Part 1 (of 3) – The Desire of Jesus on the Cross
The 7 last words of Jesus on the Cross are in many ways, rightly assessed to be His most powerful sermon ever. Among these seven last words is the seemingly simple “I thirst” phrase (John 19:28). We all know that Jesus was not thirsting for a drink of water, juice, tea or coffee. Rather, His words point us to His innermost, heartfelt desire at that time of agony – the burning desire for love and souls. The pain He endured on the Cross was intended to be Redemptive and to make the Way for all of us to be in a friendship with God the Father. His shed blood was the price He paid for our reconciliation to God to happen. An important component in this whole process is the proclamation in His name of the repentance and forgiveness of sins. He made this clear after His Resurrection (Luke 24:46-47). Hence, He uttered “I thirst” on the Cross in order to throw light on this mystery. His was a burning desire for people to be freed from sin and to be restored to God. What is important for us to note is that this desire of Jesus continues and holds good even now.
How do we respond to these words of Jesus today? This is a topic of sharing the love of God manifest in the Lord Jesus and it’s a topic of sharing the treasure we have received – the life saving message of the Gospel! In short, it’s a topic of Evangelisation!
“Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep Him for themselves; they must proclaim Him.”– St. Pope John Paul II (Novo Millennio Inuente, No. 40)
We simply have to use words
The saying “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” is well known. However, let us be aware this is wrongly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. This line is nowhere to be found in any of his writings. This division between action and speech is contrary to the saint’s own life, contrary to the Word of God, and also contrary to Catholic understanding.
“The Church’s mission is concerned with the salvation of men. The apostolate of the Church and each of its members, aims primarily at announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ.”(Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, No. 6)
“The Church exists to Evangelise. It is her deepest identity.”– Pope Paul VI (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975)
Every single person in the world is created by the same one God. Can we rightly conclude that everyone ought to know Him? Yes, everyone ought to know Jesus! Everyone wants to know Jesus, whether they are consciously aware of it or not (Pope John Paul, RM, 44-45). Deep inside all human hearts is a thirst for the Living Water – Jesus Himself. The Maker of the Universe actually uses our efforts to show Himself to His children.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”– Romans 10:13-15
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The Great Commission
The words of Jesus below clearly convey the heart of the Father to us. This is referred to as “The Great Commission”. All the baptized have a role to play.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”– Matt 28:20
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”
The message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection can touch a person deep within and cause a transformation beyond our understanding. This is the divine work of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis exhorts us to be dispensers of God’s grace and not controllers (Aug. 2014). The urgency of this need in the world today is a relevant topic.
A lesson from Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa, the saint from Kolkata, received special insight into the words of Jesus, “I thirst” and has communicated this in her writings. These two simple words impacted her life to such a huge extent that these became a main point of direction in the aim of setting up her congregation. To the end of her life, Mother Teresa insisted that the single most important reason for the existence of the congregation she founded was to satiate the thirst of Jesus.
“The General End of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls.”– St. Teresa of Kolkata (Come be my Light, Ch. 3)
The word “satiate” here means to satisfy, cater to, quench or provide for. It’s not just a request from Jesus; it’s a plea from the Crucified Lord in His dying moments! If the Lord really was and still is thirsty, then how can we sit back and do nothing about it!
The lesson to learn is that these two simple words of Jesus from the Cross is actually personally spoken to each of us even today! This is a mystery which may not be understood very easily. We need to pray, seek the Lord and figure what it means to each of us on an individual basis. How we respond depends on each one’s interpretation, understanding and call. Whatever it is, let us work towards satiating the thirst of Jesus!
The Universal Call
Today, secular and institutional dimensions of the Church are fast-growing. While a lot of good is coming out of this, the drawback is that authentic spirituality and fervor for the spread and proclamation of the life-saving message of the gospel takes a backseat. There is an essential requirement to reach out to the innermost need of the human soul – the need for Jesus! Let us pray in obedience to Jesus Himself –
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”– Matt 9:37-38
“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty – to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”– St. Pope John Paul II (Mission of the Redeemer)
The call for all believers in Christ is to always be ready to express and explain the hope that is within them (1Pet 3:15). This hope refers to the hope of Eternal Life – the hope of salvation through Jesus! Here then, is the universal call for all baptized Catholics. This is one of the ways we can live out our identity as Christian disciples. Jesus’ cry of “I thirst” continues to recur and repeat even today, in spite of Him being in a Heavenly abode. Are we responding to this cry of Jesus?
[This set of 3 articles was published in “The Tabor Kirana”, Aug. to Oct. 2021]