Jesus’ thirst and our thirst
In the Gospel this coming Sunday, the Third Sunday of Lent, we hear the famous conversation of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well. It is one of the most profound passages of the Bible and especially appropriate for our meditation during this season of Lent.
I invite you to read and meditate on this famous passage in chapter 4 of Saint John’s Gospel. Jesus is thirsty and asks the woman for a drink. Naturally, Jesus was physically thirsty since he had been traveling through the region on a presumably hot day. But His thirst was also deeper. He deeply thirsted for the salvation of the Samaritan woman. Saint Augustine wrote: Although Jesus asked for a drink, His real thirst was for this woman’s faith. Yes, Jesus thirsts and continues to thirst for our faith and our love. He said from the cross: I thirst. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta often meditated on these words, recognizing their deeper meaning.
The thirst of Jesus was a central theme of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life. In fact, in every chapel of the Missionaries of Charity throughout the world, the words of Jesus I thirst are displayed beneath an arm of the crucifix. Mother Teresa wrote: It is very important for us to know that Jesus is thirsting for our love, for the love of the whole world. … Ask yourself: Have I heard Jesus directly say this word to me personally? Did I ever hear that word personally: ‘I thirst.’ ‘I want your love.’ … If not, examine yourself: why could I not hear?
Mother Teresa spoke often of Jesus’ thirst for our love, our affection, our intimate attachment to Him, and our sharing of His passion. She wrote about God thirsting for us to come forward to satiate His thirst. How? By spreading the Love of His Heart and so satiating His thirst for souls.
God thirsts for our faith and our love. He wants us to find our authentic happiness in Him. And He wants us to bring that faith, love, and joy to others.
Like Jesus and like the Samaritan woman, we also thirst. Just as we may at times experience a physical thirst for water since it is indispensable for life, there is also a spiritual thirst in each of us that God alone can satisfy. The Samaritan woman eventually also asks Jesus for water because He spoke to her about the living water He would give. Our Lord spoke to her of a “living water” able to quench her thirst and become in her “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” She is thirsty for that water, as we all are. It is the living water of the Holy Spirit, the water that satisfies our infinite thirst. In every person, there is an inherent need for God, a thirst that only He can quench.
Pope Francis has written the following: The Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God’s life in us. Man of every time and place desires a full and beautiful life, just and good, a life that is not threatened by death but can still mature and grow to fullness. Man is like a traveler who, crossing the deserts of life, thirsts for the living water: gushing and fresh, capable of quenching his deep desire for light, love, beauty, and peace. We all feel this desire! And Jesus gives us this living water: He is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and whom Jesus pours out into our hearts. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus tells us (John 10:10).
God the Father sent His Son to quench our thirst for eternal life. He gave us His love. But to give us this gift, Jesus asks for our faith. Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts and waits patiently for our answer.
This Gospel has a special significance for our catechumens who are preparing for Baptism. As the Samaritan woman was enlightened and converted to the faith, so are our catechumens. They prepare to receive the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit at Baptism during the Easter Vigil. In Baptism, they will be reborn by water and by the Holy Spirit and enabled to worship God, as Jesus said to the woman at the well, “in spirit and in truth.”
All of us on this Lenten journey, though already baptized, are still on a journey of faith and conversion. The Gospel of the woman at the well still speaks to us. It can move us to rediscover the meaning of our life in Christ who calls us to renew our profession of faith in Him. When the Samaritan woman’s life was transformed by her encounter with Jesus, she ran to take the Good News to her people. She became “a missionary disciple.” This is what Pope Francis is calling all of us to be, not just disciples of Jesus, but missionary disciples.
Lent is a time for us to be renewed in the grace of our Baptism. Let us pray for one another during our Lenten journey towards Easter!