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Mgr Follo, 2016 © Courtoisie De La Mission Du Saint-Siège À L'UNESCO

Archbishop Follo: An Encounter that Quenches Thirst Forever

With the hope that like the Samaritan woman we too can meet Christ and our thirst for true life be satiated now and for eternity

Roman Rite – 3rd Sunday of Lent – Year A – March 15th, 2020

Ex 17.3-7; Ps 95; Rom 5.1-2.5-8; Jn 4.5-42

The thirst for Jesus and that of the Samaritan woman.

 

Ambrosian Rite – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Ex 34.1-10; Ps 105; Gal 3,6-14; Jn 8: 31-59

Sunday of Abraham.

 

  • A thirst that allows finding the one whom we are not looking for.

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage, St. John presents us

– a well, the one that Jacob had left for Joseph so that he could drink from it,

– a jug, which will be abandoned as a symbol of the previous life,

– a Samaritan woman, who in the dialogue with Jesus predisposes her heart to listen and believes that the unknown is the Messiah, and

– Jesus, who in the dialogue with the Samaritan woman manifests himself as the Messiah.

However, it should be kept in mind that this woman was going to the well to draw “material” water and the Gospel does not tell us that she had particular spiritual needs. From the story, it can be deduced that she is a young woman disputed for her beauty, a young woman who easily gave herself up to the first-come and, after all, was happy with her life. She had already had seven “husbands” and lived with another man, but from the Gospel, it does not appear that in her there was any remorse that prepared her encounter with Christ. She was going to the well, perhaps singing, carrying the empty amphora on her head or on her shoulders, happy to live and happy to be loved.  Moreover, her way of speaking to the Lord, to whom she responds by bringing the discourse on a purely human level, shows that she was far from predicting what would have happened and far from desiring it.

To us too it can happen to meet Christ where we never thought we would find him. Perhaps our truest, deepest, most lively encounters with God did not take place where we thought he was waiting for us or was ready to receive us, but in the most unexpected places or in the most unpredictable moments.

The important thing is not to quench our thirst, not to stifle the request of meaning that also the body manifests and let ourselves be attracted by Christ to remain in him who generates a new life in us. It is thanks to this process, that implies time and freedom, that the events of life break into our lives and become encounters that transform us.

The important thing is to be on the way, like this woman or like Saint Paul who met Jesus while persecuting the Christians. These two (but we too) met Christ at a time when they less thought of encountering him and less seemed prepared for it. That’s the beauty of the encounters with God that often they are not tied to our efforts. They are a gift of infinite love that fills us with amazement and gratitude. Surprised by this unexpected gift, we are happy because we experience that we are loved and that the thirst for full and lasting life receives the complete answer in Christ. I also dare say that, in the encounter with Christ, we receive from him the gift of ourselves.

  • A Poor who asks to donate.

In his exodus, Jesus passes through Samaria and stops at Jacob’s well near the town of Sychar. He sits on the wall that surrounds the well because he is thirsty and tired of walking, but he is poor and has no means to draw water. He waits for someone who can draw water for him and quench his thirst, but his humble request is a “pretext” to donate himself.

Christ is so thirsty for us that he does not hesitate to ask for water for his body to be able to offer himself as the source of the water that quenches thirst forever. He knows that those who go to the well to fetch water are thirsty for another water, even if they think they do not need it.

Christ is thirsty but his is not just a physical thirst, it is a spiritual thirst for us, represented by the Samaritan woman. Jesus becomes the Good Samaritan for the Samaritan woman and, by offering the water that quenches even the heart, invites her to conversion.

What does “conversion” mean? It is not only an act of the will but a response to God’s Love that has made its way into the often complicated, confusing or disorderly way of living that makes us hungry for everything. Let’s ask Christ to pour true love in our hearts so to have a constant desire for Him. Then, the desert of life will bloom, and we will be in his loving and steadfast hands forever.

