The One You Want

(Homily Third Sunday of Lent,A)

Once this guy came to me with tears in his eyes. His girlfriend had left him. I knew her and was not surprised by her capriciousness. But I did try to show as much sympathy as I could for the brokenhearted boy. At one point he stated she was "the most perfect girl" he had ever met. I stopped him, "Was she really all that perfect?"

"Well," he admitted, "she did have her faults." For example, she always got him to do things for her but never reciprocated. But that only made him more crazy for her. And, yes, she did criticize a lot of things about him, the way he dressed, his friends, his job, how he ate, his driving... Once again that habit bonded him even closer to her.

I was going to point out that those traits might not be so endearing in ten or twenty years, but what I said was, "Uhm." He continued. Talking about her put him in a kind of melancholy trance. The thing that most tore him apart was how she flirted with other guys in his presence. Jealousy now stabbed him as he thought about her with someone else.

Unable to restrain myself, I asked him, "Do you think you would have been happy with her?"

He thought for a second and answered honestly, "No." But he quickly added, "I would rather be miserable with her than happy without her."

"John," I said, "she is not the one you want."

Puzzled, he asked, "Who?"

"The one you want," I said, "is God."

All of us have this deep, incredible longing. It is not for pleasure or comfort or tranquillity. We would gladly sacrifice any of those things and more if we could only have that for which our heart yearns. But we easily mistake that desire. We think something on this earth can fill it.

Once Jesus met a woman whose heart was dissatisfied. She had tried five different men but a man's attention did not fulfill her. Now a stranger stood before her talking about thirst. She thought he was referring to what was at the bottom of the well. But Jesus was speaking of a well that was much deeper--and much emptier.

He promised her flowing water which would slake her thirst forever. At this point we see the beauty of the woman. She had lived a hard life, one which could have made her cynical, even bitter. But she did not brush Jesus aside--even tho she had well mastered the art of the put-down. Instead, in a moment of grace, she made herself vulnerable: "Sir, give me this water."

It takes humility--and courage--to ask Jesus, "Fill my thirst. I have tried everything else. I realize it's no great compliment, me coming to you in such broken down condition. But please, I have no where else to turn." Now we see the divine humility. Jesus accepts us on the rebound.

A friend of mine once invited me to lunch. "I can't," I told him, "I have another commitment." Well, my other commitment cancelled out. I called him and made the mistake of leaving on his voice-mail this message: "My other friend changed his plans. I can now go to lunch with you." He never me let live down that faux pas.

Jesus is not that way. He accepts us even when he is our second option--or more likely, our last one. And he smiles at our insufferable self-pity. At the same time he has the severity of a jealous lover. Not because of egoism. He knows our hearts will never rest till we give ourselves totally to him.

When I think about Jesus satisfying man's thirst, my memory goes back to my days at the Lummi Indian Reservation. In our little congregation we had a choir which sang right from the heart. One of the songs was, Take my Cup:

There are people in the world
Who are seeking
For things that cannot satisfy
But then I heard my Savior speaking
Drink from the stream that never will run dry.

Take my cup, Lord.
Fill it up, Lord.
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of heaven, fill me till I want no more.
Take my cup, Lord.
Fill it up--and make me whole.

In that congregation were people who struggled with alcoholism, unemployment, teen suicide. They were folks just like you and me. But many of them had grasped the same truth as the Samaritan woman. "This man is a prophet. He has told me everything I have ever done."

I invite you to take the Samaritan challenge: "No longer does our faith depend on your story." Do not just listen curiously to what I am saying. Try Jesus yourself. Like the Samaritans you will be able to say, "We know that this really is the Savior of the World."


From Archives (Year A homilies for Third Sunday of Lent):
Thirst (2011)
Why So Dissatisfied? (2008)
The Scent of Water (2005)
What She Desired (2002)
The One You Want (1999)

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