Fr Billy Swan
‘After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the Scripture should be completely filled, he said: ‘I thirst’. A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked with the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it to his mouth' (John 19:28-29).
He had endured so much: the agonising pain of hanging, held only by hands and feet, his body stretched and racked. He was thirsty, his lips dry, his palette parched after the loss of so much blood and sweat. He longed for a drink. But Jesus had a different thirst, not just for water but for love. The Son of God thirsted for love, our love. He had been betrayed by his friend Judas. He had been rejected by his own, those who had supported him. Betrayal hurts more when the one who betrays has received much from the one he seeks to betray. Betrayal hurts and hurts very much. A few days ago they hailed him with hymns and songs. They welcomed him into Jerusalem with shouts of ‘Hosanna, blessed is the King of David, he who comes in the name of the Lord’. Now, they curse him, reproach him and seem to hate him. Yet he loves them and thirsts for their love. Jesus had a human heart that pined for all of us and still does. That heart of his, revealed a divine thirst, God’s thirst, his thirst for you and for me. God thirsts for human love. Christ, who is not only man but God as well, speaks in human words the realities of God known to us only through words and actions we can understand. When Jesus said ‘I thirst’ he expressed his desire and God’s desire for our love. It is as if God’s thirst for us can only be satisfied by our thirst for him: ‘O God you are my God for you long. For you my soul is thirsting like a dry weary land without water'. We can easily betray or at least lose our way by forgetting or ignoring him who thirsts for us. What shall we give to him who thirsts for us? A sweet cooling drink, we call it love, to quench the thirst of him who first loved us.
Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross you thirsted not just for water but for the gift of our love. With the help of your grace help us to contemplate your humanity and to recognise your thirst for our faith and our love. As we contemplate the beauty of your humanity may you lead us into your divine heart of love that thirsts for our love and affection. With your intimate and personal words from the cross ‘I thirst’, we commend to your care all those who crave to love and be loved but who thirst for what they long for and cannot find.