Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You are invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week.
When we carry bottles of water with us everywhere, run water from the tap to rinse a dish, or make a cup of coffee or tea, it’s a challenge to wrap our minds around a concept of thirst. Obviously I am speaking to the minority of the world’s population, for whom such conveniences are commonplace, the most probable readers of this blog. Maybe our “contemplation” of thirst will prompt our action environmentally and politically on behalf of those with limited access to unpolluted water. “Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” will be rewarded, Jesus said.
Forty years in the wilderness seeking the Promised Land or forty days in the wilderness discerning the Commonwealth of God would have made thirst a frequent companion.
The Hebrews complained to Moses, Moses kvetched to God, and water was provided from solid rock. In his hunger, Jesus was tempted to turn rocks into bread, and responded that we don’t live by bread alone, but by God’s word to us.
But what was his temptation when thirsty? Are we missing a fourth temptation? A convenient oasis, perhaps, or rain, if only he would bow to “the powers that be”?
Did Jesus long for the plentiful waters of his baptism, which had initiated this trek into the wild? We too know what it’s like for our baptism to wear thin in the real world.
How would Jesus have answered? Maybe quoting Yahweh from Isaiah 55? “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters… For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish what I purpose.”
Or his own beatitude in Matthew 5? “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be filled.” Or, “happy are those who hunger and thirst for saving justice, they shall be satisfied.”
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, and offered her “living water,” which is water from a stream moving beneath the surface of the ground, thus living, and of course also implies something deeper than earthly needs.
Jesus’ supplication “I thirst” was true on the surface, the well-being of his body, but maybe was more, a confession of his spirit, like that of the Psalmist: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?”
The writer of this psalm (42-43) was prevented from going to the house of God and laments, “As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’ … Why must I walk around mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?” In his ministry and on the cross, Jesus endured wounds that went deeper than Roman torture and execution.
Every day in the paper and on the news, in our neighborhoods and in our cities, we witness those who thirst physically, spiritually, grieving oppression, prevented from entering houses of God.
“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “A Single Unified Force.”
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