“You can lead a horse to water,
but you can’t make him drink.”
I wish I came up with this wonderful saying, but it is an old saying from the days of cowboys (and cowgirls). I do not know that anyone actually claims authorship of it, but I certainly would have if I was that clever. As you begin to work with horses like I do, you find out how true this saying really is! Here in southern Arizona where I live and work as a Catholic therapist it is hot and dry (ok – that is an understatement). Those of us who have horses ride all day long in the hot sun most of the year (summer is too hot to ride at all except in the early morning or late evening). It is absolutely amazing to me that those horses can be out in the heat riding for hours, be sweaty, dusty, and you have got to believe incredibly thirsty and yet when offered water at an unfamiliar (or sometimes familiar) watering hole or bucket they will actually refuse to drink the water. I, as many other riders have often done, have made the foolish attempt to try to force my stubborn horse to drink at least a little of the life sustaining water to no avail.
Then I remember this is so like how we are. Our hearts, minds and souls are thirsting for living, life sustaining water, we are literally dying of thirst in this desert of life, only to refuse it when it is presented to us. We then try to satisfy our thirst with many material things and worldly affections that ultimately causes us more harm than good. In the natural, water is essential to maintain life. Everything that lives needs water. But the water that Jesus most wants us to have is supernatural water … His Holy Spirit. Jesus can bring forth streams of living water through His Holy Spirit to us not only when we receive the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confession, but also whenever we seek Him in earnest prayer.
God offers us the life-giving water of His Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts if we will only open ourselves to receive this most thirst-quenching gift.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
St. John Chrysostom taught: “When the grace of the Holy Spirit enters a soul and is established there, it gushes forth more powerfully than any other spring; it neither ceases, dries up, nor is exhausted. And the Savior, to signify this inexhaustible gift of grace, calls it a spring and a torrent; He also calls it gushing water, to indicate its force and impetus.”
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
So why do we refuse the living, life sustaining water God offers to us by His Holy Spirit? Maybe like the horse we are not sure we can trust the source of the water. We are afraid, afraid that somehow, He will let us down as we have so often been let down by the world before. Maybe we are in denial, denying we need anything or anyone but ourselves to be alive and healthy. Maybe we are stubborn too and don’t want to accept something that is given to us by another. Maybe if we took the water, we fear it would call attention to our thirst (our deficits and our needs). Maybe we think there is a price for the water…a price we might not be willing to pay.
The sad thing is that God is totally trustworthy, He will not poison us with His gift. He will not let us down. We are in need of Jesus to help us and to sustain us because in the end we cannot do this life on our own. And the best part of all, we fail to recognize, is that the water is free, free because He Himself paid the price for it with His very own blood.
I see this resistance in counseling too. We can at times refuse to admit that we need help from others, that they have anything of value to give us or to teach us. As a Catholic therapist, I can offer my clients to drink of the water of healing from past and present wounds, but they can also refuse to take the water even when they are, like the horse, clearly thirsting. That is the awesomeness of our freewill. We can choose to stay sick, to stay unhealthy, unhealed, sad, and alone, or we can choose to drink and be satisfied.
Jesus came to give us the living, life sustaining water of grace through the Holy Spirit to bring healing to our souls. When we receive Christ fully into our hearts and drink, He gives us the Holy Spirit who fills us up to overflowing, spilling out God’s love and grace onto those around us.
Prayer of Spiritual Communion by St Alphonsus Liguori:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot receive You now sacramentally,
come spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
- With Joy You Will Draw Water from The Wells of Salvation - November 9, 2020
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