“Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”
- John 4:14
In this third week of Lent, the readings offer us the imagery of thirst and of water, inviting us to reflect on our deepest needs and desires, both spiritual and physical.
In the gospel story, Jesus interacts with a Samaritan woman at a well, initially asking for a drink of water. Jesus names the woman’s broken relationships and speaks to her of the living water he offers which will quench all thirst. She marvels at his knowledge, calls him a prophet, and asks for this living water. He stays with her community, preaching the good news.
In the first reading, we hear of God responding to the physical needs of the Israelites, who begged Moses for water while they were stranded in the desert. In the gospel, the connection is made between physical and spiritual needs—the need for physical water from the well is likened to the need for the spiritual, living water of truth that Christ gives.
Through the lens of ecological conversion, we can further reflect on the connection between material resources and spiritual realities. The way we relate to the material world is intimately related to our relationship with God.
The problems of over—and unequal—consumption of natural resources have been highlighted by Pope Francis and others who analyze the ecological crisis. One statistical estimate by Friends of the Earth is that the average North American uses 10 times more natural resources per day than the average person in a very poor country. Another is that if everyone on earth consumed as much as people in the United States, we would need three to five planet Earths to sustain the current levels of resource consumption.
Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner Kathy Dahl-Bredine reflects on the lifestyles of her neighbors in rural southern Mexico in contrast to the average North American lifestyle: “A friend of ours [from the U.S.] tried to give one of his good shirts to a local man. The [local] man…said ‘No thanks, I have two shirts, so I don’t need another one.’ … Can we look at our industrialized societies of the North and see the problem? Do we see that we, in our drive to be first in the world, to have more than everyone else, to create corporations that control the world, have continued taking more and more of the planet’s limited resources in order to create wealth and power to control the world?”
This Lent, can we recognize that one of our deepest needs—both physical and spiritual—is to have healthy relationship with the natural world, to live in simplicity and concern for care of all life? Like with the Samaritan woman, God sees and loves us amid our broken relationships and offers us the living water of healing and truth. We ask for the grace to examine our relationship with the earth, recognize the truth, and receive God’s mercy for the harm we have done, knowingly or unknowingly.
Questions for Reflection
How do you experience spiritual thirst?
What would it look like to live more simply, using fewer resources?
Pray in silence with this passage:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money,
wine and milk without cost!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what does not satisfy?
Only listen to me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Pay attention and come to me;
listen, that you may have life.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near.
Let the wicket forsake their way,
and sinners their thoughts;
Let them turn to the Lord to find mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving he end for which I sent it.
Yes, in joy you shall go forth,
in peace you shall be brought home;
Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, all trees of the field shall clap their hands.
In place of the thornbush, the cypress shall grow,
instead of nettles, the myrtle.
This shall be the Lord’s renown,
as an everlasting sign that shall not fail.
- Isaiah 55: 1-3, 6-7, 10-13
Fast from over consumption. Refrain from shopping one day of the week. Use the money and time saved to pursue a hobby, build relationships, or support your community.
Learn about the wasteful practices of production and consumption of everyday goods.
Maryknoll Missioner Experience
“The accustomed times for planting and cultivating the land have varied greatly. Planting later, awaiting the rains, means a shorter growing season and a diminished harvest. The wells are running dry and it is difficult to find water for the cattle. So many are discouraged by the climate and soil conditions that the youth are migrating to the cities, looking for jobs.”
- Father Edmond Cookson (Peru), Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers*
*Thank you to the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns for permission to share this Lenten Guide at springfieldop.org.
Photo Credit: Image of water tap in the desert in the public domain and available at http://bit.ly/pumpdesert. Image of corn farmer by staff of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.