“I thirst” (Jn 19:28). Jesus said this on the Cross and before he gave up his spirit. This phrase reminds us of the pain and anguish he endured for our sake. It reminds us of the death of the just for the sake of the unjust. The language and wording associated with the redemption of Christ is beautiful. Yet, we tend to talk about his redemption as a transaction or one-time exchange.
You and I may “frequent the Sacraments.” You and I may go more often than once a year to Confession. Maybe we are even faithful to Sunday Mass. Maybe we are starting to attend Holy Days of Obligation and a daily Mass, too! That’s good, huh?
“So that means my time in purgatory is reduced, right? I mean, it is reduced; I’m putting grace (money) in the soul (bank).
“I even deposit more often than the next guy.
“The sacraments are like insurance, right? The more I do ‘em, the more justified I am in doing whatever I want, right? If I do ‘em, I can “spend” my life however I want, right?”
Those kinds of thoughts are what I am referring to when I say we talk about the redemption of Jesus like a transaction. We treat redemption like a one-time thing (once saved always saved) or a monthly recurring payment (Pelagianism). In other words, we meet Jesus with little attention, intention, or devotion.
“I thirst.” Did Jesus say, “Please, sir, may I have a particular kind and amount of alcohol?” No. He voiced a need, not a quota to meet. Can you catch the difference? He did not specify what it is he thirsted for. And that goes against our want to “fix the problem” and get it over with.
“I thirst.” Listen for a minute. Can you hear him say that? Can you hear him breathing? Look him in the eye and meet him where you are. “Let yourself be seen by him,” said a brother seminarian. Don’t rattle off empty prayers with out your soul or will involved. Don’t avoid the encounter with the God-Man by “paying him off” with cheap fillers, whatever they may be for you.
Rather, let that voice of His speak into you. “I thirst.” “What is it you thirst for, Lord? I have nothing to give – Only bad decisions and vain pleasures! Depart from me, Lord.” Let his thirst bring to light your own need. Let his voice speak your own unspoken aches and emptiness. Receive his call to you as a personal invitation. Receive his as the One who reveals you to yourself, as the One who restores life. Awake from the sleep of comfort and ignorance and take responsibility for yourself.
Believe this: he said, “I thirst,” so that both you and I would learn how to voice to him our own particular thirsts, deficiencies, and sense of emptiness. Jesus, the Son of God, “cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross” (Benedict XVI). He went as far as the Cross. Why? For you to come to him. He emptied himself for our sake. He abandoned the glory of heaven to meet us here. He is a man concerned for others. In his poverty, he reveals the depths of human suffering. He reveals with burning clarity and charity that which I could never articulate. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, reveals to me my poverty, and to you yours. Jesus is the master of the language of humanity. Jesus is the Teacher of how to be human.
Jesus, because of his perfection, has the capacity to reveal me to myself. He has the power to teach me what I am meant to be. He has the knowledge and wisdom as to what I long for and desire to live up to. Jesus, because of his intimacy with the Father, has the right to direct our lives as Master and Lord.
“I thirst.” Can you see? He doesn’t say this only because he was about to die. He knows our emptiness and nakedness felt from within. He knows the ache and sting of isolation. And you know what else? He wants to share that with you. He was to share in that with you. That is the beginning of redemption. When I allow Jesus to share in my misery or failed attempt at glory, that is when he can redeem me, save me, raise me up. Sit with this for a while:
The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water [like the Samaritan woman]: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. –CCC 2560
The truth of our redemption cannot be reduced to the language of transaction. The way we talk about the Lord’s work in our lives cannot stagnate with academic vocabulary. Be mindful of who it is you are encountering in those Sacraments. It is not just a “thing” that you do, but a Person whom you meet. See if you can catch yourself treating prayer time like a mundane chore. Then, stop there. Invite him into that very moment.
Let him tell you, “I thirst.” Be not afraid to satiate that thirst with your own self, with your own faith, as weak as it may be. It is your faith and you yourself for whom God thirsts. Never deprive him of that sweet offering. It may be the way he consoles another. Be bold as you draw near.
So, why did he say, “I thirst”? For our sake; to teach us how important it is to draw near to him, to speak to him.
When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. When I have been plunged into complete solitude …; if I pray I am never totally alone. –Spe Salvi, no. 32