Monday, March 28, 2011

Because salvation is from the Jews: How Judaism and Christianity differ from every other religion, Sermon of March 27th

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A
March 27th, 2011
John 4:5-42

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

The woman of Samaria is a type for all humanity – in her the whole human race is mystically present. And what is the first thing we learn about this woman? That she is thirsty. She has a physical thirst. This thirst is indicative of the thirst which all people have – a thirst for something more, something beyond themselves; it is a thirst for happiness and fulfillment. All human beings have a deep longing. We are not complete and whole in ourselves: it is what Dorothy Day called “the long loneliness;” St. Augustine spoke of the restless heart.

All of us have this longing, this desire for fulfillment. The woman was thirsting, and in her thirst she went to well of Jacob. The Samaritan woman seeks to satiate this inner longing with natural water; in this we are meant to recognize the human inclination to seek consolation and fulfillment in the things of this life. As the woman went to the well, all too often we seek fulfillment in worldly delights and natural consolations.
But, coming to the well and looking for natural water, the woman finds the Lord. Christ was there, waiting for her to come. She was not so much seeking him directly, as seeking satiation from her thirst – but, of course, the only true fulfillment will come from Christ. God alone can bring true joy to the human heart.
And here we have something upon which we might reflect: Do we seek our consolations and our joys more in the Lord or in the world? Where is our delight – in prayer or in earthly vanities? Now I do not intend to claim that we must utterly reject the world, or that we must take no joy whatsoever in the world. Rather, we rejoice first and foremost in the Lord, and then we take joy in other realities insofar as they are gifts from God. In this manner, even worldly delights lead us back to God and to the hope of heaven.
You will have to take my word for it, but I can testify that those who find consolation in the Lord alone above all else, these also are able to take greater joy in the world than any others. I am thinking especially of cloistered nuns – you have never met people so joyful, so happy, and quite frankly so delightful as nuns who have left the world and chosen the life of quiet contemplation!

So, the woman of Samaria was thirty, in her thirst she sought natural water, but ultimately she found that her true joy and fulfillment could come only from the Lord. Up to this point, the story goes as we might expect.
However, there is an important element which must be stressed: Christ was also thirsty. Notice, Who is it who speaks first? It is Christ! The Lord first asks for water, and only later does he direct the woman to ask him for living water. The Good Jesus was thirsty too, and we may even go so far as to say that his thirst was the more intense. Yes, Christ had a natural thirst for water; but even more he had a spiritual thirst for the salvation of souls, and for the salvation of this woman in particular. This is why Christ said to the woman, Give me a drink; he desired her faith and her love. Our Savior thirsts for communion with us, so that we might not perish but might have eternal life.

This is what is so unique about Judaism and Christianity: We affirm that God so loves us as to even thirst for our salvation. God thirsts for souls, he thirsts for our salvation! The Good Lord loved us so much that he sent his own Son to die for us. And Christ, our God, he so thirsts for our salvation that he did not hesitate to endure every suffering in order that we might respond to his love.
This is the unique aspect of revealed religion: God thirsts for the human race. Every other religion witnesses to the thirst that humanity has for God – and every natural religion is a testimony to the human search for the divine. But only Judaism and Christianity have taught that God thirsts for man; that God is like a shepherd who goes out in search of the lost sheep.

Allah of Islam does not love humanity, nor less does he thirst for humanity. Allah would never become man in order to die for us. Precisely this doctrine of Christianity is what is most intolerable to Muslims: That God would humble himself and even die for us, out of love.
Moreover, the gods of the Eastern religions and cults have no love whatsoever for humanity. They do not thirst for you, they do not love you.
No, these other religions are signs of the yearning which human beings have for God, but they never attain to the highest teachings revealed to the Jews and then, through Christ, shared in the Church.

This is why Christ said to the woman of Samaria, Salvation is from the Jews. For it was first to the Jews that God revealed his love for the human race. This revelation was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ – and, through him, all people now have access to salvation.
Think on this: God thirsts for you, God loves you, God desires communion with you. Mother Teresa once said, “Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who he wants to be for you. Or who he wants you to be for him.”