Seeds for Sowing, Vol. VI, Issue 2, No. 15
Third Sunday of Lent- Year A
March 3, 2002
* Ex. 17:3-7
* Rom. 5:1-2, 5-8
* Jn. 4:5-42
The overwhelming image that we are faced with today is one of thirst. Jesus’ meeting with the woman takes place around a well. Their conversation begins around the topic of water. We need water -- that’s obvious. Most of our body is made of water. In much of our present world, safe drinking water is the number one problem. In fact a quarter of the world’s population is without safe drinking water. Over 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe water supplies close to home. Did you know that every eight seconds a child will die because of a disease related to unsafe drinking water? Yes, without safe water, we die.
So Jesus wanted a drink, and the Samaritan woman, tired of coming to the well so often, wanted to find a source of living water so she wouldn’t have to bother hauling it up from the well and back to her home. In fact, she was so concerned about getting water, that, at first, she was not able to understand that Jesus was talking to her about a deeper thirst.
In our Scriptures today, we see that thirst really means desire. And we all know the power of desire in our lives. Desire moves us to work, to love, to even kill. Desire can bring disaster into our lives, or it can give us life that is overwhelming. At times we need to kill our desires -- such as the desire for money or possessions, alcohol or drugs and cigarettes; or our longing for too much food or the wrong kinds of food. But we can also try to kill our desire for things of the spirit, for the living water of relationship with Christ. Our desire for God can simply waste away through neglect -- neglecting that side of ourselves that is calling us to acknowledge our deep spiritual selves.
For many of us it is a question of deadly desires and deadened desires. Deadly desires lead us into more death. And deadened desires also lead us to a living death. We are called to pay very close attention to our desires. What are they? Which desires have I nurtured? Which ones have I neglected and allowed to die a slow death? Which desires need to be resurrected?
Too Easily Pleased
The author, C.S., Lewis gave us the following insight: "Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." That seems like a strange thing to say, doesn’t it? But on reflection, we can see how true it is. At times, we think that if we have a new car or a new love, then we’ll be completely satisfied. Or perhaps we want our health or some better job. It could be one of a million things. But our real wants and desires go far deeper than that.
In today’s Gospel, the woman left her water jar behind when she realized whom she had met. Leave your water jar behind -- the jar that is only concerned with what we can see and touch, but that, ultimately, doesn’t bring the fulfillment that it promised it would.
An Inventory of Desires
I would like to suggest a valuable Lenten practice. Take some time to make an inventory of your desires. In fact, you might want to make it a history of your desires. Looking back on your life, what were the strongest desires that you had? Did you follow these desires? Were you able to distinguish between the desires that brought life and those that brought death? Are some of these desires still with you? And what are your present desires?
What is it that pushes you on through life? What have you done with the desire that God has placed within you -- the desire for the fullness of life that can only come from continually seeking a closer relationship with the Lord? Have other thirsts taken the place of this most essential of thirsts? It seems to me that this would be a very valuable thing for all of us to do. If we did it in a spirit of prayer, I am convinced the Lord would reveal something very important to each of us.
If we have lost the desire for the deeply spiritual, how can we re-ignite it? It seems that the very first step is in the awareness. When we come to the moment of recognition that our lives are no longer driven by our desire for God and all that that means, we have reached an important place in our lives. Then we can start re-ordering our desires.
It was lunchtime at the factory and a workman opened his lunch box. "Oh, no," he said aloud. "Cheese sandwiches again!" This happened a second and a third and a fourth day. Then a co-worker who had heard the mutterings of the man said, "If you hate cheese sandwiches so much, why don’t you get your wife to make you some other type?" "Because I’m not married. I make those sandwiches myself."
If we are saddened with our lives, perhaps it is time we had greater expectations -- greater desires. The Samaritan woman traded her desire for a bucket of water into a desire for a deep and close relationship with the Lord. As we move through this Lenten season, may the Lord give us the courage to lay aside all desires that do not lead to him.