Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Time for a drink
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the April 6, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
In present-day Israel there lies a stretch of land, between Jerusalem north to the city of Nablus, called the Valley of the Wells. The rugged hills which vie for dominance in between these ancient Biblical cities are parched and nearly barren of vegetation. One quickly recognizes the appreciation the nomadic peoples had for the occasional watering hole which provided refreshment for people and beast alike. The most famous of the wells along this stretch is Jacobís Well, which has been in use in Nablus since before the city bore the ancient name of Shechem.
According to a long and very believable tradition, Jacob watered his flock at this crucial water source. Thousands of visits have been paid there ever since Ė by weary passersby, men and women of faith, and now by tourists and pilgrims. According to Johnís Gospel, Jesus himself stopped one day at this well, seeking its cool, tasteful waters. Like so many people before him, he was thirsty. John the Evangelist, however, uses this scene to speak of a more significant kind of thirst which concerned the Lord.
Jesus shares with the rest of humanity the common need for water. Yet his more genuine thirst is that the sons and daughters of God might come to drink of the Living Water which he sought to bring as Godís free gift. At the well Jesus engages in conversation with a woman from the Samaritan neighborhood. She, too, has come to Jacobís Well because she is thirsty. Yet beneath the surface her thirst is a more painful kind, as Jesusí conversation discovers. Come to find out, she is shacked up with her sixth man. (Now, just what kind of thirst is manifest in that kind of behavior?) She is still obviously looking for something, or, more accurately, someone. Moreover, in addition to the fact that being a woman and a Samaritan were both strikes against her in the culture of Jesusí time, she appears to be ostracized by her own village folk. She is there all alone Ė shunned and stricken socially, spiritually barren in her sinfulness.
Jesus breaks through the crusty shell of her life and refreshes her spirit with Living Water Ė the gift of himself. She even forgets all about her water jar: Bubbling with joy, she rushes off into the village to announce the good news of her find.
For those of us who know the experience of thirst, this well and the scene John portrays around it are powerful reminders of the same refreshment of life and faith which are available to us in a relationship of life offered to us by Jesus. Not only do our bodies thirst for water, but our spirits long for that Someone who will bring them peace and satisfaction. Like the Samaritan woman, in ways small and sometimes not-so-small, we jump from thing to thing, situation to situation, person to person, looking for that ďsomething.Ē We even can so preoccupy ourselves with seemingly legitimate things and activities that in the midst of pursing them, we lose our souls in the process. Along the way, perhaps we even make bad choices and make an already bad or neglectful situation worse.
In his great love, Jesus does not mark against us the sinfulness of our ways. He thirsts to touch that inner dimension of our self where the goodness of Godís presence struggles to break forth to the surface. Godís life runs deep in us Ė as deep as Jacobís Well. Regardless of how parched the terrain of our lives has become because of our bad, sinful choices, the Living Water still is there for our drinking. No matter how hard-packed we have made the ground over that water by the ever-quickening pace of our lives, the refreshment of Godís life lies beneath the thirsty surface, waiting to be tapped.
God bids us through the ministry of the Church to make frequent pilgrimage to Jacobís Well. Like pilgrims confessing our spiritual thirsty, the Lord asks a bit of honesty from us Ė a truthful acknowledgment of the emptiness of some of our ways and our need to find a source of genuine life. God bids us to drink deep of the stream of grace and love which seek to well up within us. Jesusí promise to us is the same as the one he made to the Samaritan woman: Once we drink of the Living Water he gives us, we shall never be thirsty again.
(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics
Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.)
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