When you imagine the face of Jesus, what do you see? How do you picture him? Is he kind and serene? Strong and bold? Is he extending his hand in mercy? There’s so many images of Jesus, and he reveals himself to us in many ways, but usually when I reflect on his face in my mind, I don’t think of him all bloodied and cringing in pain on the Cross from the wounds of his passion, and yet, that is the Jesus we meet. We meet our God, victorious though he is, in his passion sacrifice eternally presented before the heavenly Father. We sit like Mary and John at the foot of the Cross and behold the wounded face of our savior in the pangs of death. As we behold him, we hang on every word he says while he is suspended there fighting for his every breath.
Jesus never spoke a word in vain. Everything he did and said had purpose – and even more so as he died on the Cross. In the Gospels, we find the “Seven Last Words of Jesus”—all of them imbued with so much depth for each of us individually and as a Church—but the one I want to focus on are Jesus’ simple two words “I thirst”.
The Weight of Words
On the wall in my one-bedroom apartment I have an image of Jesus crucified hanging up next to my bed. Beside this image are the words “I Thirst”. When we look at the life of the Son, we see from the moment of the Incarnation the power of God’s words.
When we fell in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan to bring us back to him. He didn’t want to be without us, and so, his word of salvation literally became flesh. God the Son took on a human body and a human nature—forever to be united with his human nature—and he allowed himself to feel our thirst from the beginning to the end of his life.
Even though we serve a God who has conquered sin and death, we are all given this image of Our Lord to reflect on as we hear his final words from the Cross. What was he trying to convey by saying, “I thirst”? What purpose did those words have?
The Nature of Thirst
What is thirst? When I think of that word, the first thing that pops into my head is a feeling of emptiness—or extreme dehydration that needs to be quenched. In his final moments on the Cross, we see Jesus submitting himself to very human, vulnerable feelings of emptiness and need both in body and spirit. He allows himself to be brought to the pit of all thirst. He feels bodily thirst as he’s pushed to his limits near death. His body is laid bare for all to look upon, spit upon, and mock.
But, as many saints and scholars have noted, Jesus is groaning for something greater and even more significant in these final words before death: he is thirsting for souls. He thirsts for all those far from his reach to hear his cry and give him relief- relief flowing from a hopeless soul who makes an act of trust in his mercy.
We hear from the private revelation of Jesus to St. Faustina on Divine Mercy,
“The flames of mercy are burning me. I desire to pour them out upon souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them!.”(Diary 1074)
Even his thirst is a burning desire to give! The very nature of true love is gift—and what is Jesus’ thirst as he hangs there on the Cross? His thirst is a desire to pour out love and mercy. A love that is literally dying to pour out upon us from his pierced side. His thirst will not be quenched until we stop rejecting his love and make an act of surrender and trust to receive his love.
His Thirst Meets Our Thirst
St. Teresa of Calcutta was very devoted to the thirsting Christ on the Cross. She had those words “I Thirst” written all over the home of the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa made the connection between Jesus’ thirst and our own. She told the sisters:
“‘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.”(March 1993, Letter to the Missionaries of Charity)
Even now, Jesus still thirsts for us. He experienced the thirst of all mankind on the Cross—the unique thirst of every human heart who longs to be satisfied and fully known. And in that thirst, he wants to give us living water; the living water of his divine mercy and love. The same living water Jesus offered the woman at the well, the same blood and water that pours from his side, the same living water that he promised us in the Gospel:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”John 7:37
He Stands at the Door
Are you ready to meet Jesus in his thirst and extend to him your trust? Will you allow him to meet you in your thirst with a drink of living water? Even as we celebrate Easter this week, let us remember the thirst of our Savior for our hearts and hear these words from Jesus to us as expressed by Mother Teresa:
“No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU—just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there—for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(John 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Psalm 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love—I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake, Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”(Excerpt from ‘I Thirst’ Prayer by Mother Teresa)
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About Taylor Tripodi
Taylor Tripodi is a 24 year-old cradle Catholic from Cleveland, Ohio aspiring for sainthood. Taylor graduated from Franciscan University, majoring in theology and catechetics and is now a full-time musician, traveling all over and spreading God’s unfailing love through word and song. In her spare time she enjoys making scented candles, seeking adventure, and being present to her large, crazy, Italian family. Want to hear her sing? Check out www.taylortripodi.com.