"I Thirst" – Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 5

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“I thirst.” – John 19:28

Out of the Seven Last Words, this one is my personal favorite. I know what it’s like to thirst. Millenials often joke about how “thirsty” someone can be, usually in the context of someone who is starving for affection. We are all thirsty for love, but we have no idea what kind of love would actually satisfy our thirst.

It was really interesting to me that Jesus chose to ask for something to drink as he was on the cross instead of before, when the Romans offered him a drink. However, Venerable Fulton Sheen pointed out that the drink the Romans offered was drugged with a sedative. Yeah, I wouldn’t drink that either. Instead, Jesus asks for a drink as he is suffering, reflecting the thirst that we all have for God’s love.

And what amazes me most was that Jesus was thirsting for more than just a drink. As Soon-to-be-Saint Mother Teresa said…

Hear Jesus speak to your soul:
No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake, Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

Just think, God is thirsting for you and me to come forward to satiate His thirst. Just think of that!

 

"Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"- Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 4

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Catholics get mistaken for being masochists a lot. We put a lot of emphasis on guilt and pain and enjoying the sufferings we endure in life. It’s not like we actually get off on the pain, you know. And I think the Fourth Last Word can show the Catholic perspective on coping with suffering.

When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” it may seem like a cry of despair at first glance. For those three hours, the sky is darkened and Jesus’s human nature echoed the laments of those who feel abandoned by God. But Jesus’s human nature was never separate from His Divine Nature. Venerable Fulton Sheen compares this seeming contradiction to a mountain obscured by clouds, even when the peak of the mountain is bathed in light. Jesus took on the nature of sin and allowed Himself to feel that separation for just this moment.

But there is a deeper meaning to this phrase beyond the words themselves. The words are actually the beginning of Psalm 21 (or 22 depending on your translations), which starts out with a lament of suffering that foreshadows the Crucifixion, but ends with a cry of hope and a triumphant declaration of overcoming the suffering.

My biggest issue with existentialism is that it is centered on the idea that the universe is indifferent. The entire philosophy is built on something that, to me, brings great despair. And those who believe in existentialism admit that the belief is both terrifying and beautiful and that the power to make the world better relies on the choice of the individual.

I’m just gonna quote my favorite Marshwiggle for a minute here:

There is one thing to say. Suppose we have only dreamed and made up these things, like sun, sky, stars and moon and Aslan himself. In that case, it seems to me that the made-up things are a good deal better than the real ones; and if this black pit of a kingdom is the best you can make, then it’s a poor world. And we four can make a dream world to lick your real one hollow. As for me, I shall live like a Narnian! Even if there isn’t any Narnia, so thanking you very much for supper. We’re going to leave your court at once and make our way across your great darkness to search for our land ABOVE!

I would rather try to find light or bring light into the world than spend my life cursing the darkness. My fellow Catholics and I may lament our sufferings, but we also know that, to quote Dumbledore from Harry Potter “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Today, You Will Be With Me In Paradise: Reflections on The Seven Last Words Part 2

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During one of my college retreats, I underwent my first Ignatian exercise and imagined myself as the Good Thief. This meant that I imagined myself crucified alongside Jesus. I was hyperventilating and I felt a sharp pain on my back. I could’ve sworn that my hands and feet were pierced because I felt air blowing through them.

When the exercise ended, it felt like I woke up from a very vivid dream. I was still in the dark room, shaking in my seat. And yes, this is a typical experience of the Ignatian Exercises. Proceed with caution because, as someone I met on retreat said, “It’s  lot of Jesus coming at you.”

Aside from the overwhelming intensity, there are some things I remember about that particular Ignatian Exercise. When I was imagining myself as the Good Thief, I imagined Jesus’s face, all bloody and beaten. The image of the Crucified Christ has always made me uncomfortable. Images of the wounds on Jesus’s back make me uneasy. Saint Teresa of Avila had a similar experience with the image of the Crucified Christ.  But seeing the Crucified Christ isn’t exactly an experience that provokes feelings of rainbows and puppies. It hurts knowing that my sins contributed to Christ’s pain. But at the same time, knowing His suffering nature compels me to offer my pain with His own.

I think that people who are undergoing intense pain and loneliness can find themselves in the Good Thief’s shoes. They can unite their pain with Jesus and find a sense of renewal from that suffering.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.