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A Good Friday Reflection: I Thirst

By F. K. Bartels
April 2nd, 2010
Catholic Online (

The Word our Savior spoke just prior to his Last Word was, "I thirst." St. John tells us our Lord, "aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst" (Jn 19:28). Johnīs gospel is filled with deep and wondrous symbolism. So too is our Lordīs "thirst."

DENVER, CO (Catholic Online) - During these three most holy days—the Triduum—Catholics and other Christians are called to enter into a sublime place of great depth and magnitude, a realm beyond time and space in which our hope strives to join with Love for the satisfaction of our thirst. We journey to this sacred place without sight but not without vision, where we too, as with St. John, desire to lay our head on our Saviorīs breast and drink deeply from the inexhaustible well of his Sacred Heart.

On Holy Thursday, we entered into the Upper Room and, along with the disciples at the Last Supper, received the incomprehensibly wondrous gift of the Eucharist—our Lordīs true body, blood, soul and divinity. On this Good Friday, we go and stand along with the Mother of our Catholic Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the base of the Cross. And on Holy Saturday we wait in silence for that moment when the stone is rolled back from the tomb, that moment when our hearts are warmed in the fires of the Lordīs resurrection, when we, along with the saints in heaven, cry out to ourselves and our brethren the world over: "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Isaiah 60:1).

As we stand before the Cross this Good Friday, if we come there in purity of heart as our Blessed Mother clearly beckons us to do with her soft, prayerful hands, we will enter into a mystery of love beyond the world. See the Cross. See the innocent and kind Son of God hanging there, bloodied and battered, fastened to the tree of life with rusted, cruel spikes.

Our sacred and loving Lord willingly chose that brutal place of death, that stumbling block, that tree whose wood would in fact pierce the world with the divine sword of Love in order that we might be saved from ourselves. Through his Passion and Death on the Cross, enduring undeserved pain and agony, our God rescued us. He saved us from death—a death we fail to understand—without our asking, without our deserving it, without even our knowledge of it.

The Last Word our Lord uttered from that terrible yet wondrous Cross was: "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). This Last Word embodies Christīs entire mission of salvation: his sweet birth from the Virginīs womb as God Incarnate; his quiet, ascetic life within the most Holy Family at Nazareth; his countless and beautiful acts as Master and Teacher; and his selfless, radical love so blindingly evident in his Passion and Death.

The Word our Savior spoke just prior to his Last Word was, "I thirst." St. John tells us our Lord, "aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst" (Jn 19:28). Johnīs gospel is filled with deep and wondrous symbolism. So too is our Lordīs "thirst."

At hearing Christ was thirsty, "they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth." It is immediately after Jesus tastes of this wine that he says, "It is finished," and "bowing his head," he hands "over the spirit" (Jn 19:29-30). It was also a sprig of hyssop that Moses and the People Israel used to apply lambsī blood to the doorposts in order to save them from the destroyer.

"You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will go by, striking down the Egyptians. Seeing the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you down" (Ex. 12:22-23).

Christ thirsts on the Cross that his blood will be shed in order that the destroyer will pass over us. Our Lord thirsts for our salvation; Jesus thirsts to accomplish what the Father has willed, and also as he himself, the Son of the Living God, has willed to accomplish: the Final Covenant sealed in his own blood. From the Cross, in the final moments when Mercy, Love and Compassion Itself is on the threshold of completing the greatest act the universe will ever know, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity experiences his greatest thirst. And, at last, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30).

Along with the disciples in the Upper Room, we too drink from the blood of the Final Covenant. The most pure, spotless Lamb, has given himself over to his Catholic Church, to the People of God, in an indescribable act of thirst and love. At every celebration of the Eucharist, our Lordīs precious blood is mercifully poured out for us that we in our thirst, too, might one day on our deathbed joyfully exclaim: "It is finished."

It is our Lord who has done all this for us. Come to the Cross. See, like the Samaritan Woman, that it is Christ who first asks for a drink that he may, then, offer us living water. It is Christ who thirsts that we thirst for him, the Paschal Lamb. It is in the Eucharist that we drink deeply from the well of Mercy which springs up into eternal life. The Eucharist is therefore the living water, it is the gift of God.

Jesus says to each and every one of us: "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, īGive me a drink,ī you would have asked and he would have given you living water." The Samaritan Woman at the well is astonished and wonders—as do many to this very day—where this "living water" is to be obtained, asking, "Where then, can you get this living water?" Jesus leads her further into the mystery of himself: "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:10-14).

Just a short while later—though many of his own disciples find his words preposterous—our Lord reveals the deeper truth about this "living water." The water which wells up into eternal life is his own flesh and blood: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:54-56).

Let us not stand among those former disciples who quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (Jn 6:52). Let us, rather, come before the Cross this Good Friday and, along with our Blessed Mother, trust in what God has said he will do. Let us kneel at the Place of the Skull and thirst for He who first thirsted for us. Let us this Triduum, as the Samaritan Woman, say, "Sir, give me this water . . . ." (Jn 4:15).

The Venerable Pope John Paul II, in speaking to his general audience in April 2001, observed that the "sacred Triduum is the īmystery of love without limit,ī that is, the mystery of Jesus who īhaving loved his own who were in the world . . . loved them to the endī" (Jn 13:1).

It is Christ who thirstily loved us to the end—all of us. That is the message of Good Friday. It is Christ whose thirst to accomplish his Fatherīs plan reached such immense proportions that he willingly endured the death of a common criminal on a Roman Cross. This type of thirst is radical indeed. It is most certainly beyond human. Stand below the Cross and see how God has thirsted for you; how he has selflessly and lovingly given himself in the Eucharist. Justice demands that you and I too thirst to give of ourselves to Christ, our Savior and our God.

"The Eucharist is an eloquent sign of this total, free and gratuitous love, and offers each person the joy of the presence of the One who enables us too to love īto the endī in imitation of him. The love that Jesus proposes to his disciples is demanding"—Pope John Paul II

The Cross challenges us, it troubles our consciences, it reveals in the light of reality our failings and sin. It demands change and repentance; it demands a new life of unity with Christ and his people. It demands love. Yet the Cross, too, brings us to a new beginning; one where, in sublime wonder, we see that God offers us salvation through his Son that we may forever live with the Holy Trinity. In view of our Lordīs selfless act on the Cross, we might boldly claim that our own death has been put to death by Love.

When standing before the Cross this Good Friday, let us not forget Christ thirsted to give of himself in the Eucharist. Let us remember that this Love who pours out his blood for us does so to transform us into something beyond ourselves. We are called to a new life. We are called to pick up our cross. But let us also meet Christ, there, on the Cross, in a new beginning. Let us live the Catholic life always and everywhere. Let us thirst for what we know.

"He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows"—St. Gregory of Nyssa


F. K. Bartels believes his Catholic Faith is a treasure beyond words. He is managing editor of, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.

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