By Marc Rademaker
Some of the last words said by Jesus as He hung on the cross, in the greatest moments of His suffering. But what is it that Jesus is thirsting for? He may have been given wine to quench His “thirst,” but this longing is actually meant for something much more personal: each of us.
Mother Theresa puts His words into context beautifully as she says:
“‘I thirst’ is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.”
While He hung on the cross, dying for our sake, He vocalized this purpose in proclaiming His thirst for us. These words represent the final love letter of Jesus to us, one that contextualizes the extent of His longing to have a relationship with us. And as Mother Theresa says, knowing this in our hearts gives true meaning to real, deeper love – who He wants to be for us, and who He wants us to be for Him.
So what do we thirst for right now, and how do we quench this thirst?
Much of our current effort is spent trying to alleviate the thirst by filling up our time: hobbies, TV series, reading, etc. While these things can be great, and are important in keeping sane and positive, they don’t really fulfill their duty of filling us up. Once one episode of a show is over, I often feel powerless to stop myself from continuing to watch, regardless of whether I am actually enjoying what I am watching. Continuing to watch is like drinking soda to quench my thirst: I know that it will only make me want more to drink.
Of course, Jesus says that He has the flesh and blood of eternal life, of eternal sustenance and fulfillment. And He thirsts for us, He longs to allow us to partake in this feast with Him. When I take the time to enter into His love and promise, to more fully invest in this relationship, I am more fulfilled than in any other way. He is like a cold glass of water on a hot day: it might not be as sweet-tasting or instantly gratifying as soda, but I know that it is more effectively sustaining me and feels better in the long-term.
There’s a catch to satisfying this thirst – we are unable to do so as we normally would. Going so long without receiving Jesus physically is something that can completely throw us off. Since being in so different of a time, we are beginning to vocalize the things we miss, what we thirst for, just as Jesus did so near to the end of His life. But there are some upsides to this thirst.
Jesus wasn’t only thirsty when He vocalized it.
I have a hard time believing that Jesus only became thirsty and longed for us when He explicitly stated it out loud, just as we were all missing things in our lives long before we spoke up about it. The thirst Jesus has for us is constant, something that will never dim no matter how much or how little we interact with Him. This is not the same as the thirst we have for things of this world. Much of what we thirst for, while we will be much less likely to take for granted, will be quenched relatively quickly when we can experience it again. But that longing to be one with the Lord, and His longing to be one with us, is something that always needs to be quenched. Because the more we drink, the deeper the water gets.
We still have resources to grow in Him.
Online Mass, Adoration, and a vast array of resources are still available to us to take advantage of. Of all of these resources, the act of spiritual communion is one that I think best puts into words how it feels to be without Jesus physically and to desire Him always.
“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Eucharist. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You within my soul. Since I am unable to at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself fully to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.”
In making this act, while it may not physically equate to receiving Him in the Eucharist, takes our desire to be united with Him always and makes it something concrete.
Let yourself be thirsty.
Maybe part of what Jesus is calling us to right now is to fully realize our need for Him, someone we cannot live without. Take some time to set aside distractions and enter into Him. Rather than taking a drink of soda, maybe spending time identifying why you are thirsty and what that thirst stems from will be what really fills you up. While it can hurt a lot to identify what we miss, the true fulfillment comes in doing so. Once those parts of our lives are vocalized, we can then bring our suffering to Jesus and make it one with His. Letting ourselves miss what we don’t currently have, rather than trying to fill it with something less meaningful, gives us power to allow Jesus to enter in. And if that isn’t the definition of Communion, I don’t know what is.
We all miss something about “normal,” especially the physical presence of Jesus within us. But our experience can be transformed from suffering to communion when we bring all of our missing parts to the Lord, trusting that He will help us to swim in His beautiful depths.