In Scripture, thirst is a metaphor for an equally vital need of an even more serious kind. When Christ was dying on the cross, one of his last statements was “I thirst!” The concluding words of the Book of revelation state: “Let him who is thirsty, come forward; let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water.” (Rev. 22:17) The fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation is often described as the quenching of death-dealing thirst with life-giving water.
The miracle of the life-giving water from the rock of Horeb is featured in today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus, which is the Greek word for “way out”, that for Israel the way out from the hopeless situation of oppressive servitude is through what we can call a journey through a trackless desert where one can die of thirst.
The biblical imagery of water is best summarized by the formula for the blessing of the water for baptism: “At the dawn of creation your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood You made the sign of the waters of baptism that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. Through the waters of the Red Sea, you led Israel out of slavery to be an image of God’s holy people, set free from sin by baptism. In the waters of the Jordan, Your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit. Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from His side as he hung upon the cross…”
The Old Testament thirst for the living water comes to fulfillment with the coming of Christ, the Messiah. In Christ, as St Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” In our gospel today, Jesus refers to this outpouring of God’s love as He tells the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
Lent actually highlights this thirst of our human spirit. We embark on a journey of our soul through the desert into the living water of Christ’s resurrection.