Scripture uses a very beautiful expression in several difference places – it is the metaphor of God as a spring of ‘living water’. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah recounts the Word of the Lord which has come to him, admonishing the faithlessness of the people. Those words of the Lord use many motifs but among them, there is this line – “they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters” (Jer.2:12). The same idea is mentioned again later, when the prophet castigates the people – “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be put to shame; those who turn away from You shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water” (Jer.17:13).
In the Gospel of Saint John, the same motif is taken up once again. Christ is speaking to the Woman of Samaria – a scandalous encounter! She has come to the well and after asking her for a drink of water, He offers her water of an entirely different kind, promising that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (Jn.4:14). And there is more, as He tells the woman – “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.
Further into John’s Gospel, this same image of the living water is used again. Christ tells His listeners –
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said –
‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’
What a beautiful and powerful motif this is, that Christ is the living water which – if we drink from Him – will satisfy us perfectly and we will never be thirsty again. Yes, it is indeed both beautiful and very powerful – but note well that it is also conditional. And the condition is a simple one – we must choose freely to drink that living water, in the same way that the woman at the well made this choice. The Lord so desires that we do so – yet, He will never force our choice.
The very fact that the Samarian Woman represented a challenge to the societal and cultural norms of that day – it truly was a scandalous encounter – offers us a message in our own time. It is possible that we look at ourselves and we determine that we are too sinful to approach the Lord or to allow Him to approach us. And yet it was precisely for us, the sinful people, that He came in the first place. He tells us as much in the Gospel. And He reiterates this in the lines from John’s Gospel when He says “if anyone thirsts”. He does not make this an exclusive offer for the saints amongst those people – it is an offer for “anyone”. Anyone. Today, Pope Francis reiterates this offer of the Lord – he tells us it is for “todos! todos! todos!”, which means “everyone!”. Therefore, no matter who or what we are, not matter how sinful, no matter how far we think ourselves to be for the Lord, still He is there for us, waiting for us to approach Him and to let Him approach us.
The Sacred Heart devotion is a beautiful summation of this thinking. The image of the pierced Heart reminds us that He died for everyone without exception – that Wound opened His Heart to all of humanity, not simply to some of us. The Blood which spilled from that Wound was not only for the good people, but for all people. When He opened His arms upon the Cross, it was to encompass not just the holy, but the sinful too. All of us are embraced by Him on the Cross, loved by Him in that Sacred Heart, hidden with the sure refuge of that Wound, and offered the living water which is Christ Himself.
Today is a first Friday, which has special significance as far as the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is concerned. It is an invitation for all of us to look upon that Heart, to feel the very beating of It and to be touched by it. This Heart is the very fountain of the living water of which the prophet Jeremiah speaks, and to which the Lord invited us.
Let us accept His invitation and drink from that fountain of living water.