Today’s readings reflect themes of water and thirst. When you are thirsty, your cells are crying out for water! Thirst is a healthy sign that signals the need to hydrate our body. But we also hear today about living water. Are we thirsty for this water? Can it permeate our souls to rejuvenate us?
In the first reading, one sympathizes with the people of Israel as they wander in a desert country with livestock and children in tow. It may seem easy to pull out a bottle of water for the family. But how do you satisfy thirsty cattle and flocks with water?
A cow can drink over ten gallons of water a day – and more when it is hot. We recently installed a standby generator on our farm to ensure that our well is always able to pump water for our cattle. A power outage could lead to disastrous results if tanks go dry. Our ancient predecessors in the faith found themselves in a similar situation.
But their healthy desire for water also revealed an unhealthy disposition. By blaming Moses and accusing him of treachery, they show a loss of faith. They experienced miracle after miracle in their journey out of Egypt, but they apparently needed more assurance. As it says in the Psalm, “they tested me though they had seen my works.”
From the safe perspective of hindsight, this may sound childish. But I have been there, done that, too. God was patient with them. He did not smite them, but instead provided another miraculous sign of His love and care.
Nevertheless, we recount their story as a lesson about hardness of heart, a loss of faith that seems to form an impermeable membrane between the water of God’s love and our thirsty souls. Fear and doubt keep the water from refreshing us, and we stay thirsty. Or worse yet, we may lose our sense of thirst entirely and go about as though we are satisfied, when instead we are dying from our lack of living water.
How different is the reaction of the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel! She likely had a hard-knock life. She was getting her water alone rather than with friends, a sign of alienation within her community. This alienation led her to a unique encounter with Jesus. Jesus put some uncomfortable truths before her. Instead of making excuses or blaming others, she responded with openness. In doing so, she allowed the living water to enter and change her life.
Paul’s letter to the Romans further affirms truth that we must hold: God’s love is poured out in our hearts to bring life to our thirsty souls. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we forget God’s love, this sign reminds us. The Holy Spirit is at work within and among us to refresh this truth.
In this Lenten season, let us open our hearts to life-giving water. When uncomfortable truths emerge, let us respond with repentance, not excuses. And if we doubt God’s love, let us pause and recall the many signs that God has placed in our lives, the greatest of which is the gift of his Son to bring us life with Him forever. Thanks be to God.
O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.