Spirituality of the Readings
In the Gospel Jesus asks a woman to draw delicious well-water for him to drink. She hesitates. She is Samaritan.
Her story is many-sided, but what catches me is Jesus’ saying about water soothing our thirst. Thirst, which is ever present on this blue planet.
I remember bicycling with a friend out in the countryside on a very hot day. We had not counted on one particular hill that would continue to rise up before us, a very long and unremitting one. We worked and worked and worked and at last achieved the top. Hurray! But heat and humidity had sucked the moisture out of us, so we were parched. Remarkably parched. Off to the left stood a farmhouse or residence of some kind. Hey, why not go ask for a drink of water?
Because the house itself was at the top of another hill, and we saw four hundred steps leading up to it. Ok not four hundred, but very many. How could we put ourselves through still another Olympic ordeal and mount these steep stairs in order to subject some innocent citizen to our begging?
No problem. We clambered up the steps, knocked at the door, received greetings from a most gracious lady who could think of nothing more delightful than to bring us each a big glass of cool, wet water. Aaaaahhhhhh. Drink it to the bottom. Savor it, be refreshed.
Nothing else in the world could have tasted so delicious and so satisfying as that water. We were craving what our bodies ached for, and we got a kindly answer.
Then off and away (after retracing the steps)!
It seems that human beings have a thirst for something even more profound than that welcome drenching. As St. Paul puts it in the Second Reading, we thirst for “the love poured forth from God in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.”
Love. This is a primordial need. Very like the need for water in this respect. But it is “a God-sized hole” within us, a yearning for the greatest love there is.
Jesus says he will put a flowing fountain of such water right inside the Samaritan woman. It will slake her thirst forever!
Often you and I will use other lesser ways to try and satisfy this great need of the soul. Looks, accomplishment, work, other persons, sex, drink, food, alcohol, and so on. These are all good in themselves. Yet taken to excess they lose their power to help us. Even at their best they leave us humming the famous line, “Is that all there is?”
No, that is not all there is. We are each built in such a way that we shrivel without real love. Our small selves have been fitted with a soul that opens wide to love and especially to the greatest love of all, God. So we have to tease this center of depth open within us. Whatever careful steps will get us there. We need Lenten quiet, self-denial, the re-fitting of our lives, and even being at peace with our losses.
In other words, we must bicycle our way to the top of the great hill, clamber up endless stairs and get ourselves to knock on God’s door and wait.
Maybe Jesus will answer the door …
… and give us “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University