Editor’s note: The CatholicMatch Institute is featuring a Lenten series for Catholic married couples. Each reflection will focus on one of Christ’s seven last words on the cross. In addition there will be a Lenten action for married couples to put into practice. This is the fifth reflection in a seven-week series. Click here to see the full reflection series.
Jesus carries his heavy cross to Golgatha, struggling on the dusty streets of Jerusalem, reaching “the place of the skull.” The soldiers offer him “wine mingled with myrrh,” but he refuses so that his suffering will in no way be diminished. They crucify him and he hangs on the cross for three hours. The physical anguish he endures without a drop of nourishment leaves him weak. Following his cry of the 22nd psalm—“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—does Christ continue it? “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death” (Psalms 22:14-15). Jesus cries out, “I thirst” (John 19:28). A soldier dips a sponge in vinegar, and attaching it to hyssop, raises it up for him to drink. Jesus receives the vinegar fulfilling the scriptures, “for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21).
Though his physical thirst is intense, Christ, in the midst of his suffering, thirsts for love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, whose mission is to satiate Christ’s thirst for love and souls, describes the scene, “At this most difficult time, He proclaimed, ‘I thirst.’ And people thought He was thirsty in an ordinary way and they gave Him vinegar straight away; but it was not for that thirst; it was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. He used, ‘I thirst,’ instead of ‘Give Me your love’… ‘I thirst.’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you.”
Christ thirsts for our love. He thirsts for faithful souls who follow his commandment to love. In turn, we as God’s children thirst for him. At the start of his ministry, Jesus is journeying and weary from travel. Sitting down beside Jacob’s well, he asks a Samaritan woman for a drink. Their exchange leads him to reveal, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 13-14). Christ in his great outpouring of love provides us this spiritual nourishment. On the night before his passion, at the Last Supper, Christ institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist, whereby, in memory of his death and resurrection, we consume his body and blood, uniting ourselves with Christ, fully present in Holy Communion.
Christ leaves us the Church, his bride, so that we will always know where to quench our thirst. But how can we quench Christ’s thirst? First he commands us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Not as we are capable of loving, but as he is capable of loving. Selflessly, sacrificially and completely. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta so beautifully expressed, “There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives—the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.”
Married spouses perform an important role in God’s divine plan by bringing souls to Christ in their openness to life, and the care and education of their children. “The family has the mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride” (The Role of Christian Family in Modern World).
In order to pass on God’s love to our children, we must know and love God ourselves. “I thirst.” When is the last time we spent quality time with Jesus, getting to know him and love him? When is the last time we learned more about our faith, what we believe and why? For a strong faith is born out of a strong love. Fall in love with Jesus. Reflect on his love for us on the cross, agonizing and dying so that we may have life in him.
Love exists only where there is freedom. To be forced to love is hell; to be free in love is heaven. Where love is, there is freedom. Since the child is the flower of love, it is earth’s sacrament of freedom. As the cradle comes back into the world, freedom will come back. This freedom will consist in not throwing off restraint, which is license, but in the increase of new centers of freedom. In each child God whispers a new secret to the world; adds a new dimension of immortality to creation; and makes the clinging hearts of husband and wife feel a little freer, as they look into that strange and mutual hope that has come to them from God. —Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
1. Go to church together every Sunday. Do the Stations of the Cross during Lent.
2. Together with your spouse, discuss a mission statement for your family. “What are we doing to bring each other to Christ? What examples are we setting for our children?”
3. Sign your family up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen.