“I THIRST” – Jesus, you speak these words from a place of anguish that we can barely stand to look at. This thirst is no metaphor. It is stark, terminal dryness, beyond quenching. Your death is very near, and you will meet it, still thirsty.
Did you remember, Jesus, another time when you spoke these words, at a well in Samaria, to a woman whose desire for living water matched your own?
Did you feel the presence of your mother at the foot of the Cross, she whose milk fed you?
Did you think about the crowds on that hilltop where you preached in paradox – where you named blessed those who hunger and thirst for justice, for holiness, for right relationships? Now, in your thirst, in this senseless, violent moment, saturated with suffering, you strain to find blessing.
And what of Yahweh’s promise through Isaiah that you often pondered: “All you who thirst, come to the waters” (55); “If you loose the bonds of injustice…Yahweh will …satisfy your needs in parched places…” (58) As thirst threatened to overtake you, did you wonder if that promise was illusion?
You of the rivers of living water, you of the well-trained tongue rousing the weary – now your tongue is dry with the dust of death. Before this mystery of your thirst, we stand in awe.
“I THIRST” – Your cry confronts those of us who live in the privileged world, enslaved by the “great god Stuff,” captives of our cravings, trapped in the poverty of our abundance, blinded by too-much-ness from seeing the not-enough-ness all around us. Your thirst is worlds away from the grasping restlessness that many of us know so well. When we would pray, “My soul thirsts for you,” you ask us: “What bottomless hunger are you trying to fill? What is your thirst REALLY about?”
“I THIRST” — Your cry speaks of a primal Spirit-longing welling up from your heart, from God’s heart. Your cry, the cry of God’s thirst to become one with us, rings down through the centuries, and echoes in the cries of so many others whose thirst mirrored yours:
Thirsty ones like Elizabeth Ann Seton – On this very day in 1805, this woman of New York, a widow and mother of five, found the food and drink she longed for when she first received the Eucharist as a Catholic convert.
Thirsty ones like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who saw the face of the cosmic Christ as the Omega Point of the longings of the universe.
Thirsty ones like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who sought justice for the poor with a passion that led him to a bloody death, like yours.
Ones like Sr. Barbara Ford, SC, whose thirst for justice for the people of Guatemala led her to create water projects for rural villages, and to work for healing of hearts and minds in the aftermath of a brutal civil war.
Jesus, Your thirst echoes the world over: in catechumens, in refugees and migrants, in those who are homeless or in prison, in those weary of violence or dying of addictions.
Your thirst stares back at us from the polluted oceans, rivers and streams of our blue planet.
In a world where 1.1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water, and where villagers in Ethiopia and campesinos in Latin America have to walk at least three hours every day to find drinkable water, Pope Francis reminds us that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right.” (Laudato Si, 30)
Jesus, your thirst – your people’s thirst – demands an answer.
Christ Jesus, in your eternal thirst, we pray:
Awaken us who would follow you, morning after morning,
to hear your cry in the needs of the poor and in the longings of our hearts.
Give us, your church, your Body, as food and drink to each other
Stir in us a longing for justice that cannot be quenched
and lead us to drink, with mouths wide open,
from the bottomless well which holds God’s own thirst.
–Sister Regina Bechtle, SC
Regina, a retreat leader, speaker, writer and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.