The journey to conversion that the heart of the woman of Samaria makes is not without resistance. In the human being, the search for God is always in danger of closing in itself and it is always threatened. John the Evangelist lays bare the roots of this closure pointing out that at the beginning the Samaritan woman does not understand. In fact, when man abandons himself to his instinct and reactivity, he is no longer capable to understand the word of God or to correctly interpret his own expectations. The heart is thirsty and like a deer longs for water. However, it looks in the wrong direction with pretensions and prejudices. The woman understands something of the gift of which Christ speaks about (the water), but she plays it on the tape of her concerns, “Sir” said the woman “[1] give me this water so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw “. The temptation of those who seek God is always to lock up the gift of God within their expectations. But God doesn’t allow to be locked up in man’s expectations: he dilates them. The woman tries to situate Jesus in the traditional religious categories, but Jesus does not hesitate to show their inadequacies. Twice – speaking of the gift of water and of the place of worship – the woman evokes the grandeur of the patriarchs[2]  and of the past. Her search is shut in the past. Jesus forces her to look to the future and to realize that the novelty has arrived in the world and renews the problem from the ground up. The novelty is not in something that quenches the thirsty body, but in One who quenches the heart by filling it.

Saint Paul had understood that Jesus is “the water that quenches thirst” when he said” And the Rock was Christ[3] in reference to the text of today’s first reading. At times we may feel challenged by the dryness of thirst, but Jesus will always be near with the living water of His love.

The water that is Christ Himself not only quenches thirst but purifies and gives life. In fact, from the side of Christ flowed water and blood, the symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. But it is not enough to be quenched, purified and revived by the Water of Christ. This water is not just for us, it is for everyone.

The Samaritan woman understood it. She left Jesus for a few minutes and went into town, becoming a “missionary” to his fellow citizens. The entire humanity needs to be quenched and washed with the water of Christ. The first person who does it is the woman who arrived at the point where Jesus wanted to lead her, leaves her previous concerns and runs into town (cf. Jn 4:28). Her encounter with Christ becomes communal and her journey becomes missionary.

This search and this meeting of the woman of Samaria and of her fellow citizens are a picture of the journey of every man towards God

  • The thirst of Jesus the Teacher.

     The Gospel speaks of an unusual “scholastic” environment, a well, and of an unexpected teacher, God. A Teacher, who chooses a wall as a pulpit to teach not from above but at heart’s high, and a woman as listener. The disciples were astonished because the listener was a Samaritan[4] and because she was a woman, not knowing yet that the Church of Christ would place a Woman as a mediator between the children and the Son: Our Lady who gathered around her, the only one of all women, the two supreme perfections of womanhood, the Virgin and the Mother, and who suffered for us from the night of the birth to the one of the death of Jesus our brother.

    A Teacher who, to draw the truth from his heart, asks for a drink. Only twice in the Gospel, it is said that Jesus was thirsty: in this encounter with the Samaritan woman and on the Cross.  And on the Cross, He keeps saying  “I am thirsty ”  addressing each one of us because he is thirsty for each one of us and tells us: ” I ​​know your heart, your loneliness, and your pain, reactions, judgments, and humiliation. I have endured all this before you. I carried it all on Me for you so that you can also share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love and the need to drink from the fountain of love and consolation. How many times your thirst was in vain quenching your thirst in a selfish way, filling your thirst of illusory pleasures that is the greater emptiness of sin? Do you thirst for love? “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink” (John 7:37). “I will give to drink to fullness. Do you thirst to be loved? I love you more than you can imagine, to the point of dying on the cross for you.
I’m thirsty for your love. Yes, this is the only way to tell you My love: I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love and be loved. To show you how precious you are to Me! I THIRST FOR YOU. Never doubt of My grace, my desire to forgive, to bless and to live my life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to me, come to me, be thirsty for me, and offer me your life. And I’ll show how much you are dear to My heart. “[5] Jesus Christ, the Son of God thirsts for our thirst (cf. St. Gregory of Nazianzus) and has desire of our desire. He needs us, he is thirsty for siblings.

