What She Desired

(Homily for Third Sunday of Lent, Year A)

Today’s readings are about desire: desert wanderers who crave flowing water, a remarkable woman who discovers her deepest want. Because success involves tempering desire (for food, sex, vengeance, sleep, etc.) we often do not pay proper attention to honest longings.

I recently talked with a girl who came to Seattle for college. I asked her, “Is it pretty exciting going to the University?”

She said, “Well, everyone tells me I should be having a good time. Boys, parties, that kind of stuff. But, you know what I really want?”

“What?” I asked.

After a pause she said, “My mom. I just want my mom.”

When she said that, I felt a stab in my own heart. Some longings are too painful to express in words.*

Such was the situation of the woman in today’s Gospel. She came alone to the well. Going through five different men does not make one popular with other women, so she avoided their company.

Suddenly she finds herself talking to a man with a strange offer: flowing water which would make thirst a thing of the past. Now, this woman had every reason to be cynical, especially regarding men. But in a moment of grace she made herself vulnerable. Instead of responding with a put-down, she said, “Sir, give me this water.”

She acknowledged her thirst and Jesus gave her what she most desired. But what exactly was it? Her words to the townspeople give the clue:

"This man is a prophet. He has told me everything I have ever done."

She allowed Jesus to review her life. And he did not consign her to the garbage. He erased her shame to such a degree that she actually had courage to go back her neighbors. They of course had good reason to be cynical about her, but the woman’s joy overcame their skepticism. They went and found out for themselves.

G.K. Chesterton said:

All men thirst to confess their crimes more than tired beasts thirst for water.

After thirty years of administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I know the truth of that epigram. Like the Samaritan woman, it’s time to admit our honest longings – and go to the one person who can fill them.

************

*In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzche analyzes the sickness of modern man. He speaks about the “Last Men,” who would live only to satisfy surface desires, never admitting an unquenchable longing:

They are clever and know all that hath happened: so there is no end to their raillery. People still fall out, but are soon reconciled- otherwise it spoileth their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

"We have discovered happiness,"- say the last men, and blink thereby.

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Year A homilies for Third Sunday of Lent):

Best Lent Ever Week 3: A Good Listener (2017)
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 3 (2014)
Thirst (2011)
Why So Dissatisfied? (2008)
The Scent of Water (2005)
What She Desired (2002)
The One You Want (1999)

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