Midday thirst

A reflection on John 4:1-42

By André Myre
September 2004

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It is midday. Not the best time to fetch water. Even with the jug covering her head, the sun is wicked. There is one advantage; this won't take long as there should be no one at the well. But there is someone. A man. She moves forward. It is a stranger. She fills her jug. Before she has taken a step he speaks to her, asking for a drink. She freezes. No matter who he is, he must realize that he cannot speak to someone he doesn't know. What will people say if they see this?

She approaches him with the jug. He drinks. Looking at her, he asks if she is thirsty. An odd question since he sees that her jug is full. No, he wants to talk to her of life, of her thirst for happiness.

She trembles. No one has ever asked her if she is happy. No one has ever asked her about this thirst that devours her, this emptiness that makes her dizzy, this yearning to possess that pushes her towards and away from everyone. No one has ever talked to her about these things. No one except this stranger, this Jew, who asks her what she thirsts for in life. She is stunned. Who does he think he is? Her husband? She has no husband. They all abandoned her once she was of no more use to them. He tells her he knows this. He is a prophet! What must he think of her?

Quick, change the subject. Talk about religion: "Where is the best place to meet God, on your mountain or mine?" He smiles. Did she just say something silly?

It is at the heart of such thirst that we encounter God, he says. For on this day of thirst, a midday thirst, a cruel thirst – a thirst that brings suffering, humiliation – we encounter God. Whoever tastes of the water that quenches such thirst, blesses that thirst.

André Myre is a biblical scholar in Montreal. This reflection, written originally in French, was translated by Marg Bacon.

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