Archbishop’s Teaching

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany John 4 / 5 – 26

Time of the Epiphany
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
John 4 / 5 – 26

Homily of His Excellency Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus
The Living Water

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Jesus, tired from his walk in the desert and midday, says to the woman he meets at Jacob's well: "Give me a drink". Let us admire the way the Lord addresses her. He who gives abundantly gives lowers himself to depend on this woman, asking her for water to quench her thirst. What a surprise it was for her to hear Jesus, whom she recognized as a Jew, asking her for a drink!
For this Samaritan woman, the dialogue with Jesus takes a surprising turn in just a few moments. Even though he had just asked her for a drink, he offered her the living water that quenches all thirst, so that it was she who now asked him: "Lord, give me this water". Instead of answering her directly, he leads her to confide in him about the two tragedies of her life. First, her marital failure: "I have no husband". Then her religious distress: she did not know where to worship God; the schools were opposed: on the mountain or in Jerusalem. This brief dialogue with Jesus highlighted the two main obstacles in the life of this woman, preventing her from reaching God. Jesus led her, without judgment, to humbly acknowledge the two dead ends in her life, the two perpetually unsatisfied thirsts that make her life unhappy.
And this is precisely where Jesus intervenes. He comes to meet us, and leads us to confess to him our thirst, our thirst to love, always unsatisfied because no human can heal the original wound, except God himself.
The living water that Jesus promises the Samaritan woman, that he promises us, is the Holy Spirit that will flow from his pierced heart on the Cross, the divine love that alone can quench our thirst, thirst to love God, and thirst to love humanity. This is the meaning of our lives: to surrender to God our inabilities, to offer him our broken and humiliated hearts, to cry out to him our thirst. And this doesn't come without effort, for we seek in every way to fill the gaps in our hearts, thus preventing the living water from penetrating. Our world excels in offering us a thousand escapes that make us flee our misery, a thousand vinegar drinks that cannot quench our thirst. If there is a real effort, the one that leads us to confess our misery and thirst to God, and implore his help.
Therefore, the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, the encounter of Jesus with each of us, takes on its full meaning. It is the exchange of two thirsts. The Samaritan woman thirsts to be able to love and worship; Jesus thirsts to be able to communicate his love. This is the meaning of his thirst at Jacob's well, and the meaning of his cry of thirst at Golgotha. By revealing his thirst to the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed hers; by quenching it, he showed her how to quench his own. All that God lacks is what can only come from us: that we welcome the love he desires to communicate to us.
The woman has found the answer to the deepest needs of her soul, and now she wants to give witness to what she has found in Jesus. She addresses those in her own city, where her life of sin was known.
Now she can say, "Come and see a man who has told me all that I ever did; can this be the Christ?”. She has believed what the Lord Jesus told her, and she confesses it with her own mouth before people. This is the sign of a true conversion!

Lord, we are thirsty. Give us to drink from your water to receive your Love and carry it to all those we meet.

† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

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