Murphy and his two brothers would meet at the end of each work day and the local pub to share a pint. This was their tradition. But, then, each of the brothers got great jobs overseas, one moving to Australia, the other to America. But, they made a pact to continue their tradition. Wherever they were in the world, they would go into a local pub and order three pints – one for themselves and one for each of their brothers. Murphy continued this tradition every day for months and years and even became known as Three Pints Murphy. But, then one day, he walked into the pub, sat down at the bar and said, “I’ll have two pints.” Concerned, the bartender leaned in and said, “My gosh, Murph. What’s happened? Has one of your brothers died? You only ordered two pints!” Murphy brushed him aside and said, “Oh, no, my brothers are just fine. It’s just….I’ve given up drinking for Lent.”
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 running streams, so my soul thirsts for the living God.” From Isaiah we hear God say, “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.
Or more succinctly, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “Jesus, You are enough for me.” You are all that I need. 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.
Let us turn to Jesus alone to satisfy our thirsty hearts. He is enough for us.
May God give you peace.