On that day there shall be open to the house of David
and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.
In summer, when the air is dry and hot winds cause rapid evaporation, we should feel thirstier and we should drink lots of water. Especially old people, who don't as readily feel thirst, run the risk of dehydration.
This is also a good time to reflect on our spiritual thirst. If it is less apparent it is just as urgent as physical thirst, and spiritual dehydration can be just as fatal.
Today's responsorial psalm" is taken from Psalm 62 and our refrain is, My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God."
Today's Old Testament reading from Zechariah recalls the death of a messiah, King Josiah. This vigorous boy-king had dismantled the statues and altars of pagan deities and given the Yahwist priests exclusive control of the temple worship. He encouraged the reading of scripture and permitted worship of only the One True God in the temple. But he and his army attempted to block an Egyptian invasion and were defeated. When he died on the battlefield of Megiddo, the reform ended and idolatry returned. Faithful people wonder "Where is God?" when catastrophes like that happen.
Centuries later the disciples of Jesus would wonder the same thing as they fled from Calvary and Jerusalem. How could God permit such a thing? Eventually, after Jesus rose from the dead, they would remember that he predicted his passion and death and resurrection, but they had not listened. During those long hours of Holy Saturday they felt in their grief an insatiable spiritual thirst. It seemed nothing could replace the One who had been taken from them.
We are all too familiar with that spiritual thirst today. Alcoholics, especially, are thirsting for the word of God and tragically attempt to quench their thirst with lesser spirits. Even more people turn to cigarettes, recreational drugs and prescription drugs as they search for relief. Some people tell themselves "Food is Love" and eat their way to an early grave.
Always we are searching for "a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness."
Saint John's gospel insists the fountain is the heart of Jesus:
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says:‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. (John 7:37)The same gospel describes the thirst of the Samaritan woman who discovered Jesus at Jacob's cistern. She asked him, "Sir, give me this living water!" When she realized who he was, she left her water jar and ran into town to tell everyone the Messiah had come. The thirst-quenching spirit was flowing from within her heart; she didn't even need a water jar to carry the Living Spirit to her people.
Finally, Saint John will tell us Jesus cried out, "I thirst" as he died on the cross. And then blood and water flowed from his heart. As the last drop of life flowed from his ruined body, we found our hunger sated, our thirst quenched and our hope renewed.
The cynic will wonder how our attending Mass each Sunday, eating his flesh in the form of a small wheaten wafer, and drinking his blood with the tiniest sip of (what appears to be) wine, can quench the thirst of an alcoholic, sate the hunger of the morbidly obese or ease the distress of pill-popping addicts. To which we can only answer, "Come and see."