Lent 3 Sun (SCRUTINIES) 2016
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center
What are you thirsty for?
The children of Israel, wandering long in the desert, had grown thirsty. So thirsty they thought they were going to die. So thirsty they thought it might be better to return to the bondage and slavery they endured in Egypt rather than have their thirst go unquenched. We’re like them. Whoever we are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty. What are you thirsty for?
We thirst for love, for understanding, for justice and for peace. We thirst for security, for acceptance and a sense of belonging. We thirst for comfort and rest – for holiness, freedom from temptation, and distance from sin. We thirst for a life of faith that means something – that makes a difference in our lives and the lives of others. We thirst for a living relationship with God that gives us a lived experience of Jesus as our brother and friend that goes beyond the merely theoretical. We thirst for a life of meaning, so that our rising in the morning and going to bed at night over and over again, day in and day out, means something – we’re thirsty for a life of adventure that means something.
All of us are thirsty for something …many of us are so thirsty we think we might die…and most of us fall into the age-old pattern of the Israelites: our thirst is so powerful, we’re so thirsty, we’re willing to go back to old ways of living, our old and worn out patterns that never quench our thirst – our thirst is so powerful, we’re so thirsty, we’d rather go back to the prisons and chains that bind us in our old ways of thinking and living because in their familiarity it sometimes seems like we’re not really thirsty there. ‘Send us back to Egypt – sure we were prisoners there – but at least we weren’t thirsty.’ No wonder we find ourselves year after year, week after week, in the same old places struggling with the same old doubts and hurting in the same old ways. We get thirsty – so thirsty we’d rather go back to the same old patterns than press ahead long enough for God to quench our thirst.
Time and again, human experience has proven that we’re never really thirsty for what we think we’re thirsty for. Talk to the recovering alcoholic or drug addict, listen to the testimony of one who found real freedom from pride, dishonesty, or envy. Hear the story of someone who truly overcame their lack of faith or hope. They all have the same thing to say in one way or another: they discovered they had been going to the same old wells over and over trying to quench their thirst, only to discover that what they could draw there never really satisfied. We try to quench our thirst for love in the bottle; we try to quench our thirst for faith in the intellectual study of scripture or the rote and empty repetition of prayer. We try to quench our thirst for meaning and adventure in life with worldly success. We try to quench our thirst for intimacy on the computer screen. We try…but it never works.
We thirst…that’s the first part of the pattern. We thirst – and we return time and time again to old places, old habits, old ways of living only to discover that our old wells don’t satisfy. But the good news today, friends, is that God is always there trying to quench our thirst for good. We thirst – God provides. If we journey far enough through the desert, trusting in God and moving farther and farther away from our entrapments one step – one day at a time – if we follow God far enough away from the same old pitiful wells, the same old ways of living, if we travel far enough with God into glorious unknown with Him we eventually encounter the deep well that quenches our thirst more perfectly than we ever imagined.
‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst…’ It’s never quite where we expect it. The thirsty Israelites found life-giving water in the dead dryness of a rock, and the woman at the well found lasting satisfaction for her thirst in the admonishing love, acceptance, and welcome of a rule-breaking, line crossing, strange-talking, haggard and weary man named Jesus Christ. Day after day, she came back to the same old place, seeking to quench her thirst from the water at Jacob’s well, only to find that the satisfaction it provided was temporary – just like day after day we return to our old patterns of living – until one day, she finally encountered what she’d been thirsty for all her life: the love and acceptance and freedom from sin only Jesus Christ can provide.
Friends – here we are, you and I. Here we are, journeying toward Easter, carrying our thirst around with us. What are you thirsty for? Life? Love? Acceptance? Faith? Freedom from sin? Whatever it is – I can promise you this: your thirst can never really be quenched apart from a real and ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ, and in the context of looking at Him face to face, holding nothing back, not even your sin. (Did you notice that Jesus quenched the Samaritan woman’s thirst in part by lovingly naming her sin and inviting her to stand free from it? There’s a hint for us in that reality, friends. If you’re thirsty, meet Jesus in the confessional, give Him your sin and let Him love you past it. Make your confession this Lent!)
Whoever you are, each and every one of us comes to the Mass today thirsty. Like the woman at the well, we come seeking that which satisfies and fulfills our deepest longings. Jesus is that living water – poured out from heaven – poured out in the honest confession of sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – poured out in the appearance of bread and wine on this altar.
The question is a simple one: will you run back to Egypt seeking the familiarity that seems more comfortable because its known but that can never truly quench your thirst? Or will you risk the encounter with Jesus in Confession and approach this altar to encounter Him – will you run back to Egypt or look into the “face of the Father’s mercy,” Jesus Christ, who comes here today to give you living water?
What are you thirsty for?