February 24, 2008


Give me a drink. – John 4: 7

The subsequent conversation makes it clear that Jesus is not talking about physical water. Our Lord Himself is the living water of eternal life looking for someone who is thirsty for it. When the thirsty drink from the water Jesus offers, Jesus Himself gets a drink. By the end of this exchange, Jesus will have His drink, for he is talking to a thirsty woman.

The water our Lord gives quenches spiritual thirst in such a way that it never reoccurs. Eternal life, you see, just keeps on giving. The woman at the well is spiritually thirsty because she has never found a true husband to give her the kind of love she really needs.

What she has yet to discover is that her future true husband is talking to her. Jesus points out how all her husbands have been unable to give her life, how her search for true love has failed. This is what a prophet does: unmasks the false promises of idols. Now she perceives that Jesus is not just a Jewish man but also a prophet. Her insight is deepening. Eventually, it will lead her to recognize that He is far more than a prophet. When she returns to town, it is to bring Him more water to quench his thirst for souls.

His disciples, by contrast, remain obtuse. They may marvel at His behavior, but they do not ask questions. They remain at the level of the literal & the material. When they offer the food they have brought, He makes it clear what it is that really refreshes Him: He feeds on God’s will & work, which is to give divine life to people. To feast on this kind of food it is not necessary to wait for the harvest season. It is available now in the person of the woman & those people she brought back with her.

This remains just as true now as it did then. In her handwritten rules she was proposing for the as yet unrealized Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa of Calcutta begins with these words: “The general end of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for love & souls ….” Note that His thirst is for both love & souls.

This echoes the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, & indeed, it played a significant role in Mother’s spirituality. It is hard for us who are so accustomed to indifference, hardness of heart & lethargy to even begin to appreciate the enormity of God’s love for us. We are like the disciples in today’s Gospel story: obtuse.

It would be fair to say that we have to be hit hard over the head with it before we even take notice. People like Mother Teresa herself is one way God has of getting our attention. At other times, it may take a traumatic experience to get our attention. EVEN THEN, we can resist giving in to something so wonderful, so glorious, that we scarce believe it.

Not unreasonably, we fear what it might mean for us if we gave in. Therein lies the irony: we fear the one thing that can make life gloriously worth while. It is our pride, our selfishness, that gets in the way of the most important happening of our lives. Our Lord thirsts for us – ALL of us, not just the little part we are willing to share with Him. That’s how voracious His thirst is. If He cannot get it from us, He will find someone else like the woman at the well to bless. Where do we stand? AMEN!