I am thirsty. (John 19:28)
A comfort measure provided for the dying is to moisten their lips. How soothing and refreshing some ice chips can be for them in their last moments. In John’s Gospel, a bystander offers Jesus vinegar to quench his thirst. This God-man suffered the thirst of death, having given himself completely.
But Jesus’ words, “I am thirsty” say more to us. His thirst has always been and still is for us, for our salvation, for our wholeness, that we would receive his love and love him in return. He is thirsty for us and his thirst is quenched in our response of love to him and to one another.
In every chapel of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity, the words “I thirst” are on the wall next to the crucifix, reminding the sisters that their missionary work on behalf of the poor responds to Jesus’ thirst for our salvation. Every time we look on the poor and marginalized with reverence, we quench the thirst of Jesus. Every act of justice on behalf of Jesus’ little ones soothes his thirst.
What are we thirsty for? What quenches us? Jesus’ words remind us to tend to our longing, but to thirst for that which is ultimately life-giving for us and for others. “I thirst,” he says. “You are thirsty too,” he says. “Thirst for me and for one another.” Dying words for the living.