I have to make a confession (not the sacramental kind, FYI). This week’s homily was pretty heavily recycled from last year, with maybe a few changes. Sorry. But hey, recycling is good, right? Besides, my parishioners here haven’t heard it yet, and I’m banking that any parishioners from last year either don’t remember or weren’t paying attention when I gave it. So here you go!
A few years ago, my family and I were on a cruise, and one of the stops was Jamaica. Now my dad and I had been very careful not to drink the water there, so we hadn’t been drinking anything. But we saw some place that was selling Coca-Cola. And I love me some Coca-Cola. And it was bottled and sealed, so we didn’t think anything of it and enjoyed a nice, cold, Coca-Cola Classic. The next day, though, both of us were sick as dogs. It turns out, to our thinking at least, that it was the ice used to cool them that was the problem. It was made from the Jamaican tap water, and so when it melted, it made us sick. Terrible. I never want to do that again. So you have to be careful. Sometimes, things that look good and that will quench your thirst will really only make you sick. Sometimes, you can drink something that looks good, but tastes horrible – that’s why you always smell the milk in the bottle before drinking it. Sometimes you drink things that just make you more and more thirsty, like drinking that carbonated mineral water like they have in Europe. But the point is, that sometimes, even though things look like they’re going to satisfy our thirst, like that coke, they really do us more harm than good.
Today, we hear the story about the Samaritan woman at the well. We know a few things about her from the clues of the Gospel, but the most important thing is that she was thirsty. She wanted water that would last. But we’re told that she has had five husbands, and with her current one, she didn’t even bother to get married! Typically, women in Gospel times went to the well in the morning to get their water, and they would stand around chatting and gossiping, and braiding each other’s hair, and all the things you crazy women do when you get together. It was much cooler in the morning, so they would go as early as possible to avoid the heat. And the fact that this woman from the Gospel was going at noon meant she really must have wanted to keep away from the rest of the women. She most likely earned her money from a less respectable job, and not selling bootleg DVD’s, if you know what I mean. This woman was an outcast, and so by living water, she thinks Jesus means running water or fresh water, which she thinks is a good deal, so she doesn’t have to come to the well anymore and face the shame. But she is also thirsting for something more. She’d been thirsting for comfort, for acceptance, and for love her whole life, but in all the wrong places. In each of those failed relationships, she’d been looking for something lasting or fulfilling, but for some reason, she couldn’t find it. She has a deeper thirst, a deeper desire, one for meaning and purpose. She and the people she’s been living with have been wandering through a spiritual desert, like the Israelites in our first reading, with their souls slowly dying from a death of frustration, boredom, meaninglessness, and pain.
Many of us have similar thirsts. We have an unquenchable desire for meaning and fulfillment, and most of the time, we don’t know where to look, so we have a few different kinds of “water” that we turn to. Sometimes, we turn to things that look great, like that European carbonated mineral water, but even after we’ve filled ourselves with all that the bottle has to offer, we find ourselves still looking for more. These are things like money, fame, or affirmation from other people. No matter how much money or fame we have, or how often people might compliment us, we end up looking for more in an unquenchable cycle of thirst. And so we only find ourselves back at square one, looking for something else.
Other times, we’ll turn to things that might look good from the outside, but are really rotten and smell to high heavens, like that rotten milk. These are things like pornography or drug usage. We try to dress them up as much as we can, convince ourselves that it’s really only one time, or that we don’t have anything else to drink from, so we just choke it down. But in the end, we know in our heart of hearts that it’s rotten, and that it will leave us in a worse position than we began with.
Sometimes we turn to things that taste great and are refreshing at the time, giving us all the pleasure that we need or want – like that Coca-Cola – but afterward, we feel terrible, empty, sick, lifeless. The Samaritan woman found this, trying to satisfy her thirst with husbands, partners, people she claimed to love, but who were just objects in the end, meant to quench her thirst for something more. We can fall into this as well, replacing meaningful or lasting relationships with people we love with other relationships, which although they seem like true friends, really lead us to a sickening and nauseating end, and usually result in something wrong and sinful.
So what kind of water should we seek? Even when all of our physical thirsts and desires are satisfied – the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect family – we pause for a moment of reflection, and think to ourselves, “I’m still thirsty.” What kind of water will satisfy us? What kind of water can we drink from that doesn’t leave us sick or depressed? What kind of water can we turn to at any time, anywhere, and for anything, which will comfort and console us more than any earthly water can? The answer, of course, is Christ. Ultimately, we thirst for Christ. And equally important, if not moreso, is that Christ thirsts for us as well! As the Catechism teaches us, “Man is made to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness.” Christ goes to the well of our hearts, and asks us, “Give me a drink.” If we choose to give him the water of our hearts, turning everything over to him, embracing the fact that only Christ can quench the innermost thirst of our souls, we ourselves become fountains of the living water. We abandon ourselves to God and become flowing rivers of His love. We satisfy other’s thirsts by living a life of the Gospel, promoting social justice and spreading the truth of the Gospel by our words and actions. When we live a life as a fountain of the living water, we attract other people to Christ, just as the woman at the well did. We won’t have to worry about getting sick from the water that Christ provides for us, because even from the very beginning of the world, God the Father created us to be quenched by this water.
During this season of Lent, as we near the Cross, where satisfying water and blood poured forth from the side of Christ, let us reflect on our thirst. In what areas of our lives are we still thirsty? Where will we choose to turn when we’re thirsty? What sort of drinks have we been turning to? The answer is, and must be, Christ. So now, let us turn to the Eucharist, let us turn to Christ himself, in his body, blood, soul, and divinity, and drink fully of the Lord’s satisfying water.