It’s interesting to see the phrases that beverage companies will use to sell their products. They’re kind of fun, kind of entertaining, and believe it or not, they work! That’s why we all loved watching the Bud Light commercials during the Super Bowl over the past few years. There are so many good slogans that they’ll use.
- Coke – “Open happiness.”, “Life tastes good.”, “Can’t beat the feeling”
- “Revives and sustains.” – from Coke in 1905, back when the Cubs were still good.
- Bud Light – “Where there’s life, there’s Bud.”
- Guinness – “Out of the darkness comes light.”
- Sprite – “Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.”
The way these ads talk about it, they almost sound biblical, like these things are the secrets to true fulfillment and will satisfy even the deepest thirst. But the funny thing is, if they actually did that, these companies would be out of business. No matter how many Cokes or Bud Lights or Guinesses or Sprites you drink, sooner or later, you’re going to go back for more. That’s why you have a fridge. That’s why Pepsi comes in 24 packs. That’s why the Fish Fry seems to constantly be reloading the keg of Bud Light on Fridays. You always need more!
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. In fact, when Jesus starts talking about living water, or running water, she’s sarcastically excited, because it means that she won’t have to keep coming to the well anymore!
But clearly, the woman is thirsting in a different way. The thirst she has isn’t of the body, but of the soul. 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. She is also thirsting for something more. She’d been thirsting for comfort, for acceptance, and for love her whole life, but can never seem to satisfy her thirst. 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.
There are a lot of people like that in this world. Most people follow the advice of Sprite and obey their thirst. They drink up from what people call love, what people call happiness, what people call meaning and significance. But love, happiness, and meaning is often defined by people who don’t know the meaning of those words. 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 turn to things that can’t satisfy us. They look great, but when we fill ourselves, they leave us wanting more. These are things like money, fame, and affirmation. 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, back at the great metaphysical refrigerator, looking for something more.
A few years ago, I spent a few months helping out at the childcare center for the Missionaries of Charity in North City, and everywhere I looked, I saw the phrase, “I thirst”. I was curious as to the reason for it being everywhere, and sister explained to me that it comes from a beautiful prayer composed by Blessed Theresa of Calcutta. Now without looking at it, we might mistake the prayer for speaking about what we thirst for, but Mother Theresa took what we’ve just be talking about with this woman at the well, and flips it on it’s head. Remember, the whole story of the Gospel begins with Jesus wanting something to drink. The title is taken from John 19:28, the crucifixion scene. The thirst belongs to Christ. And he doesn’t come to us to satisfy his own thirst, but to satisfy ours. So Blessed Theresa writes:
“No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you…All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before…Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”
Brothers and sisters, Christ does indeed thirst for us. He longs for us. He wants to fulfill us and make us happy. 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? 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.