Last night at our parish I had the honor of giving one of the reflections for the 7 Last Words of Christ service. It’s usually my experience that when I do something like this, I benefit much more from it than what I think I can contribute. I mean, I certainly hope, trust actually, that the Holy Spirit used me as a vehicle to touch the hearts and minds of the persons in attendance. Nevertheless, my preparations, whether in prayer or reading scripture and some of Mother Teresa’s writings, impacted me in wondrous ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my gifts of teaching and communication with an audience. I’m more grateful that when I do, it brings me closer to Christ. Here’s some of what I said:
Jesus said, “I thirst.” (Jn 19:28)
Christ’s words from the cross fulfill the Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst” (Psalm 69:21).
Jesus Christ, both God and man, humiliated, beaten, dragged through the streets and nailed to a cross, now utters — not a plea for drink, but rather, a simple statement of fact.
It isn’t a command or an exclamation. It isn’t a request.
It’s a simple declarative sentence.
A sentence that states a fact and ends with a period. A full stop.
It is in that long pause that we can reflect and find deep meaning.
In these words, Christ reminds us of his shared humanity with us. He thirsts. His body, broken, needs water to quench his immense dehydration after sweating and bleeding through the horrifying experience of crucifixion.
It’s a basic physical need we have as human beings, to yearn for drink when we are thirsty, and here, in his final moments, we are reminded that our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, is also Man, a man.
Surely, Jesus thirsted for water. But for what more?
In the Gospel of John we hear the story of the woman at the well, where Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and then reveals that he is the source of living water. She stands before him, as we do, sinful… yet worthy of his love. In that story, we see Jesus seek the woman, and we also see that she finds him, her Savior.
Where Christ may thirst for us to seek him, we, too thirst for him, for his Saving Grace — for the living water that only he can provide.
A few years ago I completed a consecration to Jesus through Mary. In this contemporary consecration, I read some of the writings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. It was Mother Teresa’s writings, her reflection on what it means to thirst that drew me deeper into the consecration.
Mother Teresa stated that the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Christ. In a letter to all the sisters, Mother Teresa reminds them, exhorts them that Christ’s thirst “ was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, ‘I thirst,’ instead of ‘Give Me your love’… ‘I thirst.’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.
Mother Teresa explained to the sisters that this was not an open, general statement, but rather, an invitation to personal encounter with Christ. He speaks directly to us. He tells us that he thirsts for us.
How do we respond? Do we thirst for him? Do we live to satiate his thirst?
When I hear, “I thirst,” I want to come to Jesus’ side. I want to offer him, not vinegar, but fresh, cool water.
I want to give him my best.
I want to give Jesus what he desires — me. My unconditional love. My time…my presence. Jesus thirsts for my surrender to him, to his will. To his love.
My response is to go to him. To thirst, in turn, for him.
For, I, too, thirst.