It's been 2.5 weeks since Lent began. Hopefully we have been off to a good start; if not, there's still lots of time, and the words of Saint Paul still ring true: today is a very acceptable time, today is the day of salvation. Having been out in the desert for a while, going cold-turkey on past sins and various attachments to things that we have begun to love for themselves and not for the greater good of God's Holy Will, now we discover a kind of pain. Our hearts are groaning. We are thirsty.
In today's Gospel we see that it's not only us who thirst, but God also: Jesus wants you.
This Gospel story operates on many levels at once, and I'll get to those in a second. Firstly, though, no matter what way you take this story, the woman symbolizes us – all of us, so guys, get over it. This isn't some icky weird thing, it's a spiritual truth that runs all through the Old Testament, that God takes His People, then the whole Church (and through Her the entire human race) as his Beloved, his Bride, in a spiritual sense: all of us are called to be bound to God forever, just like a husband and wife are to become one flesh for a lifetime. Christ the Bridegroom has a bride: His Body; all of us collectively – but also each of us individually. So in that way, we put ourselves in this woman's shoes, or sandals I guess.
Here we see that Jesus wants to be with you, thirsts for you, hungers for you more than for food, something which his disciples didn't get at all. Lovers don't think about food; people grieving don't think about it – so Jesus isn't concerned about it either. Every part of his body and soul are focused on this woman, this conversation, this longing for a relationship.
And we hunger for Christ, for the encounter with God that alone can satisfy our wandering heart. Looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces... (Johnny Lee)
This story shows our wandering in sinfulness in a couple ways. First, as the woman goes to the well daily, so do many run to addictive tendencies for a “quick fix” that gets them nowhere instead of to the fountain of life that never runs dry (Ps. 36:9 “for with you is the fountain of life, and in Your light we see light.” Jer. 2:13 “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have dug cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water”). Secondly, We “have many husbands” - we have committed ourselves to all kinds of things hoping that they will protect us, provide a source of our joy, our happiness, but they betray us and fall short of the aspirations of our hearts.
2. Another perspective transforms the symbolism of the Gospel. The well can symbolize prayer: if we are to draw water, we have to go deep. This might mean digging up some pain, as Christ eventually does for this woman, but it also means real peace and happiness. This can be done in lots of ways: retreats, Lectio Divina, a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, a prayer journal, etc. Despite the ways to do it, many of us struggle with a real prayer life, because we can be afraid of going really deep in our prayer, of being really vulnerable, of letting those dreams take flight because we don't want to crash anymore. I assure you, Jesus is waiting at that well, starving and thirsting for you to go to Him. Please, satisfy His thirst, by satisfying your own.