We are now past Laetare Sunday and well on our way towards Holy Week. As we work and pray through these last few weeks of Lent and Holy Week, we will once again stand at the foot of the Cross. It was on the Cross of our salvation that Our Lord uttered the words: “I thirst.” These very same words changed the course of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s life as she received her “call within a call” on September 10, 1946 as she sat on a crowded train in the mountains of India. As we walk these last few weeks of Lent, let us reflect on Jesus’ thirst for each one of us and all human beings created in his “image and likeness.”
Perhaps you have read about Blessed Teresa’s experiences and her focus on the thirst of Christ, perhaps you have not. Meditating on these words from Our Lord is to walk deep into the mystery of God’s love and desire for each person. It is a love that is difficult to comprehend and even accept in our sinful and often wretched state. There are many days where the love expressed from the Cross is too much to bear and we tell Christ, as Saint Peter did, to leave us because we are too sinful. Thankfully our all loving and merciful Triune God does not heed our request.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did not reveal her call fully until she wrote a letter to her Missionaries of Charity in 1993. She felt urged to share the message of “I Thirst” with her sisters after Saint John Paul II delivered a Lenten message on the exact same theme. These two great saints understood the depth and love expressed in these two words.
After reading Holy Father’s letter on “I Thirst,” I was struck so much—I cannot tell you what I felt. His letter made me realize more than ever how beautiful is our vocation….[We] are reminding [the] world of His thirst, something that is being forgotten….Holy Father’s letter is a sign…to go more into what is this great thirst of Jesus for each one. It is also a sign for Mother, that the time has come for me to speak openly of [the] gift God gave Sept. 10th—to explain [as] fully as I can what means for me the thirst of Jesus…Letter to the Missionaries of Charity, March 25, 1993
What exactly does this thirst mean according to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and how can it guide us through the rest of Lent and through the celebration of the Paschal Mystery in the coming weeks? The thirst of Jesus is His great love for each one of us, which never ceases. The total and self-emptying love of the Cross is the ultimate expression of God’s complete love for each human being He created. He gave his Son to us in atonement for our sins. There is nothing more He can give because He has already given us everything: Himself.
Jesus wants me to tell you again…how much love He has for each one of you—beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus—one to one—you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel—but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it.Ibid
These are questions we all need to ask ourselves. Do we truly know Jesus and His love for us? Do our lives reflect that great love? Do we know Him as body, blood, soul, and divinity or just as a theological reality? The latter is something I have to seriously consider as a person who can be overly dependent on the intellect. Can we see the love of the Cross and the love being poured out from the Glorified Christ in Heaven through His Church? If not, then we must pray for the grace to know and love Jesus as He truly is, as Our Lord and Savior, as the One who loves us totally and completely. We must never give up in our desire to love God more deeply and to become more like Him. Blessed Teresa reminds us to persevere:
Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you”—impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead—meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him—speaking in the silence of your heart.Ibid
Blessed Teresa is reminding us that God whispers and woos us in the very depths of our being. He is not going to shout at us. We must spend time in quiet prayer each day so that we may truly accept and begin to understand His great love for us. We must shut off the distractions, computers, smart phones, televisions, etc. and give ourselves over to Him in silence. This is difficult for our “monkey minds” which jump from thought-to-thought as if through tree limbs, but the more we develop the habit the deeper we can come into communion with God in prayer.
Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.Ibid
Our lives are a call to love and that love must first come from communion and conformation with the Blessed Trinity. It is in the depths of God’s love for us that we can truly come to know the One who made us and who He made us to be. If we want to understand our mission and purpose in this life then we must know God’s love tangibly, so that we can share it with others.
He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time. Whenever we come close to Him—we become partners of Our Lady, St. John, Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name. Make my joy and yours complete.Ibid
Perhaps you have failed in your Lenten observances or are experiencing a spiritual desert. Now is the time to pray and enter more deeply into Christ’s thirst for you and me. He knows we are weak. We must let Him pick us back up and begin again. Start those Lenten observances again right now and pray for the grace to uphold them until Easter. Devote more time to prayer and specifically ask to know Jesus’ love for you. These last few weeks can still prepare us for the great suffering and joy of the Paschal Mystery. Let us begin again and pray to understand so great a love as that of Our Lord for each one of us.