    Our request is the response to the thirst of Christ. It is not so paradoxical to say that our prayer of petition is a response. It is a given fact. With the power of love, we are called to respond to the plea of ​​the living God  “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, to dig cisterns, broken cisterns,[6]  It is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation[7], loving response to the thirst of the only Son[8].

      To all it is renew the invitation of God “All you who are thirsty come to the water! You who have no money come, buy grain and eat; come buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!”[9] ” Let the one who is thirsty come forward and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water [10] It is a clear call of Jesus Christ to all men. It is an encouragement to “drink” from the eternal source; the only one who quenches the thirst of the heart and mind and heals the soul and the body; the only one who gives salvation; the only one who gives happiness that lasts forever.

But let’s keep in mind that this water also comes from those who believed in Him as Savior and who, like earthen vessels, are called to be filled with the Water of Life[11]  and humbly share it.

The Consecrated Virgins are called to live this sharing through their consecration and the total donation to God whom they carry as sacred vessels as fragile as clay but strengthened by His grace from which they draw the love that God has poured into them.

The Consecrated Virgins, with their dedication to constant prayer, testify that prayer and genuine spiritual life are like the instinctive drive of thirst that is a primary and elementary need. It is a necessity almost “animalistic” like the one depicted by the prophet Jeremiah in the thirst of wild donkeys that during the drought “stop on the bare heights gasping for breath like jackals. Their eyes grow dim because there is no grass.[12] “Living prayer and life as a response to the thirst for God allow them and us to pray: “For your love is better than life my lips shall ever praise you![13]These women testify to having learned the lesson of Jesus to the Samaritan woman. They do not seek God on the mountain of Samaria nor of Zion. They seek and find Him in their hearts, wells from which flows water of eternal life.

With their lives, these women say, like Abraham[14], “I trust you, I trust in You, Lord.” They remind us that to believe in God means to base our life on Him and to let His Word direct it daily in the concrete choices without fear of losing something of ourselves and without hesitation to consecrate ourselves completely to God.

 

[1] Jn 4:15

[2] Jn 4:12-24

[3] 1 Cor 10:4

[4] We must not forget that between Jews and Samaritans there was bad blood since the latter had formed an independent kingdom and cult. They were schismatic, and moreover mixed with foreign settlers (Assyrian) practicing pagan cults. Their relationships were marked with hostility, personal relationships were condemned, and the Jews avoided crossing the region, located between Judea and Galilee, following a path much longer just to prevent meeting them. The Samaritans opposed their temple on Mount Gerizim to the Temple in Jerusalem. For the Jews this was a very serious matter because they considered essential the uniqueness of the Temple, the place of Yahweh’s presence among the people.

[5] Prayer of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who wanted that, next to the crucifix behind the altar of the chapel in each of the Houses of her Sisters, it must be written “I THIRST”. It may be helpful to consult http://www.motherteresa.org.

[6] Jer 2:13

[7] Cfr Jn7:37-39; Is12:3;51:1

[8] Cfr Jn 19:28;Zc 12:10;13:1

[9] Is 55:1

[10] Rev 22:17

[11] Jn 38-39

[12] Jer 14:6

[13] Ps 63:4

[14]To this Patriarch is “dedicated” the second Sunday of Lent in the Ambrosian Rite. Abraham, the believer, teaches us faith and, as a stranger on earth, shows us the true homeland. Faith makes us pilgrims on earth integrated in the world and in history but on the way to the heavenly homeland. Believing in God makes us bearers of values ​ that often do not coincide with the fashion and opinion of the moment. In many societies God has become the  “great missing “ and in His place there are many and various idols and especially ownership and the “I “.   Moreover, the significant and positive progress of science and technology has given to humans an illusion of omnipotence and self-sufficiency. A growing self-centeredness has created many imbalances within interpersonal relationships and social behaviors. Yet the thirst for God has not extinguished and the Gospel message continues to resonate through the words and deeds of many men and women of faith.

About Francesco Follo

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