Dear brothers and sisters, “In their thirst … the people grumbled;” so we hear in the first reading from the book of Exodus (Exodus 17:3).
Within human nature we find that there are many thirsts. There is, of course, the thirst for liquid nourishment, but there is also the thirst for money, for power, for knowledge, for possessions, for friendship, for love.
In all of these thirsts there is a longing, a desire, for something more than which is present.
Each of these thirsts, though, never seems to be satisfied. We continually need more water; those who thirst for money, power, knowledge or possessions never seem to have enough; friendships often weaken and love is lost. And so, we, too, in our thirst, grumble.
Each of our thirsts for physical or earthly things is really nothing more than a mask over the thirst for authentic love. We trick ourselves into believing that money or fame or power or carnal pleasure will bring us the happiness, the love, for which we thirst most deeply; yet the more we drink from these false waters the more thirsty we become, the more we thirst to be loved, truly and fully.
Standing at Jacob’s well, Jesus alludes to this deeper thirst when he said to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again” (John 4:13).
Is this not the very reason she found herself at the well at Noon, at the hottest point of the day when no one else was there? She had tried to satisfy her thirst for friendship and love and had found only heartache and ruin. In her thirst, as Jesus says, she “had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” (John 4:18). She was, as Waylon Jennings sings, “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
In her, we see the truth of what Pope Benedict XVI has said: “In the heart of every man, begging for love, there is a thirst for love;” we are all beggars for love (Homily, 29 March 2007).
Indeed, it was because of her thirst that Jesus met that woman at the well, and he comes to meet each of us at the wells that we have dug, as well, at those places where we hope to quench our thirst.
He said to her, and he says to each of us, “Give me a drink,” because he thirsts for our love even as we thirst for his (John 4:7). From the Cross he called out, “I thirst” (John 19:28)! “On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us” (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007).
As he meets us, Jesus says to us, “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” (John 4:14). When we beg for his life and accept the love he has come to give, we say to him with that woman, “Give me this water” (John 4:15).
But where are to find this water? We find it by looking first to that rock struck by Moses. The Lord said to him, “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink” (Exodus 17:6). Clearly this was no ordinary rock!
The rabbis tell us that not only did that rock give water to drink, but it followed the Israelites as well! What, then, is this rock? Saint Paul has the answer.
He says, “All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:4). When Moses struck the rock he struck Christ, a great foreshadowing of what was to come.
As Jesus hung dead on the cross, “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). As we look upon him whom they have pierced, Jesus looks down lovingly on us and says, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as Scripture says, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers or living water’” (John 7:38).
It is here in the Church where we find this living water, for the blood and water that poured forth from the side of Christ was a symbol of the Church and the Sacraments. Here in the Eucharist his living water flows and wells up as a spring in the souls of those who receive his precious Body and Blood in a worthy and humble manner. In the presence of such a love,
What other response can we give to a love so great, if not that of a heart that is open and ready to love? But what does it mean to love Christ? It means trusting him even in times of trial, following him faithfully even in the Via Crucis, in the hope that soon the morning of the Resurrection will come. Entrusting ourselves to Christ, we lose nothing, we gain everything (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007).The Lord Jesus takes nothing away from us, but satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts. In these days of Lent, as we continue our increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may we recognize all the more the deep thirst we have for God and drink freely from the waters of his Sacraments. Amen.