Acknowledging Our Deeper Thirst

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Gospel Story of the Week

Jesus and the Woman at the Well (John 4:1 – 42)

Gospel Quote

“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.” (John 4:10)

Gospel Reflection

Jacob’s well is at a crossroads near a Samaritan village. On this particular day, it is the place where an itinerant preacher named Jesus encounters a woman from the village. She is going about her daily chores, trying her best to ignore a thirst that has shaped her life. He is on a mission, and his journey has left him tired and thirsty. Their meeting fills the story with the tension of a man ignoring cultural taboos to address a woman, a Jew disregarding issues of race and religious purity to interact with a Samaritan, and a teacher and a healer reaching out to a woman with a questionable past. In the midst of this tension, their thirsts bring them together – at a deep well, where two roads meet, in a land where relationships are strained.

The story begins simply enough. The woman is fetching water as part of her daily routine. It is only as the story unfolds that we learn she has a deeper thirst: she is desperate for a love that will last. This deeper thirst has shaped her entire life. Time and again, it has led her into relationships with men. Time and again, her hope for fulfillment has become a dead end street. Each relationship has ended badly, and neither Jacob’s well nor her bucket will satisfy this deeper thirst.

Like the Samaritan woman, we all have a deeper thirst for a love that will last. The search is so much a part of life that it pervades music, art, theater, television and movies. We turn on the radio and hear songs that express the thirst for love as well as those that grieve for the pain of failed relationships. Whether love has left us fulfilled or frustrated, we know how precious it is. Grasping the meaning of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well requires acknowledging our own deeper thirst.

For much of my childhood, my father struggled with an addiction to alcohol. His addiction and my family’s struggle to cope with it were the unspoken focus of enormous amounts of energy and attention in my family. As a result of this struggle, I grew up with an unsatisfied thirst for my father’s love. Sometimes he was physically absent, other time he was emotionally unavailable, and still other times his rage was fierce enough that I preferred his absence. I internalized his absence and his anger as a fear that I would be abandoned and as a belief that something was wrong with me. No matter what I did, it never seemed to be enough.

As a result of these experiences, I carry within me the scars of a child who was deprived of his father’s love. When I reflect on the story of the Samaritan woman, I connect with the pain of her wound. Like her, I know what it is to live with shame, feel defective and want to find some place to hide. She and I both know what it is like to need redemption. We know how hard it is to trust a stranger, to let ourselves be vulnerable and to believe we can be redeemed.

Because we are human, wounding is inevitable. Our choice is not whether we will be wounded, but how we will respond to our wounds. The choices we make shape our lives in powerful ways. As our Lenten journey calls us to reflect on the story of the woman at the well, we begin by acknowledging this deeper thirst and the powerful way that it shapes our lives.

Questions to Ponder

  • What experiences in your life help you to identify with the woman at the well?
  • In what ways have you experienced being wounded?
  • What deeper thirst brings you to the well longing for living water?

Invitation to Prayer

Jesus, living water, in my thirst I turn to you.

Jesus, living water, help me trust the surprising and unexpected ways I encounter you. My thirst brings me to desert places where you are the stranger at the well. Yet my fear so easily closes me off from your redemptive love, and I find myself blocking your healing power. I often resist the very love I so desperately need. Give me the grace to recognize that only your redemptive love will fulfill my deepest thirst. Help me open myself to that love. In my thirst, I turn to you.

Jesus, living water, you know my deepest thirst. You know all my secret places, even the corners where I hide in the darkness. There is nothing I can hide from you. You know my deep ache to belong, my longing for a love that will last and my need to be loved without condition or limit. In my thirst I turn to you.

Jesus, living water, in my thirst I turn to you.

3 thoughts on “Acknowledging Our Deeper Thirst”

  1. Tim,
    Very fine reflection. The fact that it was noon also indicates how alienated she was from the other women in the village…who would have gotten water in early morning. I liked the “meeting of thirsts” theme. Very nice. Thanks. Marty


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