"... in their thirst for water, the people grumbled." God has made us dependent upon other sources for our lives: food, water, shelter, husbands for wives and wives for husbands, children for parents. We thirst for many things in order to be happy. Water, necessary for our continued physical existence, serves as a symbol for these many things we need in order to flourish, to be happy. When we are cut off from these sources we become unhappy, we "grumble". We also, sometimes, complain when we are told what we must do in order to be saved: when told we must go to Mass every Sunday, keep the Commandments, celebrate the Sacraments, pray.
Some Catholics leave the Church and go wandering, ending up in ecclesial groups or sects that allow them to pick and choose what they want to believe and what they want to do as if they are browsing in a cafeteria. They have forgotten, perhaps, that God reveals Himself and calls us to conform to what He reveals and, thus, it is not reasonable to demand that He conform Himself to our preferences and to our desires if we claim that it is God whom we truly want.
The "gift of God" in Jesus Christ is the one Savior, the one Source of Life who founded the Church and calls us to enjoy communion with Him and one another in the Church.
"There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit. The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become "the firstborn among many brethren," she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit. In praying "our" Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: "The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul." (CCC 2790)
In our Gospel today we meet a woman from the time of Jesus Christ who approached belief and life in much the same way as Catholics who reject the Church and her teaching authority which lead us securely in Christ to salvation. The Samaritan woman at the well is a "cafeteria believer" who follows an impure form of the true way of following God at that time as found among the Jews. And she has also strayed from living a morally upright life, for the man with whom she shares her bed is not her husband and she has married a number of men before him. But this woman has one thing that is full of promise: she listens to Jesus Christ and allows herself to be moved and changed. She is open to the Spirit of God who converts us from idolatry to the worship and life of the true God and is ready for a thirst-quenching draught of the pure waters flowing from their source in Jesus Christ.
" 'If you knew the gift of God!' The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (CCC 2560)
When we try to make of faith a "do-it-yourself" project we end up without the source of grace which flows from the sole Savior who founded the Church as the place of Faith and the font of Baptism, the first moment when we first drink of Jesus, the bearer of the waters of life.
"The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As 'by one Spirit we were all baptized,' so we are also 'made to drink of one Spirit.' Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life." (CCC 694)
In the Eucharistic feast of His Body and Blood, these thirst-quenching waters continue to flow and to sustain the baptized believer in faith and life.
"In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a 'Baptism' with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible 'to be born of water and the Spirit' in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
- "See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved." (CCC 1225)
" 'You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.' Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: 'They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!' Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God. (CCC 2561)
Broken cisterns are the result of picking and choosing what we will or will not believe or what we will or will not do. Only seeking the whole Christ in the Word proclaimed by the Church and in the sacraments celebrated by the Church will sustain us in our desire to grow in faith and life. Only Jesus can give us in Himself the gift of God which will truly quench our deepest thirst: eternal Life.