I sometimes think that if Jesus had been born today rather than 2000 years ago, his dad would have owned a pub. Because so much of what he says and does is about drinking. Today’s readings only underline that. What is the crisis of the Israelites today? Is it an invasion of snakes? An epidemic of leprosy? A lost battle? A Sharknado? No the crisis today is that they’re thirsty. The psalm is no different: a whole psalm written about people who were thirsty. Now while it’s true the second reading is not about drink – St Paul doesn’t normally get that fun -what do we hear in the Gospel acclamation? Give me living water, that I may never thirst again. Alll of which is small beer, if you’ll pardon the pun, compared to the Gospel. Jesus might as well be at the pub. There’s at least 6 drinks: I counted the word drink 6 times.
Why all this focus on thirst? It’s because on earth, every single human being always never has enough. Our hearts always want more, good things and love and happiness, but we never find anything which takes away that thirst. This is why we sin: so desperate to quench our hearts we even do evil. But there is no escape : even excessive drinking or gambling or lovemaking or drugs don’t work. And we discover they only make us thirstier. Tormented by thirst, as we hear in the first reading.
Except there is something that can quench our thirst. Jesus tells us: anyone who drinks the water I shall give will never be thirsty again. What, then, is this living water? St Paul describes it for us in the first reading: it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. So a Christian, if when we thirst in our heart, turn toward the Holy Spirit, who dwells there permanently, he can pour an endless flow of love and consolation and goodness and beauty and joy into our heart – as he, unlike anything else on earth, is infinite and perfectly generous.
But there’s something else that is extremely important. And that is that He is thirsty too. Jesus is thirsty. How can God, the source of all being, the only quencher of thirsts, be thirsty? It’s true that God lacks nothing. This in fact is what makes him God: he is the only being who is never in need. Even Satan is utterly reliant on God.
But it is also true that all this talk in scripture about thirst is also the expression of a thirst that Jesus does in a sense have. He tells us that on the cross: I thirst. In fact all this talk of thirst in his conversation with the woman at the well, and throughout the Old Testament, is a reflection of his own thirst. What could Jesus thirst for? What he does not have, for the most part, is the love of his brothers and sisters – the love of human beings, who he is dying for. We thirst for his love, but so often when we receive it, do we love him back in return? He gives us infinitely more than others – do we love him back then infinitely more than others?
So how can we love Jesus better? One simple way of course is through our Lenten commitments: through extra praying, fasting and almsgiving. I pray because that is what we do with those we love: we spend time with them. I fast because I want to become better self-disciplined so I stop hurting Jesus. And I give alms because I love Jesus and so share with him in the poor the good things I have. So let us ask for that grace today: the freedom to, quite simply, love Jesus better. Amen.