I am sure we have all experienced some time in our lives where we were very hungry or thirsty. When we compare the two, satisfying thirst seems to come ahead of food. Without water we can only survive a few days where without food we could survive several weeks. Therefore satisfying thirst is one of the most essential requirements for survival. What could be more basic than that for our physical health and wellbeing?
When someone says they are thirsty most of us would naturally think that the person needs something to drink. But being thirsty can also take on the meaning that the person desires something. The person may be thirsty for money, or power, or may be love and compassion.
With this in mind, it helps us to understand Jesus bringing to light that there is something even more essential than food and water for our survival. It is a thirst for the salvation of our souls. Mark 8:36 states “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” Eternal life should take priority over all other desires in our life. On the cross Jesus said, “I thirst.” This image of thirst is God’s thirst for us, for our salvation, for us to be with Him in paradise.
In the Gospel Jesus comes to the well and says to the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink.” Jesus is thirsty for her faith. The Samaritan woman represents us and our thirst for the direction and presence of God in our lives. But like her, we do not recognize our yearning for something better in our life, as a thirst for God. This is why Jesus said, if asked, he would offer living water. This living water is grace for the divine life. We have been made for God. Our thirst is overcome by God’s thirst for us. Only God can satisfy our inner most desires.
Does anyone know why we fast? Why would we deprive ourselves of food which is so necessary for our physical survival? It is not about torturing ourselves to show God how sorry we are for our sins. Fasting provides us an opportunity to discipline ourselves, to gain control of the strongest physical desires so basic to our survival, so that we can see past our physical needs for food, opening us up to be filled with something much greater, allowing us to fill that hunger, that void, with the Word of God and His grace. The most essential need for salvation, for life after death, is filling ourselves with the grace of God. We need to come in touch with our spiritual desire to obtain a state of grace with God.
We can get lost in striving for worldly things thinking that they will bring us happiness. The truth is, that desire for happiness comes from our spirit yearning for God, we just have difficulty distinguishing it from material desires. Of course we need to eat and drink as we are called to take care of our bodies as they are a temple of the Holy Spirit, but we need at times to fast to remind us to stay in touch with the underlying desire of our spirit to be in a state of grace, the food for eternal life.
In the Gospel Jesus brings to light how we get misguided by physical and material desires. He makes reference that the Samaritan woman had five husbands. What was the significance of bringing that to her attention? In that time a husband represented the means of a woman’s survival. The answer seems obvious, but Jesus knew that she was searching for something more important, even though it was not clear to her what that was.
St. Augustine said that the five husbands represent our five human senses; sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. We strive to satisfy our physical and material desires through these senses. This is represented by the water in Jacob’s well were if we drink it we are only temporarily satisfied. We will need to go back for more. That is because we do not realize that our desires run much deeper than our senses. We are actually looking for God, but we are looking for God in all the wrong places.
It reminds me of the song “Looking for Love” by Johnny Lee back in 1980 where the refrain is “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.” God is love, so our desires can only be satisfied once and for all through coming in union with God. Everything else should take second place.
Since God loves us and wants the best for us, we can find Him in all aspects of our lives, but we must seek Him. In Matthew 7:8 Jesus stated: “For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” God is the source of a joy filled life. When we start seeing His presence in all things, we recognize Him in the physical and material gifts of life that He so freely gives us but most of all we see Him in others.
Don’t go down the road that if others have more things than you that God loves them more. That is not the case. God’s love for us is not measured by how much we physically have, but the infinite love He has for us. The more we have, the more we are called to share it with others. We came into this world naked and we will leave this world naked. Only the love we share goes with us to heaven. Live for others not ourselves and we will embrace the living water offered us by Christ. In Mark 9:35 Jesus said: “… If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
We will not find that inner peace until we recognize that our unrest comes from our spirit searching for God and not a hunger for physical and material things, then we must take action to see God in the world around us like St. Francis of Assisi did. As St. Francis of Assisi said: “For it is in giving that we receive.” Live for the sake of others and be filled with the grace of God. The life giving living waters that Jesus has for us, the grace of God, is the only thing that will satisfy our thirst, our inner most desire for an eternal life with God