The Scripture Readings for Sunday speak of a key desire within us, a longing, a craving. The best illustration for this desire is the thirst for water.
We can fast from food but not from water. In the Gospel Jesus uses water as a symbol for the Samaritan woman, in speaking to her about satisfying her thirst forever; about putting a flowing fountain of water inside her. He is referring to the longing each of us has deep within for “the love poured forth from God in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.” That is the way Paul presents it in the Second Reading. This need of ours is much like thirst except that it is more subtle. We use many other substitutes to fill it. Food, work, exercise, appearance, accomplishment, alcohol, people, sexual satisfaction, and so on. But they do not satisfy. Once attained, they leave us singing the famous line “Is that all there is?”
It is not. Our small selves are constructed with a soul that can open wide enough to admit the very presence of God himself.
Thirst led the Samaritan woman not only to a well, but to Jesus who would refresh her spirit and renew her world. It was the same thirst that drew her through all the detours, all the lovers of her life. If she had only realized, Jesus said, that he himself was the living water, the fulfillment of every hope; the hope that does not disappoint.
At the well, Jesus was the unexpected visitor who welcomed her. He was the alien who became most intimate. He was the unknown who would know her most deeply.
St. Augustine wrote that the very one who asks for a drink promises a drink (Tractates on the Gospel of John 15:12). The very one who seems to be in need, hoping to receive, is the one who is rich, wanting to give, wanting to satisfy our deepest thirsts. “…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst. The water that I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Open, receptive, believing, and yielding to Jesus’ word, the Samaritan woman’s thirst was quenched.
Nothing else can satisfy our heart’s thirst for God except God. Let us pray with the Samaritan woman, “Sir, give me this water.”
You, Lord, were within me, while I was outside.
It was there that I sought you.
I rushed headlong upon these things of beauty that you made.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They kept me far from you, those fair things which,
if they were not in you, would not exist at all!
St. Augustine, Confessions, 10, 27