After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” —John 19:28
So much is contained in these two short words, which constitute the fifth of the Seven Last Words of Christ.
Physical thirst isn’t the type of thirst He is referring to here. Rather, He is expressing a longing of His Heart—a thirst of the spirit.
On the Cross, Jesus thirsted for love, for human love, for our love.
It seems impossible for God to thirst in such a way—after all, He does not need our love. He is Love Itself, existing eternally in a Trinitarian relationship of love. He has no need of anything His creatures could give Him.
And yet, in a certain mysterious sense, the God who is in need of nothing chose to “need” us. Our Lord, in His human nature, chose to experience human needs, chief among which is the need for love. But His thirst is immeasurably greater than ours, because His love is infinitely greater.
And what is more, this thirst is not for human love in general, but for the love of every soul in particular—for your love, for mine. What an infinite wonder—that the God of all abundance should make Himself needy for the love of His creatures! That He should call out to your heart and to mine in His last agony, beseeching us for our love!
And who has done more to earn it than He? We owe Him love as His creatures, but in order to win our love He became one of us, lived our toilsome life on earth, and offered Himself up to the justice of God so that we didn’t have to face it. He said, “I thirst” at the moment in which He had given everything that He could give—all for our love.
On Calvary, those who stood near heard His physical cry, and rushed to give Him a drink—not of cool water, but of vinegar, a bitter and unpleasant draught. Far more bitter to Him, though, was the silence His true thirst would meet in the hearts of such a vast majority of human souls.
As the Psalmist foretold:
They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
As we approach Holy Week and the solemn commemoration of Good Friday, let us meditate a while on these words of Our Lord, upon the incomprehensible thirst of God—and our response to it.
Our Lord’s Sacred Heart, always portrayed with flames of love emanating from it, is the very image of His burning love for us. This Sacred Heart Framed Wall Plaque, accented with rich gold hues and beautifully framed, will remind you daily of this love—and remind you to offer Him acts of love in return. Available today at The Catholic Company!