This homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent is from John 4:5-42.
Today’s gospel story is about thirst, hunger–and bewilderment.
A thirsty Jesus sits by the well and breaks a rule by speaking with a Samaritan Woman and asking her for a drink. Initially bewildered, the woman is drawn to a discussion with the Lord that leaves her thirsting for the water that brings eternal life–and no less bewildered. Later on, the disciples return with food and they are also bewildered when they see Jesus speaking with the Samaritan Woman. But they are even more bewildered when the Lord refuses to eat, saying, “I have food you know not of.”
What’s going on here? What’s the Lord up to? What’s this secret source of food and water that he knows of? Thankfully, he doesn’t keep us in suspense and doesn’t leave us bewildered the way he has done to the Samaritan Woman and his disciples. He says, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.” In other words, eternal nourishment and eternal life have for their source this one thing–to follow God’s will.
I know, I know. It sounds disappointingly vague. What does that mean anyway? And what is God’s will? And even if we don’t quite understand it yet in the concrete, it certainly doesn’t sound like fun. Doesn’t doing God’s will, after all, usually entail self-sacrifice and going against our own will?
But that’s probably because we have a mistaken notion of God’s will. Somebody wrote somewhere that God’s will is nothing but our deepest desire–except often we don’t know it. We hear all sorts of voices in the world–and all its noises–and we get persuaded that what we desire is the swankiest car, or latest fashion trend, or the fastest computer, or the most high-tech mobile phone. As a result, we end up with all sorts of different and conflicting desires. If we follow each one, we end up confused, frustrated, and still unhappy. The reason for that is that we have layers upon layers of desires, and what will make us happy is not every desire we possess, but the deepest among them. Only this desire will make us happy.
What is this deepest of desires? It is our often-unconscious desire for God, the one desire behind all our desires. Philosophers have called it our existential desire. And unlike other desires, it is a lasting one.
This desire is not given to all. Many people go through life never knowing this or accepting it. Result? They run around like headless chickens trying to fill their deepest desire with things and persons that can never fill the emptiness in their hearts. After leading a life that has “seen it all,” St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and my heart is restless until it rests in you.”
In other words, God is our deepest hunger. He is our first thirst.
Our Quick Question for today: “This moment, here and now, do I feel a certain desire for God? Do I experience some kind of longing for him?” If yes, the proper response is gratitude for this grace. If your answer is “No,” that’s all right. You may want to ask for this grace of desire. Desire the grace. In other words, want it, and ask God to give it to you.
Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
(image: “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” by He Qi from heqigallery.com)