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“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions,” says George Carlin, “is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.” And yet we try.
It’s not that possessions are bad. Obviously. I like my fledgling retirement account, my hormone-free Greek yogurt, my turquoise flats and my Nikon D90. I treasure the rosary beads my grandpa held in his hand on his deathbed.
But there comes a point when we must acknowledge that being well equipped for life requires more than equipment, and the sum total of our possessions and relationships, no matter how satisfying, can never amount to what brings peace to a person. There are recesses in our hearts that things, and other people, cannot reach.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, a Samaritan woman draws water from the town well. Christ meets her there. He wants to give her more.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Living water is like nothing the Samaritan woman has ever known, and she does not fully understand this stranger’s words. Christ awakens her to a different thirst. She recognizes that the water needed to quench this thirst cannot be drawn from a well. It must be received as a gift.
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).
Her thirst, and ours, is a cosmic kind that can only be quenched by a living water. It’s a freeing feeling to know that there’s nothing wrong with us when we ask, “I have [everything I want], so why am I not happy?” There’s something awfully right with us when we ask that question.
Lent is a time when we acknowledge that no matter how successful or comfortable we are, we will thirst until we receive Christ. We make Lenten sacrifices to acknowledge and remember this. We pray to know the gift of God. We pray for the humility to ask for the living water only God’s Son can give.