Water, water, everywhere
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF LENT, March 12, 2023:
As many of you know, I just returned yesterday afternoon from a 10 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This was my first time visiting the land where Jesus literally lived and among other things the visit gave me a new appreciation for the physicality of the land of God’s Chosen People. Israel is the meeting place of the desert and the Mediterranean. What this means is one moment you are in the midst of lush and green groves of olive trees and the next minute in the tan, dry, sandy desert. A perfect example of this contradiction is the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world. It has a salt content of 34%. To give you an idea how salty that is; the Atlantic Ocean is only 3.4% salinated. The Dead Sea is surrounded by the Judean Desert. Here you have this massive, beautiful body of water int the midst of a desert and yet, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
As we hear of Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well today, I have a new sense of that place and the physicality of the story that unveils before our eyes. Like many of the holy places in Israel, Samaria is an arid area that has massive cisterns dug in the ground to gather any water that it can. In the midst of this place, referring to Jacob’s Well, we hear Jesus say, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”
We all know what it is like to thirst, but the more important thirsts in life aren’t the physical ones, but the spiritual ones we encounter. Our Scriptures remind us today that we don’t always look to the best source when it comes to satisfying our spiritual thirsts. It is like drinking a glass of water from the Dead Sea and hoping it will quench our thirst. It can never do that for us. In fact, it will only leave us more thirsty.
We find many references to the spiritual life as a thirst for God in the Old Testament. Psalm 42, for example, says, “As the deer longs for running streams, so my soul thirsts for the living God.” From Isaiah we hear God say, “Come to me, all you who are thirsty.” Jeremiah compared God to “a spring of cool water.” We all feel a thirst for God. This isn’t new. It is the same inner thirst that people have experienced since the beginning of time. The great Church father, St. Augustine explained it this way, “Our hearts are made for God, and they will not rest, until they rest in Him.” Another way of saying this is that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill.
And this is the dilemma of our times. We spend our time trying to fill that God-shaped hole with things other than God. We try and quench our spiritual thirst with things that can never get the job done. The human heart has an intrinsic thirst for God; for spiritual things. But, in our world today, instead of satisfying it with God’s presence, we try and satisfy it with material things. Trying to satisfy the thirst for God with materialism is like trying to satisfy a physical thirst with water from the Dead Sea. The more we drink, the thirstier we get.
The point is that worldly success alone, leaves us empty; leaves us thirsty. There is something inside us that cannot be satisfied this way. St. Augustine called it spiritual restlessness. Others have called it an absence of meaning; or an inner void. But, it all comes down to the same thing. In every human heart there is a thirst no water can quench. There is a restlessness no success can satisfy. There is a void that no material object can ever fill.
And this is the Good News that Jesus shares in today’s Gospel as He encounters the woman at the well. The symbolism in our passage reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the thirst in our hearts. We remember that numbers are often meaningful in biblical interpretation. According to biblical symbolism, six is a number of imperfection, of lack, of deficiency. Notice that the woman in her sixth marriage is, therefore, in a situation of lack and deficiency. Seven, on the other hand, is a number of perfection, completion, and finality. Jesus arrives as the seventh man in this woman’s life. Perfect. She opens up to Him and finally experiences the satisfaction of all of her soul's desiring, the full quenching of her spiritual thirst.
Why does Jesus make such a tremendous impact on the woman? Because for the first time in her life she meets a man who really understands her. In her excitement she forgets her water jar and her physical thirst and runs back to the village inviting the villagers to come and see “a man who told me everything I have ever done” - probably the first man to know her so well without rejecting her. Before you know it, the convert has become the missionary bringing others to Jesus and to the joyful experience of faith.
Isn't this the kind of experience we wish for ourselves during Lent? Jesus offers us today the same satisfaction as He does the woman at the well. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.” Jesus, and Jesus alone, can calm the restlessness of our souls. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can satisfy the thirst in our hearts. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can fill the void in our lives. Jesus is the Son of God, who has come to fill that God-shaped hole in each of us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who has come to calm that restlessness of our hearts. Jesus is the water from heaven, who has come to satisfy that spiritual thirst we feel.
Or more succinctly, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Jesus, you are enough for me.” You are all that I need. Lord Jesus, You are the life-giving water for which we thirst. You are the happiness and success for which we strive. You are the peace and joy for which we search. Lord Jesus, our hearts were made for You, and they will not rest until they rest in You.
Let us turn to Jesus alone to satisfy our thirsty hearts. He is enough for us.
May God give you peace.
Leave a Reply.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.