The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (4:5-42)
Have you ever noticed that it is really easy for people to become addicts? We look all around us and we find that people are addicted to all sorts of things. Sometimes we are addicted to material or physical things like certain drugs or alcohol and sometimes we deal with addiction on the emotional level such as being addicted to praise or being addicted to power and authority or being addicted to attention and the admiration of others. We are addicted in the sense that we are not satisfied with what is given to us and we continually seek more and more of whatever it may be to get a temporary boost or “high.”
There is good news in this phenomenon of addiction that we see. It points to one of the realities of being human. We have urges that are almost infinite. That is what causes addiction. When a man starts drinking he feels good. But over time his tolerance grows and so the one drink doesn’t make him feel good enough, so he then drinks another. This cycle is vicious and it puts people in a bad place no matter if we are talking about alcohol or drugs or porn or sex or food. Our urges cannot be fulfilled by these limited and material things. We are programmed to continually look for more.
In today’s gospel we encounter a woman who sums this up quite well. She has been with 6 different men. She had five husbands (we are not told exactly what happened to them, so we do not know if they died or divorced). And the man whom she now has a relationship with is not her husband. They are not married. This woman has urges and desires that have not been fulfilled by all these relationships. She may have emotional dependence. She needs to feel loved, she needs to feel desired, she needs attention, she needs a warm embrace. There is nothing wrong in those feelings she had. Those are all natural feelings but the passions when left unchecked and out of balance, always take something that is good and noble and beautiful and they twist and pervert it until it is something else. We stop looking at how our life relates to God and we start thinking about how everything relates to us and to our pleasure or needs.
She had natural human urges but she didn’t direct those urges to the right place because she did not know where to direct them and even more than that, she did not know where to find something that would finally fulfill her. As Christians we are the most blessed of all people in the world because we know that we have deep, almost infinite hungers and thirsts and that such profound urges can only be addressed by going to the One who is big enough to address those needs, to the One who is infinite.
We know this in theory, but do we believe it enough to make it real in our lives? The woman at the well encountered the Lord Jesus Christ but that was not the end of the story. People encounter Jesus Christ every day. They encounter Him through the preaching of others. They encounter Him through the words of the gospel. They encounter Him through prayer. They encounter Him through the life of the Church and her worship (this is true because St. Paul call’s the Church, the body of Christ). And they encounter Him specifically through the receiving of the eucharist which is in truth the mystical body and precious blood of Jesus. Of this the Lord himself said “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him.” Each of these is a point of encounter with Jesus Christ, but what is our response? Do we respond with humility and allow ourselves to be corrected and perfected by this encounter or do we run away from these burdens?
What made this woman special was that she took the correction of the Lord. She spoke of not being married and the Lord corrected her and exposed her sin. She spoke of the worship of the Samaritans and He told said “You worship what you do not know, but we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” How many people would allow themselves to be corrected the way she did? She was humble and she was hungry for more. I have found that very few people can handle just a portion of the correction that the Lord offered this woman. They will leave or go away offended or they will argue.
He like a masterful surgeon, began the process of healing this woman by removing the dead or diseased tissue of her heart. He made her ready to receive His life giving water and then He refreshed her and gave her water which became in her, a well that overflowed abundantly. She was open to the Lord and she proved this by being full of humility and accepting some correction. And for this He poured out the water of life on her. We know her as St. Photeini and we know that this encounter with Christ truly changed her life. She became like one the Apostles and worked tirelessly to bring others the joy of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s food became her food. He says “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work.” She followed her master. If we have a true encounter with Jesus Christ, it should change our lives! Our faith becomes less a matter of what we say we believe or what we think we believe, rather it becomes a belief that is translated to the actions, decisions and ways of our daily life. This encounter gives us a whole new purpose and meaning for our lives!
The woman was thirsty for something more and the Lord was fed by doing the will of His Father. May we thirst for this life giving water and may it give us strength to do our Father’s will and bear much fruit in His name. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!