I have many delightful memories of living in San Diego, at the corner of 5th and Cedar streets in the downtown area, between 1988 and 1995. And living there, just 30 minutes from Mexico, I also have my own exciting border-crossing story—though it might not be the kind you’re accustomed to hearing!
The sun was not yet up, but Trinidad Keating was already knocking at our back door. We were expecting her, so I answered the door quietly and greeted her, then all four of the sisters and I followed the elderly Mexican woman out into the darkness. We drove out of the city to the barren area of San Ysidro and there we crossed the border with no trouble at all. We headed to a poor area of Tijuana, Mexico, maneuvering our way through the bumpy dirt roads. Following Trinidad's instructions, we turned a corner, drove a little farther, then parked next to a simple low structure. Entering the building, we were greeted with a nod at the door by one of the Missionaries of Charity who showed us the way to their chapel. It was perhaps 20 by 20 feet inside, and we joined the sisters there in praying in preparation for Mass. We took our place in the very back and I noticed that the frail, kneeling sister one row in front of me was indeed Mother Teresa of Kolkata. She was kneeling on the floor, rapt in prayer, her gnarled bare feet giving evidence of a life of sacrifice and hardship.
Once the Mass was over, we prayed some more, then our dear friend Trinidad introduced us to the saintly woman. Mother greeted us warmly, murmuring words of encouragement about loving Jesus totally and about caring for the poor. To this day, I cannot see the words I Thirst without thinking of that day and of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, women who have taken those words as their life guide. Their official website notes that they are "called by Jesus to quench his thirst for love and souls." How do they do that? By “remaining at the foot of the ‘calvaries’ of today's world,” which especially means those persons who are poor, sick, lonely or rejected.
But these sisters aren’t alone! Today, you and I meditate on the words of John's gospel and turn over in our hearts and minds these same words: "I am thirsty" (Jn 19:28 NRSV).
We treasure them, for they are among the last words that Jesus left us. How can they guide us in our everyday lives?
When we consider the passion of Jesus as presented in John's gospel, we realize that Jesus is freely going forth to meet his destiny. He’s not being dragged away; rather, he goes out to meet his enemies—and actually protects his disciples in the ensuing dialogue in the garden where they have come to apprehend him. He is presented here as a king who is in charge, as royalty. This is brought out in other ways as well: his enemies fall to the ground, he commands Peter to put his sword away, the dignity with which he responds to the high priest attendant's slap, and the way his cross is put in the primary central place between the two thieves.
From the cross we hear him ay, "I thirst." Yes, Jesus shares the searing physical thirst of those crucified with him. He is, after all, suffering excruciating pain and is on the brink of death.
But there is more. As we look over the panorama of his life, we think of the burning thirst of Jesus Christ. What did he thirst for? There’s a very simple answer: Jesus thirsted for God, and to do all that would please his Father.
In the fourth chapter of John, verse seven, we read how Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink.” He thirsted for her to come to know his Father, to live the truth, and he wanted the same for all the townsfolk who lived there as well. She believed in him, and actually ran to tell the villagers, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” The events of that day—Jesus' physical thirst, request for a drink, and the dialogue that followed—changed that woman's whole life, forever.
We turn back to the life of Mother Teresa. She was a young girl living in Macedonia who joined a convent in Ireland and was later sent to India; and she didn’t know all that God had in store for her. But she did know this: Jesus wanted her to quench his thirst.
And you? Is there some way that Jesus is asking you to respond to his, “I thirst”? How might you do that today? Do you realize that this invitation would also entail being more intimately united to him?
Make Psalm 63: 1–5 your prayer, asking the Lord to pray it with you and in you, so that you can feel his thirst and to what he may be calling you.
O God, you are my God,
I seek you, my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
So I have looked upon
you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love
is better than life, my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips..."
With the grace of my Baptism, I have been crucified with Christ, dying to myself and rising with him. Because of this great gift, I have the capacity to live in Christ. I take a few moments to thank God for this and for the many people who have been part of my Christian journey.
For someone else:
Today I will live, “You before me” as a way of responding to Jesus’ thirst. I will put others first, whether it be a worthy cause I can contribute to, a lonely person to spend time with, or someone whom God puts in my path who just needs help. I will cultivate my thirst for God and for pleasing him by reaching out to others.
by Sr Mary Martha Moss, FSP