Our human body can live weeks without food, but only days without water. Water! Cooling, cleansing, refreshing. Whether it comes in the lake in which we swim, in the rain which moistens the ground, or in the cup from which we drink, water indeed is life-giving. Little wonder that for Jesus, living in hot, dry Palestine, water signified life–not just refreshed physical life, but also the life which flows from God’s Spirit.
Centuries ago, St. Augustine testified to a truth he had come to learn only through much spiritual anguish: “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find rest in thee.” We could paraphrase Augustine’s words like this: “Our inner thirst is never quenched, O God, until we drink from your-life-giving stream.”
In our primary New Testament scripture for this Sunday (John 4:5-42), Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a public well and asks for a drink. In so doing, he crosses social, moral and religious barriers. In the conversation that follows, Jesus offers the woman living water. Their opening dialogue centers on water in both the earthly and spiritual sense. It then moves to a discussion of the woman’s personal life. Gradually the woman grows in her openness to and understanding of Jesus. Her response to him climaxes in her request for living water and her witness to Jesus among her townspeople.
Lent is a time for self-examination. Some questions we might consider: What are my ‘thirsts’? If Jesus were to probe my personal life, what would we talk about? What might ‘living water’ from God mean for me?