Water and thirst are the biblical imagery for the best and worst scenarios of the human situation, representing the best of hopes and worst of fears of the human being. Water represents God’s presence to humanity; thirst represents humanity’s absence from God.
In the Christian tradition, the living water is a symbol of the gift of faith which is manifested in the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. This 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 the 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…”
Thirst, resulting from the absence or deprivation of water, becomes a metaphor for the need for God, for His saving love and forgiveness. When Christ was dying on the cross, one of his last statements was “I thirst!” The concluding words of the Book of Revelation (Rev. 11.17) state: “Let him who is thirsty, come forward; let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water.” The fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation is often described as the quenching of death-dealing thirst with life-giving water.
Jesus speaks of God’s overflowing love when He tells the Samaritan woman at the well: “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” In a way, the Samaritan woman represents every infidelity borne of trying to quench our cravings on something other than the “living water” of God’s love. We indeed are thirsty for healing, for an end to hatred and indifference. We are thirsty for love and forgiveness. We are thirsty for acceptance and meaning in our lives. In our hearts, we thirst for God to fill us with life-giving water that only He can give.
This season of Lent speaks of this thirst of the human spirit. Lent is a journey of the soul through the desert into the living water of Christ’s resurrection. As we journey through Lent, let us ask God to pour His living water of faith upon all of us, to bless us with the water of life as we journey together in faith. As we make the sign of the cross with the water every time we gather for worship, we recognize and proclaim one faith in one God as we deepen our intimacy with Him.