Fr. Steve talked about two significant movements in the spiritual life that are spelled out again and again in the Sacred Scriptures……..Our God’s movement to us and our movement to God. They are often at play in the stories of Sacred Scripture. Today’s gospel is no exception.
I’M THIRSTY. The image of thirst is an image that is used throughout the Scriptures. As a deer thirsts for running streams, so I thirst for you my God. My soul thirsts for you like a parched land without water. Let all who are thirsty come to the water. (Isaiah) In the first reading the people of Israel are crying out to Moses, “We are dying of thirst get us out of this wretched land.” They are a thirsty people, but they thirst for much more than water. Then of course, this image is all over the gospel text today. Jesus is asking the Samaritan woman for a drink; she is coming out to the well in the heat of the day for drinking water. If you leave this image of thirst only on the practical level, you are leaving far too much on the table. This story and the stories of Scripture are ultimately about our great thirst. We all thirst for Living Water – the Samaritan woman embodies all human beings in their thirst for God. Like her, we try to quench this thirst in misdirected ways.
Yet, we are not the only one who’s thirsty. Jesus on the cross in the agony of dying says, “I thirst!” He is sharing in our thirst for God and at the same time he is thirsting to bring all humanity to the Father through the agony of the cross. This theme is foreshadowed in today’s gospel when Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink!” This is at heart of the spiritual life: where two thirsts meet – God’s thirst for us and our thirst for God. In today’s gospel Jesus is thirsting for the Samaritan woman’s faith and her response. Salvation occurs when our desire unites with God’s desire. [The good news is this: even when we are running away from God, God continues to pursue us thirsting for a drink and a response. God does not give up on us. (story of the prodigal son)]
When Jesus says to the Samaritan woman give me a drink, initially, she is put off by the question. She is insulted by the question because a Jewish man of Jesus’ day would have had nothing to do with a woman in public. Jesus does not give up, he engages her further by saying, If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. Living water is grace – God’s life! There is that continuous play between our earthly passions/desire and our ultimate desire for God. We are wired for God. As St. Augustine has said, “You made us for yourself. Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” We seek to quench this thirst in all sorts of ways – yet, ultimately, only God can quench this thirst.
The Samaritan woman is a symbol of all of us when our deep desire gets hooked into an errant desire and we try to find our fulfillment in something less than God. Of course, this happens all the time: money –seek, seek, seek and it doesn’t satisfy us, so we want more and we never have enough. Sex – seek, seek, seek – it doesn’t satisfy us, so we want more. Yet, we are never fulfilled. Power over others – seek, seek, seek – doesn’t satisfy, left unfulfilled. Esteem of others, - seek, seek, seek - doesn’t satisfy, left unfulfilled. She symbolizes all of us and our errant desires. She is bringing to the well the empty bucket of our desires that fails to satisfy. And that bucket can only be filled with living water- life in God- God’s grace.
Jesus says, “I will give you living water, make me the source from which you drink.” Jesus is basically saying to the Samaritan woman, “I want to be your husband. I want to be the one to lead your life.” This is not unlike nuns who would say that they were married to Christ – for he is the one leading their lives. They often wear a wedding ring symbolizing that they are totally committed to Jesus – he is their spouse. In a very real way, this should be the same for every disciple.
The Samaritan woman, leaves her empty jar at the well (there is something significant in that), she runs into the city with her thirst quenched and she announces Jesus Christ. Come see a man who told me everything I have done. She is considered the first evangelist in the gospel of John. She is bringing others to Christ. She knows where to find the living water. And she brings others to this life giving water.
Is our deep thirst quenched with the Lord? And do we share the Good News with others?