This Week's Reflection
Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 616: God thirsts for us : A Reflection on Exodus and the Gospel of John (Exodus 17: 3-7 & John 2: 5-42)
Exodus 3 Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!”
5 The LORD answered Moses: Go on ahead of the people, and take along with you some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the Nile. 6 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. Moses did this, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
John 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “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.” 11 [The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months* the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”
39 Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
One of the classic expressions of our human longing for God occurs in the Confessions of St Augustine. Towards the beginning of this work, Augustine wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. He was speaking of our thirst for God, but there is also a thirst that God has for each one of us, a longing to be received by us, and Christ gave expression to this longing when he met the Samaritan woman. “So ardently did he thirst for her faith, that he kindled in her the fire of divine love.”
The thirst of Christ is the thirst of the One who is closest to the Father’s heart, who knows from experience what it means for God to be burning with infinite love for us. So strong is his love for us, that Augustine’s saying can be reversed and applied to God: God has made us for himself, and his heart is restless until it rests in us. Each of us is a unique resting place for God, and he can only come to rest in us when we have faith and confidence in his love for us, and when we have made him the great love of our lives.
Already in today’s reading from Exodus, there is a hint that God thirsts for us, that he longs to give himself to us. We are told that the people were suffering from thirst, a deeply felt need that could be satisfied by only one thing, something to drink. It was a human need for a physical thing, water, but since we are made in the image and likeness of God, it suggests that there is something in God that thirsts for each one of us, something that longs to find the uniquely personal faith and love that only we can give.
God invites Moses to make an act of faith that God still loves his people, even when he lets them suffer from thirst. He tells Moses that he will be standing on the rock, and if Moses will strike the rock, water will flow. Moses responds with confidence in God. He strikes the rock, and two things happen:
– the people slake their thirst with the water that flowed from the rock.
– and we who listen with faith get an insight into the very heart of God.
Exodus tells us that God was standing on the rock. St Paul tells us that this Rock that the people drank from was Christ (1 Cor 10:4). And St John in another part of his Gospel adds that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Now he said this about the Spirit” (John 7:38-39). So already in the Old Testament reading, the Christian believer sees an image of the triune God giving himself to us in love: God stands on the rock, the rock represents Christ, and the water from the rock represents the Spirit, which would be poured out on all believers. God’s heart is restless: he is forever flowing with living water, looking for the resting place that he has made for himself, in each one of us.
In the Gospel, God shows how much he cares for each particular resting place that he has made for himself. He so loved the woman of Samaria that he gave his only Son to do for her what he had done for the people in the desert. They were thirsty, and he gave them water to drink, the same kind of water that could be found in Jacob’s well. The Samaritan woman had a thirst of a different kind. She had a longing to give her whole heart to someone who would understand her, who would know everything she had ever done, and yet still find it possible to love her. She had already looked for understanding from five different people and was now looking for it from a sixth, but no human being could satisfy this thirst, because it was a thirst of the soul, a longing for God.
Jesus recognizes this thirst and offers to give her water that will turn into a spring inside her, welling up to eternal life. Her past is no obstacle to receiving the living water. All Jesus looks for from her is a faith like Moses, a faith to ask for the living water flowing no longer from a rock, but from the human heart of Christ, the only human being who could satisfy her thirst for God.
Each of us here is dearer to God than the Samaritan woman. She could not receive the fullness of the Spirit, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. But we have proof that God loves us in spite of everything we’ve ever done because we know that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. When we were baptized into his death, the love of God was poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us. God’s living water, the Holy Spirit, found the resting place that he had made for himself in our heart.
If at Holy Communion you hear his voice, harden not your heart. Come before him, giving thanks that he knows everything you’ve ever done, and loves you with the fullness of his three-Personed love. Rejoice that you need him, that you can offer him a resting place in your heart. And no longer let your heart be restless: you have found forgiveness and understanding in the compassionate heart of our God.
Fr. Justin Litsec, OCSO
Quote from a Saint: “The reason for our existence is to quench the thirst of Jesus. When he asked for water, the soldier gave him vinegar to drink—but his thirst was for love, for souls, for you and me.”-St. Teresa of Calcutta
Prayer: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."—Psalm 63:1
Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you see people thirsting for God? What happens when they try to quench this thirst with something other than Him? What happens when they pursue Him?
How do you spend your time, money, and energy? Do these things bring lasting satisfaction or temporary pleasure?
Had you ever considered that God thirsts for the people He created? If not, does this change how you think of God? What does this longing of God for His creation show about the nature our relationship to Him?
In what ways have you found yourself restless because you are not resting in God?
Consider that God knows all that you have ever done and “loves you with the fullness of his three-Personed love.” How does this unconditional love help you to find rest?
Do you ever doubt that God forgives your past sins? How can you move past this doubt?
Does reflecting on Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well affirm that His forgiveness is open to all, no matter their past?
What do you thirst for? Is it in line with God’s plan for life? If not, what will you do about it?
How can you rejoice that you need God? Does it make you uncomfortable to need someone other than yourself? Reflect on how if can be a comfort to need God and to rely on Him.