Bottom line: Like the woman at the well, we feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction - and we do not know why. Jesus gives the answer.
You may have heard about the man who died and St. Peter told him he had a choice: He could either go to heaven or hell. The man said, of course, he wanted to go to heaven. "Not so fast," said St. Peter, "you get to spend a day in each place and then decide." He went down to hell and it had plush carpets, full-service bar, magnificent golf course - and everyone conversing politely. When he went to heaven, it seemed OK, but not so attractive as the other place. So he told St. Peter he wanted to go to the first place. When he got back to hell, everything had changed. It was muddy, the food was terrible and people were growling at each other - and at the new arrival. So the man asked the chief devil what was going on. The devil said, "Yesterday we were campaigning - today the elections are over!"
This story does tie in with message of my homily. Pope Benedict (when he was still "Cardinal Ratzinger") wrote an important book on politics and morality.* He begins by observing that "politicians of all parties take it for granted that they need to promise changes." Why is that? the pope asks. From one point of view we are better off than any preceding generation. Still, as the pope observes, there is "a deep and prevailing sense of dissatisfaction precisely in those places where prosperity and freedom have attained hitherto unknown heights."
Politicians know they are addressing people who are dissatisfied. Not just this issue or that, but a dissatisfaction that no political change could remedy. The question is: What's wrong? And what will really satisfy us?
We have the answer in today's Gospel. Jesus meets a marvelous woman - but a woman who is deeply unhappy. She had tried five different men and none made her happy. No surprise there. The real surprise was that she had not become completely jaded and cynical. When Jesus spoke about flowing water that would slake her thirst, she did not scoff. No, she said, "Sir, give me that water."
This woman recognized something that most of us don't - or that we have forgotten. Nothing in this world - no thing, no place, no person can give us peace, lasting happiness. Only one. The One who invites us to drink the living water. Only he can satisfy us. Come to him.
*Values in a Time of Upheaval - highly recommended Lenten reading
From Archives (Year A homilies for Third Sunday of Lent):
The Scent of Water (2005)
What She Desired (2002)
The One You Want (1999)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (St Rose & Burkes; How pornography affects our families, marriages and children - Review of Pornified)
For Your Marriage (What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?)
"Separate But Equal" in Colorado
Times for Lenten Confessions
Updates on Traditional Latin Mass at Holy Family Parish, Seattle