Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The living water - God invites all souls

On several occasion Jesus stated He was the fountain of living water for all who believe in Him and He invited souls to draw near this spring because, as He said to the Samaritan woman, "He that shall drink of the water that I will give his, shall not thirst forever" (Jn 4:13). The most solemn invitation to drink from this fountain, however, was given by Jesus, during the last year of His ministry to the crowd which thronged the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles. Standing in the midst of the crowd, He said in a loud voice: "if any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believeth in Me...within him shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn 7:37-38). The thirst of which Jesus was speaking is the thirst for truth, the justice, the thirst for peace and true happiness, and above all the thirst for God, the keen, ardent desire for Him. The soul that has tried to drink at the spring of earthly delights has found that they do not serve to quench its thirst; instead, if they have given the soul a tiny drop of truth, justice, peace and joy, they have left it more thirsty than before. Only then does the soul understand that God alone is the fountain which can quench its thirst. What therefore is this water of which Jesus declares that He is the source and which he promises to all? It is the life-giving water of grace, the only water capable of quenching our thirst for the infinite, because, by making us sharers in the divine nature, it permits us to enter into intimate relations with God; it permits us to live with the Trinity dwelling in our soul; in a word, it opens the door to divine intimacy. The power of grace is so great that it can cast the soul into God and bring it to divine intimacy and union, first in this life, by faith and love, and then in heaven, by the Beatific Vision.
Commenting on the invitation of Jesus: "if any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink" (Jn 7:37), St Teresa says, "Consider that the Lord calls everyone. Now, He is Truth itself, we cannot doubt His word. If His invitation were not addressed to all, He would not call all of us....But, as He puts no restriction on it....I am certain that all who do not stop on the way will drink this living water" (Way, 19). Contemplation is a great means of introducing us into divine intimacy, it is appropriate and logical for a soul to aspire to contemplation, since the Lord offers it to everyone. "God does not force anyone," says St Teresa, "but to those who follow Him, He gives them to drink in many ways, so that none may lack comfort or die of thirst!" (Way, 20). St Teresa compares contemplation to "an abundant fountain from which spring many streams, some small, others large, and there are also little pools" (Way, 20). The Lord invites everyone and gives water to all, but He does not reveal to us from what of stream we are called to drink. He does not tells us at what moment of our life we shall drink, and much less is He obliged to make us drink from a big stream rather than from a little one. There have been saints like Teresa of Jesus, who drank abundantly; there have been others, like Therese of Lisieux, who have partaken only a tiny rivulet, and yet both types have attained sanctity. Despite the varying degrees, it is essentially the same life-giving water which plunges the soul into God, makes it penetrate the divine mystery, and makes it understand the All of God and the nothingness of the creature; it is the same life-giving water which opens the way to divine intimacy and conducts the soul to sanctity. God gives 'to whom He wishes, when He wishes' - this statement gives as a glimpse of the form and degree of contemplation as well as time when it will be granted. St Teresa assures us however that God never refuses this life-giving water to anyone who 'seeks it in the right way'. We can see from this, it depends on us too, and our part consists in disposing ourselves in such a way that God will not find us unworthy of His gifts. Let us listen to what St Teresa says:

"O compassionate and tender Sovereign of my soul! You also say: 'If anyone thirst, let him come to Me, and I will give him to drink.' Oh! how our soul need this water! I know, O my God, that out of Your bounty You will give it to us. You Yourself have promised it, and Your words cannot fail. Knowing our weakness, You, in Your mercy, have increased Your help. O Lord, You told Samaritan woman that he who drinks of this water will not thirst forever. Oh! How true are these words spoken by You, Truth itself! The soul who drinks this water never thirsts for the things of this life, but it does thirst more for eternal things.
O Lord, give me to drink of this water, and I shall never thirst again! O my Lord! O You who have promised it to us, give us the grace to seek is as we should" (excerpts from Exclamations of the Soul to God and Way of Perfections)

credit: text based on 'Divine Intimacy', drawing of Jesus and Samaritan woman by Gustave Dore