Saturday, March 26, 2011
The Third Sunday of Lent reading focuses on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. This is a very rich Gospel reading which contains many points of interest beginning with the relations of antipathy between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus' transcending the social norm of man/woman interactions, the hint of the sin of adultery, the emptiness of living in sin, and many more. Our Carmelite Saints, especially St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Teresa of Avila offer meditations on this precise Gospel in their works, Story of A Soul and Interior Castle respectively. St. Therese was moved by our Lord's words, "Give Me To Drink!" She sees these words in the light of her contemplative vocation as a Carmelite nun, inviting her to offer her self for the conversion of poor sinners, which will give delight to the heart of God. According to Therese, when Jesus said, "give me to drink," He was really referring to His thirst for souls, and most especially the soul of this woman who was living in sin. She also relates this episode to the same words uttered by Our Lord as He was hanging on the cross in Calvary when He said the words, "I Am thirsty." St. Therese wants us to understand that every time we unite our sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus and endure trials and discomforts "to make up what is lacking in the Body of Christ which is the Church," (St. Paul), we quench the thirst of Jesus. Evry time we feel sorrow for our sins and resolve to turn away from the life of self-indulgence and self-centeredness, we slake -off the thirst Our Lord feels. Jesus thirsts, but He thirsts for souls, and we must give Him souls.
St. Teresa of Avila reflects on this Gospel passage in her discussions on Prayer.
Jesus answered and said to her,
“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 welling up to eternal life.”
St. Teresa ventures that the feeling of thirst ones feels in the beginning of one's conversion is different from the thirst one feels in the spiritual union. Since we were created for God and that according to St. Augustine our heart is restless until it rests in Him, we will never find satisfaction in anything less than God. Power, wealth, loved ones, possessions- can only give us momentary happiness but we come back more hungry and more thirsty, and more dissatisfied. This is the kind of thirst Jesus was referring to in the Gospel cited above. But there is another thirst, a healthier kind of thirst but a thirst that could be a source of deeper trial for the person favored with it. It is the thirst which mystics experience in their longing for God. It's the burning bush which does not burn out, it's the deep cavern of feelings which St. John of the Cross describes in his Living Flame of Love.