Jesus is recorded a few verses before (cf. 7:37-39) today’s Gospel speaking about quenching the thirst of those gathered around to listen to him. The thirst he is talking about fulfilling is a spiritual thirst, that thirst which we all desire to be refreshed by, that which we have been created to receive; the thirst to belong, to be in communion, to be loved and to love in return. Jesus speaks of coming to those who thirst to be refreshed with: “Rivers of living water [that] will flow from within” (Jn 7:38). Jesus spoke of the day when he would send the Holy Spirit to well up from within the soul of each who would follow him. All who participate in the life of Jesus would come to experience too the love shared between God the Father and God the Son, who is God the Holy Spirit.
Some who heard Jesus speaking in this way were deeply moved, they believed him to be the Prophet, others believed him to be the Messiah. Yet, there were those who could not see past their own prejudice. They heard his teaching, may have even been moved as well but said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he” (Jn 7:41)? Remember Nathaniel’s first reaction when Philip had told him that they had found the Messiah? Nathaniel asked if anything good could come out of Nazareth (cf. Jn 43-47). As I mentioned in prior reflections, Jesus was also rejected because he was looked down upon because of his trade as a tekton, carpenter or day laborer.
Why the region of Galilee, the town of Nazareth itself, would be disparaged is a matter of speculation. The fact was that there were those, unlike Nathaniel, that could not see past their initial prejudices. Even though Jesus spoke and taught with authority, though as the Temple guards who were sent to arrest him said, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man” (Jn 7:46), and even when Nicodemus spoke out rationally, requesting they hear Jesus out and give him the opportunity to make his case, there were those in authority and among the people who could or would not hear Jesus, who were unwilling to change, and so closed themselves off to the invitation to receive the gift of the love of God. Their charge was that he was not from Bethlehem, he was not of the line of David, case closed.
Lent is about change. Jesus’ primary message from the beginning of his ministry was: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). To be able to receive the living water, the Holy Spirit welling up within us that Jesus has promised, we must repent, change our hearts and minds from that which puts a kink in the flow.
We must come to terms with our ingrained, prejudicial attitudes, our limitations of thought that prevent us from seeing as God sees, otherwise we become like a stagnant pool. Change requires being humble enough to identify our sinful attitudes, actions, grudges, and habits that bind us and tie us into all kinds of contortions. We can dig in our heals like those in today’s Gospel and refuse to give Jesus the time of day, or we can follow the lead of Nicodemus and the Temple guards so to listen and hear Jesus out.
Repent and believe in the Gospel that you may have access to the living water that Jesus seeks to provide us. This is the love shared between him and his Father, who is God the Holy Spirit. When we can breath more and react less from our selfish postures, our defensive stances, and our rash impulses, we are better able to experience being loved by God in the moment. As we turn away from our sin and open ourselves up to Jesus, we receive this living water, the Holy Spirit, welling up within us. Being nourished by him, we are to then love others, even those for whom we may never have thought possible.
Photo: Thumbs up for breathing more and reacting less so to love others as God loves us 😉