Reflection-Week 6

Burning for others - Thirst for Souls
This year the weather has been unusually hot and dry, at least in Kerala. It seems to stay so for long periods of time. In the heat of the day we all feel extremely thirsty and long for a drink. And thirst is always related to water.
Lent is a period often associated with desert, heat, dryness, barrenness, etc. This is typically the situation of a soul that is away from the ‘living waters’. It feels the aridity. But sometimes it can be otherwise also. Even if a soul is actively and positively open to the Spirit, it may lack the lively experience. Then too the soul is thirsty. This is the thirst expressed by the psalmist when he says, “my soul thirsts for the Lord”. Many of the saints like St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross have also experienced the same thirst.
Our theme for reflection this week is Jn.19:28 – Jesus’ thirst. Obviously this thirst was severely misunderstood by those standing around Him. Taking it for the ordinary human thirst, they brought Him sour wine or vinegar which He did not accept, because His thirst was not for water but for souls – human souls!! This is substantiated by another passage from John’s gospel itself: Jn.4:1-38 (Jesus and the Samaritan woman). This is also a passage that has been misunderstood. Jesus came to the city of Sychar near the well of Jacob. V.4b says that Jesus was tired from His journey and sat down by the well, and it was about noon. Subsequently Jesus asks the Samaritan women for a drink, proving that He was thirsty. Meanwhile His disciples went to get food and drink.
But as the conversation advances we realise that Jesus was not thirsty for water from the well. Then when His disciples return and asks Him to eat and drink He tells them the same thing, He has food that they do not know about. That, definitely, is the soul of people. So Jesus’ thirst was always for the souls of people.
In a way this thirst is shared from the Father, who first thirsted for sinful people. After the fall of humanity, it was the intense thirst of the Father that caused His only son to become a man. In that way, we can also understand incarnation as an expression of the thirst of God. Jesus shared this thirst of the Father without loosing its intensity and carried it on till His passion.
Down the road, the apostles too shared this thirst of the Master. There is no other justification for them to travel to unknown lands, to unknown people, for them shedding their blood, letting their lives be sacrificed; than for this same passion and thirst for souls. Across the centuries till today, we encounter scores of holy men and women who steadily share the same thirst and are willing to readily lay down their lives to quench this thirst. St. Francis Xavier used to say, “give me souls and take away all the rest”. St. John Mary Vianney spent 18-20 hours a day in the confessional to quench this thirst of the Master by bringing souls back to Him. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to write these words, near the crucifix in the chapels of all her convents, “I Thirst” to remind her and her nuns the same thirst of the Master. She thirsted with her Master throughout her life for the last, the lost and the least. Countless martyrs, innumerable missionaries, myriads of ordinary disciples have shared this thirst of the Master.
Now it is for us as Jesus Youth to share in depth this thirst of our Lord and Master. Being at the service of the Church is nothing other than sharing this thirst of Christ whose body is the Church. But how? Recently we learned about the atrocities committed against our missionary brothers and sisters in many parts of the North of India. Asked about if they wanted to go back to their mission regions again, every single one of them responded with an emphatic ‘yes’. Is this not the thirst for souls?
All of us may not have opportunities to go for mission or to do a heroic act. But every one of us can have a burning desire for the salvation of souls. This can primarily lead us to pray intensely for souls; souls of our own dear and near ones. If we know someone, for some reason, is far from the Lord, is our heart burning to bring him/her back to the Lord? If we know that one of our friends is walking through a dangerous path, how burningly do we want to save him/her? In this season of Lent, how much positively have we encouraged our peers to ‘turn away from evil and do good’? The list of questions can go on and on. But as we have come to know what it means to burn for others, let us now act. May God give us the courage to keep on burning and not burn out!! Amen
Let us Pray: O Jesus, who thirsted for my soul, help me to thirst for the souls of others. Lord, give me the courage to do the right thing to quench Your thirst. Keep the thirst growing in me. Help me to share this thirst with others and to one day see that all Your thirst is quenched. Amen
To do: 

  • Talk to at least two people about the need of the sacrament of reconciliation.
  • Meditate before the Blessed Sacrament for a few minutes about the times you have missed to share the thirst of the Lord.
  • Try to talk to a missionary/a fulltimer about the experience of mission.
  • Read more about the option for the poor.  

Rev. Fr. Thomas Tharayil
Kottayam, India  

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