Saturday, March 26, 2011

My soul thirsts for You my God

HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT, March 27, 2011:
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“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.” When I was 16 years old, I spent a summer working on an apple and peach orchard in Acushnet. I really enjoyed the work - it was an outdoors job, and although hard physical work, it was a lot of fun. But, it got pretty hot after 8-10 hours in the sun in July pruning trees or picking fruit. After a few hours in the sun, I would daily an ice-cold Coke in a few seconds flat. It didn’t take many days on that job to start realizing that I would be thirsty very quickly after, and even more thirsty than the first time. The reason of course is all the sodium in canned soda that was just absorbing the fluid as quickly as it went in. The soda was not satisfying my thirst in the hot summer sun – it was just leaving me more thirsty.

We all know what it is like to thirst, but the more important thirsts in life aren’t the physical ones, but the spiritual ones we encounter. Our Scriptures remind us today that we don’t always look to the best source when it comes to satisfying our spiritual thirsts.

We find many references to the spiritual life as a thirst for God in the Old Testament. Psalm 42 says, “As the deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I…thirst for You, the living God.” Isaiah prophecies that God said, “Come to me, all you who are thirsty.” Jeremiah compared God to “a spring of cool water.” We all feel a thirst for God. It isn’t new. It is the same inner thirst that people have experienced since the beginning of time. The great Church father, St. Augustine explained it this way, “Our hearts are made for God, and they will not rest, until they rest in Him.” Another way of saying this is that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill.

And this is the dilemma of our times. We spend our time trying to fill that God-shaped hole with things other than God. We try and quench our spiritual thirst for God with things that can never get the job done. The human heart has an intrinsic thirst for God; for spiritual things. But, in our world today, instead of satisfying it with God’s presence, we try and satisfy it with material things. Trying to satisfy the thirst for God with materialism is like trying to satisfy a physical thirst with a can of Coca Cola or a glass of salt water. The more we drink, the thirstier we get.

The point is that worldly success alone, leaves us empty; leaves us thirsty. There is something inside us that cannot be satisfied by material things. St. Augustine called it spiritual restlessness. Others have called it an absence of meaning; or an inner void. But, it all comes down to the same thing. In every human heart there is a thirst no water can quench. There is a restlessness no success can satisfy. There is a void that no material object can ever fill.

And this is the Good News that Jesus shares in today’s Gospel as He encounters the woman at the well. The symbolism in our passage is there to remind us that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the thirst in our hearts. Numbers are often significant in biblical interpretation. According to the biblical symbolism of numbers, six is a number of imperfection, of lack, of deficiency. The woman in her sixth marriage is, therefore, in a situation of lack and deficiency. Seven, on the other hand, is a number of perfection, completion, finality and sufficiency. Jesus comes to this woman as the seventh man in her life. She opens up to Him and finally experiences the satisfaction of all of her soul's desiring, the full quenching of her spiritual thirst.

Why does Jesus make such a tremendous impact on the woman? Because for the first time in her life she meets a man who really understands her. In her excitement she forgets her water jar and physical thirst and runs back to the village inviting the villagers to come and see “a man who told me everything I have ever done” - probably the first man to know her so well without rejecting her. Before you know it the convert has become the missionary bringing others to Jesus and to the joyful experience of faith.

Isn't this the kind of experience we wish for ourselves during Lent? Jesus offers us the same satisfaction as He does the woman at the well. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”

Jesus, and Jesus alone, can calm the restlessness of our souls. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can satisfy the thirst in our hearts. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can fill the void in our lives. Jesus is the Son of God, who has come to fill that God-shaped hole in each of us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who has come to calm that restlessness of our hearts. Jesus is the water from heaven, who has come to satisfy that spiritual thirst we feel.

Lord Jesus, You are the life-giving water for which we thirst. You are the happiness and success for which we strive. You are the peace and joy for which we search. Lord Jesus, our hearts were made for You, and they will not rest until they rest in You. What will you turn to, to satisfy your thirsty heart and soul and life? Let it be Jesus.

May God give you peace.

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