Tuesday, July 23, 2013
"I Thirst" and Mother Teresa
Walk into any Missionary of Charity Chapel across the world and you will see a crucifix with the words "I Thirst" placed just under the crossbeam. What does this mean? The passage is a scripture passage from John 19:28. Jean LaFrance in his book Give Me a Living Word notes regarding the reference to water: "He (Jesus) speaks of water that, however, seems to be the opposite of fire: refreshing water that will heal your fevers, (a refreshing fire and a burning water). 'If someone thirsts, let him come to me an drink, and I will give him living water. For whoever drinks the water given by the Samaritan woman (that of human happiness) will still thirst, but the one who drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty, and this water will become in him a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.' Thus Jesus burns and quenches your thirst at the same time. When you can say with Saint Ignatius of Antioch: 'I feel a living water in me which murmurs: 'Come to the Father!' You will know that you have reached the gift of contemplative prayer." For Mother Teresa it was a burning thrist for souls. It goes back to her original encounter with Jesus. In the book Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. he quotes Mother Teresa in a letter to her sisters: "I Thirst, Jesus said on the cross when he was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst-not for water-but for love, for sacrifice. Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in Heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so the Sisters, using the four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and Charity toward the poor ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by their love and of the love of the souls they bring to Him." In a letter to her sisters she delves even more into the possible meaning of these two words: "Jesus wants me to tell you again....how much is the love He has for each one of you-beyond all that you can imagine....Not only He loves you, even more-He longs for you. He misses you when you don't come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy....For me it is so clear-everything in MC exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it?...Why does Jesus say I Thirst? What does it mean? Something so hard to put in words-I Thirst is something much deeper than Jesus saying I love you. 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." Wow profound words from a saint. Here are the actual words of Jesus as written in a letter to Archbishop Perier on Jan 13, 1947: "One day at Holy Communion I heard the same voice very distinctly-'I want Indian nuns, Victims of my love, who would be my Martha and Mary. Who would be so very united to me as to radiate my love on souls. I want free nuns covered with my poverty of the cross-I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the cross. I want full of love nuns covered with the Charity of the Cross. Wilt thou refuse to do this for me?' On another day 'You have become my Spouse for love-you have come to India for Me. The thirst you had for souls brought you so far-Are you afraid to take one more step for your Spouse-for Me-for Souls?" Later, Mother Teresa heard the following words: "My little one-come-come-carry me into the holes of the poor-Come be my light-I cannot go alone-they don't know Me-so they don't want Me. You come-go amongst them, carry Me with you into them-How I long to enter their holes-their dark, unhappy homes. Come be their victim. In your immolation-in your love for Me-they will see Me, know Me, want Me. Offer more sacrifices-smile more tenderly, pray more fervently and all the difficulties will disappear. You are afraid. How your fear hurts me-Fear not. It is I who am asking you to do this for me Fear not-Even if the who world is against you, laughs at you, your companions and your superior look down on you, fear not-it is I in you, with you, for you." She then had three separate visions: 1"I saw a very big crowd-all kinds of people-very poor and children were there also. They all had their hands lifted towards me-standing in their midst. They called out 'Come, come, save us-bring us to Jesus.'" In the second vision she relates: Again that great crowd-I could see great sorrow and suffering in their faces-I was kneeling near Our Lady, who was facing them.-I did not see her face but I heard her say 'Take care of them-they are mine-bring them to Jesus-Carry Jesus to them-fear not. Teach them to say the rosary-the family rosary and all will be well.-Fear not-Jesus and I will be with you and your children." In the third vision Mother Teresa notes that she is at the foot of the cross. "The same great crowd-they were covered in darkness. Yet I could see them. Our Lord on the cross. Our Lady at a little distance from the cross-and myself as a little child in front of her. Her left hand was on my left shoulder-and her right hand was holding my right arm. We were both facing the Cross. Our Lord said-I have asked you. They have asked you and she, My Mother has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for me-to take care of them, to bring them to me?" Today as Pope Francis travels through Rio among the crowds and visits a slum I think of those words. He is bringing the light of Christ into the darkness. The darkness that Mother Teresa saw in her vision. Think of the great darkness in countries that were formerly under Communist rule. What a hunger, what a thirst they must have to hear the Good News of the Gospel! To hear that Christ loves them. When Pope Benedict XVI spoke at his inaugural mass he spoke about the deserts of the world and how they seem to be increasing each day! Look at the United States of America, New York City has the highest abortion rate in the country. Detroit just went bankrupt, the streets are full of violence and gangs. How desperate is the need for "laborers in the vineyard" to share the good news of Jesus Christ. To share his "thirst" for them. In the words of Jean La France: "Whoever thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Christ showed himself to Paul, Paul believed in him, he came and drank at the Spring of the heart of Christ. Having quenched his thirst at the fiery spring, he, in turn, became a spring himself, an irrigating agent..., that is what we mean by the expression 'to radiate'. We tell Christians to have a radiant faith, but they cannot do that at will! One radiates this influence without deliberately meaning to as soon as one is satisfied, like Moses who had to put a veil over his face when he came down from Mount Sinai. That experience inevitably spills over, it is a contagious influence which has never been interrupted for thousands of years. When you come out of contemplative prayer, the glory of the risen one which manifested itself to Paul on the road to Damascus, should shine through the skin on your face. If you are madly in love with Christ, you will beget others madly in love with Christ. If you thirst, you will become a wellspring, if you are hungry, you will become nourishment for your brothers. You will not say you are the wellspring: on the contrary, you will say: 'I am not the wellspring, it is greater than I am. It is permeating me, flooding over me, spilling over my heart, it is drowning me and I am proposing it to you. I am drowning, do you want to sink with me? If so do as I do: eat the flesh of Christ, drink his blood and, especially, pray in contemplation." Amen. A thirsting world needs to hear these words. We need to be the irrigating agents that bring the thirst of Christ into the darkest corners of the world. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!