Obey Your Thirst!

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (4:5-42)

Today we are most blessed to hear the familiar story of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan woman.  I must admit that each and every year I struggle deciding what to focus on from this reading.  It is so rich and overflowing with truth and grace.  But we have to begin somewhere.  We notice that Jesus stopped at the well because we are told that He was “wearied by His journey.”  We sometimes think of Jesus as superhuman.  Perhaps we envision Him as someone who never got tired, never got thirsty, never was hungry.  Yet the evangelists go out of their way to tell us that Jesus is fully human.  Not only did He experience all of these conditions, but we are comforted by the fact that He sympathizes with our condition.

Today He sympathizes with the thirst that plagued the Samaritan woman.  In the process of revealing the truth to her He tells her that “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst forever.”  She has come looking for water, h2o, agua, but Our merciful Lord looks past the obvious to the real thirst that haunted the woman.  It becomes obvious in the course of their interaction that her thirst was for affection and belonging and love.  These are not unreasonable desires.  We might say that if one doesn’t have these desires there might be something wrong with them.  That wasn’t the problem.  The problem was where she went to try to fulfill her deep desire for affection and love.  This is true for each of us.  As part of our fallen human condition, our passions disorient us, or rather, they are disoriented.  So we take our human desires and feelings but we direct them and focus them on what cannot give more than a temporary satisfaction.  In the case of the Samaritan woman, it was the love and affection of men that she was after.  But we learn that this didn’t work.  One way or another she failed epically at the goal of connecting and obtaining the love she desired.  In fact, that is true for everyone.  No one on earth can make you feel perfectly and completely loved and desired.  It is an impossibility.  True it is a goal for a married husband and wife, yet it is also an impossibility.  Why?  Because no one is perfect, no not one.  If we are not perfect, we can’t give unconditional and perfect love, we fall short.  We love one another, but we don’t love perfectly and completely.  Only God can do that, because God is love.

Our desire for love is a good desire.  Our desire for belonging is a good desire.  Our desire for fulfillment is also good.  Whether these are actually fulfilled in a good way, depends on where we focus that desire.  “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst forever.”  What is this water that the Lord speaks of?  It is the grace of the Holy Spirit.  It is the fruit of a life that is aimed toward Christ.  It is the gift that is poured out on those who love Jesus Christ with their whole body, mind and soul.  As Orthodox Christians however we should say that this gift of the Holy Spirit is not just a feeling or a sentimental thought.  It is a true gift that is passed down in the life of the Church and first through the sacrament of Chrismation.  If baptism is one side of the coin, Chrismation is the other side of the coin.  In the early life of the Church, baptism and Chrismation were virtually inseperable.  In fact, there was a time when Chrismation didn’t even exist.  After the apostles baptized new Christians they would lay their hands on them and give them the Holy Spirit as we see multiple times in the Acts of the Apostles.

But this practice changed and adapted to fit the needs of the Christian Church at the time.  The apostles couldn’t be everywhere at once.  And many of them were persecuted and imprisoned or martyred.  The Lord had made them the stewards of the Church and stewards of the mysteries of God, as St. Paul says.  So at some point very early on in the life of the Church, the practice of praying upon this special oil and asking the grace of the Holy Spirit to dwell in this oil was initiated.  Now in the absence of one of the Apostles laying their hands on the newly baptized, they could be anointed with this oil by the priests who were appointed by the Apostles and the bishops who were their successors.  

This act of Chrismating someone who is baptized and comes into the Church isn’t symbolic or simply a ritual act.  In this act we believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within the one who is Chrismated and that they become the temple of the Holy Spirit.  St. John writes of this in 1 John 2:20 when he says “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”  He continues saying “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” 1Jn 2:27

I have taken a moment to focus on this to demonstrate that we as Orthodox Christians have received this living water that Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of.  We have received what was promised to the Samaritan woman that day.  This gift, this treasure of the gift of the Holy Spirit is yours by God’s grace.  Without the Holy Spirit nothing is right.  Everything seems empty.  Yet with the Holy Spirit, is anything lacking in our lives?  We have everything that Christ has promised us.  But where are we focused?  We have a thirst but is our thirst aimed in the right direction?  What are we putting ahead of the love of God?  What in our lives is an obstacle to true intimacy and closeness with God?  I can’t answer that for you.  God speaks into each of our hearts.  Let us spend some quiet time with the Lord every day and listen to what He is telling us.  Let us open our hearts to Him that they might be filled with this life giving water and carry us away to the kingdom that knows no end! AMEN.

Source: Sermons