Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2,3-8; John 4:5-42
Saint John Baptist de la Salle March 12, 2023
Last week, I was in Henderson, Nevada, a town just outside the city of Las Vegas, where I spent time visiting with family and friends. While I was there, I celebrated Mass at Saint Francis of Assisi, a parish of over 8,000 families and an extremely large school. As I was given a tour of their modern school, I watched first-grade students effortlessly operate a classroom smartboard. It was the same kind of classroom in which, some 70 years earlier, Miss Kennedy taught me first grade. It is impossible, at least for me, to hold both classrooms, one present and one long past, in my mind at the same moment.
The school I attended, 1st through 4th grade, had only four rooms. We had chalkboards and now they have smartboards, large computer screens that the children operate by hand. Smartboards are new; my memory is old. My memory recalls desks made of wrought iron, with holes in their wooden tops for inkwells that were used in my days. Today, the desks are made from some type of molded fiberglass, with padded seats, computers built into the tops, and a little hole that keeps your bottled water cold.
As I wandered through this modern building, my preoccupations and memories did not mix. There is only one constant in those 70 years between school visits. I am not the future because I am, at least hopefully, not unchanged. No, what is constant is Jesus. Jesus was there when I struggled to climb the steps of my school as a first-grade student. Jesus was there in my fifth-grade classroom when I resolved to pray a daily rosary. Jesus is still in those rooms. Jesus calls himself “living water.” To try, at least, to make sense of what Jesus says, we must try to understand what it means to thirst, an aspect so obvious in our life it can be overlooked.
No matter how much we drink, thirst will return. We are only satisfied for a time before we are thirsty again. From our mother’s breast to the sponge the hospice nurse might use to wet our parched mouth, our thirst remains, for this is the way our body was fashioned. However, our soul must also be replenished. If, during our life, we have not found something it can swallow, something that nourishes it with meaning and purpose, how thirsty it must be. Jesus is like water because we must repeatedly drink of him. Each time, Jesus will quench our thirst, meet our needs.
I cannot imagine life without Jesus. All these years, Jesus has been the one who gives my life meaning. When I have been afraid, Jesus has given me courage. When I am hurting, Jesus has been the savior of my soul. In one way or the other, Jesus has always been the explanation for what I am doing. Jesus is also the reason I often reproach myself for what I have failed to do. I do not stop growing thirsty, and Jesus continues to be “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Who among us still carries the fears or hopes of childhood, perhaps we all do. Many of those early fears and hopes remain, although they do weather and wane. But was not Jesus there for you when you were a child, and again when you were a youth? Will Jesus not still be your living water if you return to the well? Jesus waited for that Samaritan woman. Jesus knew, more than she did, how thirsty she was. Your cup might be a bit broken by now, it might even leak a bit. No matter. If you know the gift of God given to you in Jesus, drink!