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03/15/20 Third Sunday of Len t - Fr. Reggie

We all experience two kinds of thirst in life, and unless we understand the difference between them, we will always be frustrated.

The first kind of thirst is horizontal thirst. We thirst for, we desire, the good things of this earth: food, drink, companionship, fun, entertainment, a nice house, a good income, success at work or school. It's part of our nature to desire these things; there's nothing wrong with them.

But we also have another kind of thirst - vertical thirst. This is a deeper thirst, a deeper desire. It's a desire for meaning and purpose. This desire is also built into our nature. There is nothing we can do to destroy it, just as there is nothing we can do to destroy our natural desires for food and water.

But unlike horizontal thirst, our vertical thirst cannot be satisfied by our own efforts. Only God himself can satisfy it. And he created us like that on purpose. It's as if he put a homing device in the very core of our being, and it constantly draws us towards him, towards intimate, personal contact with his eternal, transcendent love.

This is why even when all of our horizontal thirsts are satisfied, when we have money, success, and pleasure, we are still restless. Our deeper, vertical thirst can't be satisfied by things of this world. As the Catechism puts it: "Man is made to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness" (#45). The meaning and purpose which alone will give us true happiness comes from friendship with God in Christnot from worldly success, pleasures, and human relationships.

When we forget that, when try to satisfy our vertical thirst with horizontal stuff, we put ourselves on the road to frustration, tragedy and disappointment.

We all know this - that's why we're here today.

But the world around us is always trying to change our minds, to convince us that the vertical thirst is just an illusion, that we really can satisfy all the longings of our hearts just with earthly treasures and pleasures.

That's one of the devil's favorite lies.

If he can confuse us into thinking that our vertical thirst is just part of our horizontal thirst, then we won't even come and ask for God's guidance and gifts! The great Spanish Jesuit, Blessed Balthasar Alvarez, was kneeling one day before the Blessed Sacrament. While he prayed, Jesus appeared to him as a little boy. The Child Jesus had a look of longing in his eyes, and both of his hands were full of glittering, beautiful, precious jewels. As the holy priest gazed at the vision, the Child Jesus spoke these words to him: "Oh! If only I could find someone to give these graces and blessings to!"

God is yearning to fill our hearts with his grace even more passionately than we are yearning for meaning and happiness! God created us with a thirst for his friendship, for divine wisdom, and for everlasting truth and love not in order to torture us, but to lead us towards the real paradise. But when we let ourselves be seduced by plastic paradises instead, his treasures go undiscovered, and our desires go unsatisfied.

As the Catechism puts it:The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for. (#27)

We are not like the Samaritan woman when she arrived at the well. We already know Christ. We have experienced his love and grace. We have tasted the water that springs up to eternal life - the Holy Spirit who has "been poured out into our hearts," as St Paul puts it in the Second Reading.

Even so, we still have periods in our life when, like the Israelites in the desert, we struggle, we cry out, we get thirsty, and we need God to remind us of his power and his love. But we know where to turn in those moments. We "have been justified by faith," as St Paul says, and so "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Today we should thank God for that precious gift, of faith - the "gift of God" that never runs dry.

So we are not like the Samaritan woman when she arrived at the well. Rather, we are like the Samaritan woman after her conversation with Christ.

In today's secularized world, we are the privileged ones, the countercultural ones who have met the Savior. We know that no matter what the advertisers say, horizontal stuff will never satisfy the human heart's vertical thirst. But so many of those around us don't know that, and so they are frustrated in life, and they don't know why. It is up to us to tell them. All the Holy Spirit needs from us is a decent effort to spread the good news, and he will use our clumsy words to bring faith into thirsty hearts - just as he used the Samaritan woman's words to convert an entire town.

Jesus is the new Moses, and each one of us is a wooden staff in his hands, and he wants to use us to touch the stony hearts of our thirsting neighbors, so he can open within them a flowing fountain of his saving grace.

This week, let's give him the chance.

 

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