Gospel Reflection – John 4:5-52
Last week I didn’t give a reflection at Tuesday’s Mass. Hope you weren’t disappointed. This week I won’t be giving a reflection on Tuesday either because I will be on retreat (pray for me!) However, this week I gave a reflection at the Sunday Masses, which I’ll share with you. To those of you who are keenly attentive, you may notice that John 4:5-52 is not in fact the Gospel for this Sunday, the 3rd week of Lent. Those of you who are even more keenly attentive, however, would know that’s because this is the reading chosen for the first scrutiny for RCIA catechumens.
Enough brownie points.
This reflection is on the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. What stood out to me, is that Jesus asks this woman for a drink. Seems pretty reasonable, since Jesus was tired from the journey and it was noon and presumably hot out, and as the woman noted later, He didn’t have a bucket to get water. Naturally, Jesus was probably thirsty. But the interesting thing, is there seems to be a lot more going on here than just physical thirst. In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ thirst comes up again at the crucifixion. While on the cross, nearing death, Jesus calls out, “I thirst”, to which someone responded by putting some sour wine on a branch of hyssop to give to Jesus. But is this what Jesus was thirsting for? Was Jesus really just asking the Samaritan woman for water, or for the soldiers to give Him the sour wine? In part, probably, but there is a second, deeper meaning behind why Jesus thirsts. Look at Jesus’ response when the Samaritan woman asks why He is asking her for a drink. He says, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water”. Jesus didn’t say, “because I’m thirsty, that’s why” but rather that He wants her to ask Him for a drink, so that He may give her living water. Jesus thirsts for her faith—He thirsts for her to thirst for Him, so that He may satisfy that thirst and fill her with His Spirit; with His very life. This is what Jesus asks of us. His thirst isn’t just for us to be good people, or to simply follow the commandments, or even to come to Mass on Sundays. Yes, those are good things, but Jesus doesn’t want us to do those things simply out of habit, or because we’ve been told to do so, but because of a real desire to have a deep, intimate relationship with God. Then we would want to do these things, and not think of them as a chore, but a delight! That’s the thirst Jesus desires us to have.
Do we ever find ourselves, however, loving Jesus only one hour a week? What happens when we walk out the door after Mass? Do we carry the love of Jesus in the Eucharist with us throughout the week? Do we continue to thirst for Him, or do we just return to go about our daily business? Can you imagine if we tried to have a relationship with a spouse in this way? Picture arranging an appointment with your spouse and slotting him or her in for only one hour of the week to spend some time together. For that matter, what if you noticed that your hour was almost up and you said, “Listen honey, do you mind if we hurry things up? I’d really like to beat the traffic”. But this is the kind of trap we sometimes fall into when we go to Mass. It shouldn’t be a chore, or a piece of our lives we just need to fit in between the rest of our lives, but it should be one of many places that our hearts call out to, thankful for every moment we can have with our Lord.
If we want to really thirst for Jesus then, what can we do? Well, just like in any relationship, we have to get to know God if we want to desire Him, and we have to spend time with Him if we want to get to know Him. A wonderful way to better know God is by reading the Scriptures. Now, let’s admit it, we’re pretty bad as Catholics at reading the Bible outside of what we hear read during Mass. But if we take the time to read Scripture, we will come to know that we aren’t just reading a bunch of stories, but that we are coming in contact with the living Word of God. It’s like, if you imagine if you could take Jesus, and write Him down on paper and put it in a book, that would be the Bible! In it we can come to see who God is, and how He loves us. Now I think what would then follow naturally is reconciliation. If you think about it, if we really come to know God more intimately—who He is, and the way that He loves, the more that we should see in ourselves how we may have spurned God’s love, rejected God’s love, trampled upon, or even ignored God’s love. What’s more, in the sacrament of Reconciliation, we also come in contact with Jesus in the priest. When we hear those words, “I absolve you of your sins…”, that is the very mouth of Jesus Himself who is saying to you, “I forgive you”.
Last of all, one of the greatest ways we can grow in intimacy with God and in our thirst for Him, is to grow in love for the Eucharist. It’s easy to become complacent at Mass and start checking off in our minds what things we have to take care of at home later, but let us rather try to call ourselves to attention, and really consider how intimate an experience it is to receive communion. If we really think about it, God, the Creator of the universe, the Maker of all things, He who created you, all other living creatures, and every single speck and atom that exists—this God—humbles Himself down to take on the appearance of ordinary bread and wine, just so that we may receive Him, so that we may literally have God’s life within us. That is what Jesus desired of the Samaritan woman. That is what He thirsted for. He wanted her to thirst for Him so that He may give her His very life, that it may become a spring of living water gushing forth in her… in us.
So when we see the priest raise up the host, and raise up the chalice at the time of consecration, we can picture in our hearts Jesus up on the cross as He calls out to each of us individually and says, “I thirst! … I thirst for you! I thirst that you may thirst for me, so that I may fill you with my life which I have given up for you, that it may become a spring of living water which quenches you like no other water could, so that you may see that there is nothing else you need, and that nothing else could ever satisfy you, but the love of God”.