If you have ever traveled to a country where you can’t drink the water you know how easy it is to slip up, drink the water and get sick. Sure it’s easy to avoid drinking water from a tap, but it is so easy to put ice in your soda or drink juice that has been mixed with local water and before you know it, even though you are being careful, you find out first hand why you weren’t supposed to drink the water. Those of who us who exercise know that just because something seems like it will quench our thirst does not mean it actually will. For example on a hot summer afternoon, after going for a long run, coming home and opening the refrigerator, a cold beer seems just like the refreshing drink you are craving. If we are honest with ourselves I think all of us would have to admit, that at different times in our lives, all of us are like the women in today’s Gospel. We feel cast away and are thirsting for meaning in our lives. Take it from me this is a really bad idea. Just as we can find ourselves turning to the wrong beverage to quench our physical thirst so too if we are not careful we can look in all the wrong places to quench our spiritual thirst.
If we just through today’s Gospel quickly we will only scratch the surface of its true meaning in our lives. When we read the Gospel account of the woman at the well closely we come to see that there is something very out of place about this woman. You see, women typically went to the well early in the morning to get their water while the weather was still cool. While at the well they would stand around, chat and do whatever else women do when they get together. The fact that this woman was going to get her water in the heat of the day, makes it clear that she wanted to be left alone. She is an outcast who while searching for physical water is thirsting for something much more. She is thirsting for comfort, for acceptance, and for love, but for her whole life, she has been searching in all the wrong places. She has been wandering through the spiritual desert, like the Israelites in today’s first reading.
At different times in our lives, we find ourselves in a similar place to this Samaritan woman. We can find ourselves in a desert searching to have our seemingly unquenchable desire for meaning and fulfillment in our lives fulfilled. To find this fulfillment we can be tempted to look to things like the beer after a run, that looks appealing at first glance. We can be tempted to find our meaning in things like money, fame, or affirmation, yet no matter how much money, fame or affirmation we have, we will never find true fulfillment. Likewise, we can be in such a hurry to find that fulfillment that we pursue things like the juice in a foreign country, that looks good on the outside, but contains hidden dangers. If we are in such a hurry to find our fulfillment that we don’t stop to see what is below the surface we can be tempted by the many different addictions that plague our culture. Yet once we pursue these, we end up sick and unfulfilled.
No matter how bleak the future looks, we cannot repeat the mistake of the Israelites from today’s first reading. As Christians, we know that God has brought us out of the slavery of sin to be His adopted sons and daughters. When we find ourselves in a spiritual dessert, our only option is to turn to the Lord and when we turn to the Lord, we discover that He is already there waiting for us with open arms. Did you know that at the time of Jesus Jewish people despised the Samaritans. So much so in fact that rather than contaminate themselves by passing through the Samaritan territory, Jews who were traveling from Judea to Galilee or vice versa would go out of their way to cross over the Jordan River to bypass Samaria and cross over the river again as they neared their destination. Yet Jesus crosses the boundary to meet the women where she is at so as to raise her to where she desires to be.
Friends without God we can accomplish nothing, but with God, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. After all, if God can produce water from a rock, can He not provide us with all that we need to move onward towards our own Promised Land? If we turn to God, the condition in which we find ourselves does not have to be the situation in which we will find ourselves in the future. Yet when we turn to the Lord we have to remember that with God things never stand still. God is a God of change. Our Catholic faith is not about what simply has been, our religion is about what can be. This is why we have the doors of this Church – so that we can enter here and receive what God wants to offer us and then take that back out into the world to make it a better place and to take that into our future so that we can be in a better place. Every time we enter the doors of this Church we sit with the Lord at the well. He is here to meet us wherever we are at in life, and as long as we open our heats to Him He will give us that life-giving water we need to keep pushing forward as we wander through the desert of life.