So, Lent is well underway. Should I ask how it’s going? It always reminds me of that time just a couple weeks after New Year’s resolutions. This is the point where a lot of us struggle with the realization that we haven’t quite lived up to the goals we set for our Lenten sacrifices and spiritual growth. Deep breath.
Did you see the painting at the top called Give drink to the thirsty? Well, the Corporal Works of Mercy are wonderful, obviously, and I encourage you to look for ways to incorporate them into your life. Many of you followed my work in foreign missions through the blog, so you know that I definitely encourage you to do things like volunteer at a soup kitchen, help at a nursing home, or work with the homeless. Give drink to the thirsty. Literally. It will change your life.
But for the times that can’t happen, I want to offer some thoughts to ponder. I was meditating on this particular work of mercy with the full awareness that, because of my health right now, I just can’t be out serving the needs of others in that concrete way. So I thought, ok, Lord, I know what it means literally to “give drink,” but what else? In my day-to-day during Lent, what else? Who can I give drink to? Who around me is thirsty?
And all of a sudden I thought, “I’m thirsty.”
And you know what? The people I’ve been talking to are really, really thirsty.
There’s a lot of suffering going around lately. I can relate sometimes to the psalmists crying out for relief, and with the famed priest poet Hopkins saying, “Thou oh Lord of life, send my roots rain.” There are days that feel dry and barren and languid. There are heartbreaking prayer intentions posted on Facebook daily of bitterly hard times, of hearts that need to be soothed. And then there’s our society, individually grasping for anything and everything that might satisfy this cavernous hole that can’t seem to be filled — this deep, deep thirst that can’t seem to be quenched.
There is no need to look for one to give drink to.
The entire world is thirsty.
It reminds me of the woman who encounters Jesus at the well in John 4:10. Jesus says to her “Give me a drink.” You can read her response. It sort of cracks me up (because, of course, we know who He is). And then, “Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Whoa. YES. That’s what we need. Living water. Life. “Send my roots rain.” Why? So that I can live. Really live.
In Jeremiah 2:13 the Lord says, my people “have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” This is what we do. We leave the source of living waters and then wonder why we’re so thirsty, why we can’t find relief. So how do we get this living water? And how do we “give drink to the thirsty,” to a world in desperate need?
We go to the place where this “thirst” shows up in a powerful way. To the Cross. (Don’t worry, I’m not saying get ready to suffer!)
Jesus didn’t speak many words from the Cross, and it would have been agonizingly painful for him to breathe, let alone get the words out He did choose to speak. This is one of the reasons we know that each word He spoke is so important.
There’s so much written about this, so I won’t go into it. Suffice to say here that He thirsts — then and now — for you. For me. For our love. For us to give ourselves to Him in trustful surrender.
We quench His thirst by opening our hearts to Him and letting Him love us. It’s amazing that this is true, that this is what He wants of us! “If you knew the gift of God …” And how does He love us? By filling us with His very Life, His very Being — by pouring Himself into us.
(This could be a whole book related to the Sacraments, so I encourage you to go deeper on your own and reflect on that … especially on the Eucharist and Confession during this Lent.)
In light of that, I like to picture the conversation with the woman at the well this way: “Give me your heart. … If you knew the gift of God and who it is who is asking, you would open yourself fully to me and I would fill you to overflowing with my Spirit.”
John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit.”
Ahhhh! The river of living water that will flow in and through us is the Spirit! Everything that comes to us is always from the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. And the Spirit is the Person Love. He is the love between the Father and the Son.
So there’s this eternal giving and receiving of love within the Trinity, and we are invited to be a part of it — more than that, we are longed for. Can you believe that? That the Infinite Being, the Divine Creator of all things longs for you? Thirsts for your love? Wants to be united to you for all eternity?
Recap. Because when you start meditating on this, it’s mind-blowing and beautiful. Let’s do a little Fr. George type formula.
Thirst of Christ = Desire for your love and your open heart
Desert/Arabah (desolate,dry region) = Your heart, life, suffering
Water = Spirit
Spirit = Love
Now read these passages:
“For waters will break forth in the wilderness. And streams in the Arabah.”
(Is. 35:6 )
“I saw water flowing out from under the threshold of the temple …
[It] runs down into the Arabah … Where these waters flow they refresh;
everything lives where the river goes.”
“Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
We become the rivers and the springs of Is. 41:18 that “quench the thirst” of the poor and needy. How? By being filled with the Spirit, who is Love. Because love always desires to give of itself.
When the Spirit fills us, we can’t help but overflow.
It’s simple. Not easy to do each moment, but simple. 1 Jn. 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Open your heart to Him, even … no, especially in those times when it’s frightening or makes you vulnerable. It’s often much easier to hold on to some semblance of control in our lives, right? But to quench His thirst, you have to trust Him — and open your heart in love to the One who created it to be fulfilled and at rest in Him, to be one with Him.
Give drink to Jesus who thirsts for you.
Give drink to the world, which thirsts for the God of love.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.”
Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it
receive the gift of life-giving water.