Today the first reading is from Isaiah chapter 41:
“When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them,
I the Lord of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.”
Water is such a powerful spiritual image. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well in the gospel of John, the image of a tiered fountain overflowing in the writings of spiritual masters like Origen and St Teresa of Avila, or even the image of God being as vast as the sea. What is it about water that connects us to God?
I remember once, sitting on the beach at Lake Michigan. We had rented a little cottage within walking distance to the beach, and every morning I would take my bible and go walk in the sand. Eventually, I’d find a spot to sit, and I would read some scripture passage, let it soak into my mind, and pray. I remember one particular morning filled with grace. The wind was completely still, and I sat looking at the water, the early morning sun warming my back. I was able to set my bible down in the sand, open to the passage, without the pages blowing or ruffling in the least. My gaze would rest momentarily on the early morning fishermen on the water, the gulls so far off, hovering above the still water, or the tiny grains of sand that surrounded my feet. When my eyes returned to the scripture, my bible was still open to the same page.
That day on the beach, my thirst for God was quenched. I found God in the grains of sand, in God’s creatures, in the simple act of contemplating a passage of scripture. I’d like to say that God showed up for me that day. But I think the opposite is true. I showed up for God, who is always present. I showed up, waiting, a receptacle for the grace. And God filled me with awareness, peace, and a thirst for more.