“I thirst,” in Greek, simply dipso. I have noticed that when I am with a monk who is dying, despite being given water and sponged repeatedly, his mouth and tongue rapidly become dry, even parched. Even though he often cannot communicate in any way, in fact, sometimes I’m not sure he is conscious, still I cannot help but try to moisten his mouth, to refresh it at least a little bit.
As Jesus was dying, his thirst must have made his tongue feel like leather, one more element of suffering. Anyone who was crucified lost a great deal of fluid and suffered dehydration. At its most fundamental, this simple phrase, “I thirst,” testifies to Jesus’ humanity and the physical experience of his death.
“I thirst.” When Jesus went to Samaria he asked the woman at the well for a drink. In the conversation that follows Jesus promises her, “Whoever drinks of the water I give will never thirst. The water I give will become a spring, gushing up to eternal life.” Jesus’ promise to her and to us is that we will no longer be spiritually thirsty, wandering in the desert, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,” spiritually lost; the words of Jesus will satisfy us, will quench that thirst.
“I thirst.” The coming of this hour on the cross completes the work of Jesus, but it becomes the hour for the disciples, for his new family, for us, to continue the work of the Reign of God. When Jesus dies, his side is pierced, and blood and water flow out. Jesus gives the very life of his body to Mary his mother, who symbolizes the Church; to the Beloved Disciple, who represents all disciples; and the Risen Jesus will breathe the Holy Spirit into the whole Church – water, blood, Spirit. These gifts are the foundation for a new life as followers of Jesus. These are the gifts that come to us from the ministry of Jesus and his saving work on the cross.
This is no slam dunk, of course, no open-look 3-pointer from the top of the key! This quenching of our spiritual thirst only occurs when we who thirst find in the living waters of Jesus, in the blood from his side, the gift of the Spirit that empowers us to continue to live and proclaim the Reign of God.
But this will never happen unless we thirst for the reign of God, for a true alternative to our workaday world.
We thirst for economic fairness, a new economics in our nation and between nations; for civility, integrity and honesty in relationships; for freedom from hype for the latest new pill or gadget that is supposed to make it all easier.
We thirst for clearer vision, to know the good, to see through the evil and harm that is ever present.
We thirst for people whom we love who are trapped by compulsion, grief, fear, or resentment, to be free children of God, to receive their lives as gift.
We thirst for a world in which there is a greater understanding of the limits of technology – technology will never die on the cross for us or suddenly make the work of Jesus unnecessary.
These thirsts can only be quenched by living in the gifts that come to us from the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“After this, aware that all was now finished, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ When Jesus took the wine, he exclaimed, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.”
Abbot John Klassen, OSB
Saint John’s Abbey
April 22, 2011