but he is not empty. He thirsts for the people who need Him. One of his last words from the Cross would be, "I thirst." He was not talking about water. He was speaking about the overwhelming desire within him to bring God's love to the world.
At the well, Jesus simply tells the woman that she will remain dry unless she confronts her past and changes her life. These are the words she needed to hear. She submits to the Love of God. From that moment on she is absolved, transformed. Her thirst is quenched. Now she has a spring of water within her, a reservoir really. She is overflowing with the Love of Jesus the Christ.
She goes into the town. Her joy is on her face. The townspeople experience her peace and want this for themselves. So they go out to the well to meet Jesus. They go to investigate. They experience God.
This wonderful drama, the first of three we will hear the next few weeks, is really a drama about our lives. We thirst for God. Sometimes we drink Him in. Often we ignore Him. Sometimes we downright reject Him. But He doesn't give up on us. Perhaps we finally give in and let Him transform our lives. We confront our sins, take responsibility for our actions, and allow the compassion of the Lord into our lives. Then we have that joy that pours out from us to everyone around us. And then others seek out and find Christ.
We will probably be thirsty again. With the distractions of our lives, it is easy for us to lose sight of the fundamental reason for our existence, to know love and serve God. With the pressures of our society, the responsibility to provide for the family financially, the mission to raise our children, the fight against sickness and suffering in our lives, it is easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we do. As a result, we feel thirsty, dry within. With the pressures of the anti-Catholic, anti-theistic, immoral aspects of our society, it is easy for us to give in to arguments that justify improper or immoral behavior. It is easy for us to return to dryness.
We will thirst again. And in one way, this is good, very good. It is part of the human condition to thirst for God. St. Augustine wrote, "Our hearts are made for you, O God, and can not rest until they rest in you." We will always thirst for a greater presence of God. We seek His Presence throughout our lives, particularly in the love of others, in the love of our families, in the love of those reaching out to us for help. Many of you seek God in the love of your marriages, and your children or, for the children, in their parents' love. We will all always thirst for a greater presence of God in our reading the Word of God and our sharing in the Eucharist.
We need to take this thirst with us wherever we go. We need to bring the longing for Jesus with us so others can experience the joy that the very longing for His Presence forms in our lives. Remember, the townsfolk only experienced Jesus because they first experienced the joy of His Presence in the woman who had just returned from the well of God's Love and Compassion. We cannot be afraid to let all know that Jesus is the joy of our lives.
Sometimes people ask me, "How do I bring Jesus to the school, to the workplace, to my family, to the neighborhood?" If we focus on His Presence in our lives, if we recognize the Mercy and Compassion we have received, others will experience Him within us.
There is a famous Latin expression, "Nemo dat quo non habat." It means, "No one gives what he does not have." We cannot bring God to others if we do not have Him ourselves. The opposite of this expression is also true. It is powerful and life transforming. "We cannot help but give Him whom we have." If we have the Lord, then we cannot keep Him from others. Our very being will not allow us to keep the joy within us secret. The spring of water within us will well up to Eternal Life.
Today's Gospel calls us to remember the Source of our Joy. It reminds us that we do not have to settle with putting up with life. Jesus has given us mercy and compassion. Jesus has transformed our lives. Like the woman at the conclusion of the reading, we live in the joy of the Lord.
If we drink the water that he gives us, we will thirst no more.