I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Jesus offers the unquenchable gift of the Holy Spirit
The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent are simultaneously simple and overwhelmingly profound. Our eyes see and our hearts hear of physical water, but our spirits hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit.
In the first reading, the Israelites thirst for water to nurture their bodies, but their spirits are even thirstier for meaning. They are profoundly frustrated with being in the desert without water, whereas in Egypt they had plenty of water. At that moment, they would gladly have traded their physical freedom for their former slavery, if only they could have water for their thirsty bodies.
Their complaints get to Moses. They're frustrated with Moses, who is frustrated with God. "What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!"
"The Lord answered Moses, 'Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.'"
God gave them the water they desired, flowing from the rock. This water was another sign intended to lift their eyes above physical nourishment, and open their eyes to the gift of faith. Throughout their desert journey, God worked signs and wonders to nurture their faith.
They didn't understand that through the trials and difficulties, He was forming them into a believing community of faith. Ever so gradually, God opened their eyes to see that He really was a part of the equation in their desert life.
Does that ring a bell for us? Isn't it true that we're like the Israelites? We too have short memories of His goodness and too often we ask: "What has God done for us lately?" What He has done for us, and what He continues to do, is truly marvelous, but we miss most of it entirely because we lack faith
The Gospel story of the woman at the well is among the most remarkable stories in the Gospels. It's packed with so much meaning. Alone at the well, Jesus is tired and wants a moment's rest while the disciples go off to get provisions.
When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water, He opens a conversation with her. This is most unusual because Jews didn't typically talk to Samaritans. "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?" she asked.
Just as Satan opened a conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden to lead her out of her earthly paradise, so Jesus opens a conversation with the Samaritan woman to lead her into a heavenly paradise.
He is simply thirsty and asks for a drink of water. When she objected, Jesus said: "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water. ... Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water willing up to eternal life."
After she replies and asks for this water, Jesus asks her to call her husband. The woman suddenly realizes that she has been found out; she knows He knows her sins. But she then realizes that her past sinfulness need no longer be a barrier because He offers living water, the unquenchable Spirit of God.
Jesus started with a request for water, but He really thirsted for her faith. He led her to a realization of her sinfulness and then to her thirst for the living God. She was so transformed by His desire for her inclusion in the faith, that she became an evangelist to the Samaritans, who begged Jesus to stay for two days.
We have the same hunger for the infinite love of the Holy Spirit, but like the Israelites and the woman at the well, we misinterpret our hungers. We think we're hungering for more wealth, power, prestige or pleasure, yet none of these ever satisfy our spiritual thirst.
Jesus would say to us, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water." Daily Jesus offers us the unquenchable gift of the Holy Spirit.
Lent is a time for prayer, fasting and the giving of alms. These spiritual exercises lift our hearts above the senses. These exercises engender an intimacy with the God we can't see, but our hearts perceive.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving bring our spirits alive. They're spiritual food for our hungry and thirsting souls. They speak to our need for the infinite. They speak to our hunger for the things of the next life. They bring a sense of peace and satisfaction to our souls.
Aside from the frequent reception of Confession and the Holy Eucharist, the Stations of the Cross is one of the most effective devotions available to use. The more we enter into the Stations of the Cross and the love beneath His sufferings, the more we're drawn to suffer with Him. Love for His passion draws us forward with joy.
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