Has anyone asked you recently a soul-searching question such as “Do you know what you want out of life?” If we were to ask that question to a teen about to graduate from high school, perhaps the response would be, ‘I don’t know, but I know I need to go to college or get a job.’ If we were to ask that question to a married couple with children, perhaps the answer would be, ‘I don’t know, but I’m too busy to ponder that question at this moment.’ If we were to ask the question to a retired person whose spouse may or may not be alive, the answer might be, ‘I don’t know, but I’m busy going to my grandchild’s ballgames and events.’ As much as we all want certainties in life, there remains in all of us an uncertainty we cannot quite put our finger on.
When the Samaritan woman came to the well, she was searching for plain water, but she probably did not know that her heart longed for the water of eternal life. She thirsted, but did not know for what she was thirsting. Not only the Samaritan woman, but even the people of our age thirst, search, and long for something beyond our imagination. Today, so clouded is the mind and soul by the noise, the glamour and the empty promises of the world that we cannot know that we long for something more. There is, deep inside all of us who come into the world, that longing to know what we truly want out of life.
In some ways, we are like the Israelites in our First Reading wandering in the desert. We keep looking to quench the thirst of our deep longing with worldly solutions. The Israelites grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" When what we long for is not satisfied with worldly solutions, we doubt God or blame God for not satisfying our thirst. Yet Jesus points out to us that if we are looking for worldly pursuits--represented by the stagnant water in the well--to satisfy our longing, we will not be satisfied. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Imagine having a fountain of water rising up within us, keeping our spirit ever refreshed and alive. Would we not, like the Samaritan woman, leave our old water jar at the well?
Jesus points to himself as the answer to our deepest thirst and longing, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) But do we come to him? Do we set aside time to meet him each day in our prayer and reading of scriptures? Do we carry him inside us everywhere we go? When we come to Mass, we are like the woman coming thirsty to drink at the well. If, like the Samaritan woman, we truly encounter the Lord, we would never be the same again. We would want to share that experience with others. The Samaritan woman became the first evangelizer, telling her village about what Jesus had done for her.
A priest reflecting on the deeper questions about his life wrote:
“[My life] story is about returning...My life drifts away from God. I have to return. My heart moves away from my first love. I have to return. My mind wanders to strange images. I have to return. Returning is a lifelong struggle….God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home. . .so why delay? God is standing there with open arms, waiting to embrace me. He won’t ask any questions about my past. Just having me back is all he desires.”
The answer to the question for each of us, “do you know what you want out of life,” is quite simple: To know, to love, and to serve Our Lord in this earthly life. That’s our life’s mission statement and daily bread. We the disciples should feel compelled to point others to Jesus: ‘Look at him, look at the one who loves me unconditionally! Look at him who has forgiven
and restored me! Look at him who is with me always and who
never abandons me! Look at him!’ When we truly know, love, and serve him, then we will have quenched our deepest thirst.