For the Greeks, Life came from water. Thales of Miletus philosophized: “Water is the urstoff of all things.” Could the Lord have agreed—when He asked the Samaritan woman for water? Imagine how chaotic life would turn in our cities if there is no supply of water for one full day. Nothing can replace a person’s thirst for water: not Coke, not wine, tea or juice, if you’re really thirsty. Water is the basic amenity which we didn’t make and which we find that we cannot live without. The Igbos of South-eastern Nigeria have a saying: “Mmiri enwe iro” (water has no enemy); so when it rains, it doesn’t discriminate. Water is so gentle that it follows the line of least resistance. But it can also be very destructive, unleashing floods and tsunamis, when it is ruffled. When calm, it provides avenues for voyagers to traverse the earth and goods and services to reach their destinations.
In the first reading, God made water gush out of rock to satiate the thirst of His people who cried out to Him. The desert thirst was, however, both a warning and an invitation for Israel to trust that God is always in their midst. Our Lenten fast invites us to an arid land where trust turns from worldly needs and desires to the provision made by God’s spirit who leads our spiritual journey.
When Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, it was her life—empty and lacking in the proper spiritual nutrients to support it that He beckoned her to offer to Him. His request for water was an allurement to inveigle and seize our utterly sin-laden soul—represented by the reprobate woman of Samaria—for the unction of the Spirit. It was a betrayal of sort: from the recklessness of sensual pursuits to the inebriation of the Spirit. Jesus asks us to turn our poverty over to Him and become enriched, to give our distress and gain joy, to surrender our chains and become free. When the strong asks help from the weak, it should be provided in haste with the hope that such help would attract greater benefits. When God asks you for life, you need not be stingy in offering Him that which belongs to Him. God is much more generous with His spirit than any rich man can ever be with his money. To the woman at the well, He says, “Whoever drinks the water that I will give will never be thirsty again.” He makes the point that we have a spiritual thirst, more profound than our physical thirst for water. It happens that some do not recognize this; hence, they’re unaware of their inner poverty and nakedness. But the Lord knows. He knew that the woman of Samaria—five times divorced—hasn’t had any good fortune finding the perfect guy. But she could find in Jesus her soul’s desire. He is the one of whom the Psalmist (42:1) says: “As a deer yearns for running stream, so my soul is yearning for you, my God;” prophet Isaiah (55:1): “Come, everyone who is thirsty;” and Jeremiah (17:13) calls, “a spring of fresh water.”
St. Augustine found after a life of dissipation that “Our hearts are made for God, and they will not rest, until they rest in God.” Someone else wrote: “Our hearts have a God-shaped hole in them; that only God can fill.” Charlie Brower wrote about the folly of trying to satisfy spiritual thirst with material things: “My friend Bill is one of those guys who’s still searching for success, even though he’s already found it...still scoring touchdowns, even though the game is over and won. He’s come to the end of the rainbow, but there’s no pot of gold there. He’s found the buried treasure, but it’s empty.” The point is: material success alone leaves us empty. There’s a void in us that no material object can fill. Man cannot live without God; the infinite haunts him constantly. As the sun rises without asking permission of the night so divine life invades us without consulting the darkness of our mind. Even when our intellects bar God’s passage by the false obstruction to belief that unsound thinking erected, He is able to penetrate to us through the secret door we have not known how to bolt (Sheen).
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo