Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:18)
Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman must have stung. In this case, the truth literally hurts.
It’s unclear whether Jesus’ grasp of the woman’s situation was miraculous or the result of keen observation. Perhaps he had overheard some of the villagers gossiping about the woman who had been married five times, who drew water during the heat of the day because she was too embarrassed and ashamed to go with the rest of the village women at a time of day when it was cooler. Her lifestyle would have been a scandal for the rest of the village.
Even today, when half of marriages end in divorce, being married five times seems pretty extreme. In the culture of ancient Palestine, such behavior must have bordered on unimaginable.
Beyond cultural norms, consider the emotional toll. In modern terms, five marriages mean five courtships, five weddings, establishing five households, five experiences of disillusionment and alienation, five break ups. Five relationship arcs like that meant that the woman was carrying around some pretty heavy emotional baggage.
It’s obvious that she was seeking…something, that she was parched, trying to slake her thirst with increasing desperation in each of her five marriages, hoping as she entered each of these relationships that this new man would have what she was looking for. Each time, she was disappointed, until she encountered the man at the well.
We are all thirsting for a relationship with God. The psalmist says, “As the deer longs for streams of water,so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:2)
But how are we trying to quench our thirst? Do we turn to money, power, food, sex, or other illusory pleasures of this world rather than the source of living water? Are we gorging ourselves on junk food when we could be guests of honor at the banquet of the Lord?
Lent provides a time for us to reflect, to examine the ways that we are trying to quench our thirst, and then to turn to the Lord in prayer and sacrament. Let’s use these holiest days of the year to seek the living water that the Son of God freely offers us.